'tis the season to bake! 5 easy tips to make holiday recipes healthier!

'Tis the season to bake! Everyone has a favorite holiday cookie or cake recipe or two...or maybe an entire recipe box that was your mom's or grandmother's and you only pull it out at this time of year. All those holiday faves...butter cookies, sugar cookies, shortbread cookies, pecan sandies, rum balls, fruit cake...to name just a few. And they are delicious. And they hold oh so many wonderful holiday memories for you...and it's holiday time again, so it's time to bake. It's time to bake! ...but over the last year or so, you've started making some changes in how you cook...and what you feed your family. Perhaps you or someone in your family has health challenges and you have started "eating healthier".  Or perhaps you are aware that you would like to eat healthier, but don't know where to start. And you have heard about the evils of sugar.  So now the dilemma, what to do now that it is "time to bake"?

...you are not ready to give up holiday cookies, and I, for one, am not suggesting that you do so...And you are not ready to switch to coconut flour or nut flours...that's a whole other ball-game...AND you have those wonderful family holiday recipes that the kids and the husband and the WHOLE ENTIRE EXTENDED FAMILY are expecting. WHAT ON EARTH CAN YOU DO to make those cookies and holiday treats AND feel good about serving them to your loved ones??

Here are 5 easy things you can do to make your recipes healthier, AND THEY WON'T EVEN NOTICE! (except, of course, that your bakeries will TASTE EVEN BETTER and your family WILL FEEL BETTER. Less of a sugar crash, less strain on the system, a few nutrients will even sneak in. ;))  I will list them in order of highest nutritional impact to lowest; they are all GREAT CHANGES...so pick one or two or do them all...and feel good about making some choices toward a healthier holiday season for you and yours.

1. Use PASTURED EGGS. Pastured eggs are nutritionally superior to those eggs from chickens that are not pastured. The best place to find them? Your local farmer's market, or look for the word "PASTURED" on the label. (Free-range means only that chickens have access to pasture, which may be a door in a football field sized barn packed with chickens who cannot move around much...) Chickens are OMNIVORES, folks. They are supposed to eat BUGS. All that "vegetarian feed" they are eating in barns supplemented with Omega 3s do not produce eggs as nutrient dense as good ole bugs from cow pies do. I have just come across the ONLY PASTURED EGGS that Whole Foods carries...Vital Farms, from Texas.

2. Use PASTURED BUTTER, aka, butter from grass-fed cows.  Ditto for the butter. All butter is  not the same, and Land O' Lakes brand nor 365 Organic can not be compared to butter from cows fed grass. One more time with feeling...cows are supposed to eat grass, not grain. The butter package will say "PASTURE BUTTER", for example, Organic Valley Pasture Butter. Another good call is Icelandic Butter or butter from Ireland that is cultured. They seem to know that cows require grass to produce nutritious milk and cream, and therefore, butter!

3. USE CELTIC SALT or another salt HIGH IN TRACE MINERALS. Be sure to use the fine ground salt, or grind the coarse salt with a mortar and pestle by hand.

4. Use WHITE SPELT FLOUR and WHOLE GRAIN SPELT flour as replacements for for white flour and whole wheat flour. Arrowhead Mills brand offers both types. Why use spelt flour instead of wheat flour? Spelt is an ancient grain that has FAR LESS GLUTEN than wheat flour...and every body has difficulty digesting gluten. In this country, wheat flour has been hybridized so that it has triple the amount of gluten it did just decades ago. So do all of your bodies a favor...and replace wheat flour with spelt flour. I have found that it is an easy 1:1 replacement, especially with cookies.

5. Use ORGANIC CONFECTIONERS SUGAR, if you MUST use confectioners sugar (which would be great for you to eliminate it next year!). If  dusting, use 2/3 confectioners sugar and 1/3 ARROWROOT starch. And go easy. With sugar, LESS IS MORE, especially for children.

...tomorrow, Holiday Recipe Conversions LEVEL TWO, for those who have already made the above 5 conversions in their lives! STAY TUNED!