Healthier baking this Christmas

Dietitian at Bupa UK
06 December 2018

It’s probably not a surprise, but the latest figures from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) confirmed that, as a nation, we’re eating too much sugar and saturated fat. With the festive season well and truly here, it’s a time when we all might indulge more than we should.

But there are ways to make your festive bakes healthier. Here, I’ll share some easy swaps that can lower the fat and sugar content in your baking. I’ll also link to some delicious recipes for you to try if you’re on dessert duty this Christmas.

An image of a mum and daughter baking together

Bake with fruit and vegetables

Vegetables, such as carrots, beetroot and even courgette, can all be used in baking. The sweetness from these veggies means you won’t need to add as much sugar. The same applies to fruits. Apples, berries and ripe bananas, for example, will create a bake bursting with flavour, without the need for heaps of sugar.

A cake with berries

Use sweeteners instead of sugar

Sweeteners give foods and drinks a sweet taste, but with far fewer calories than sugars. Because sweeteners are many times sweeter than sugars, you only need to use very small quantities to achieve the same taste. Sweeteners such as stevia or xylitol are heat stable, which means they can be used in baking. There are lots of recipes available online that use sweeteners instead of sugar.

An image of cakes with icing

Easy on the icing

Generously iced cakes can easily double the calories of a slice. Avoid butter icing – use a drizzle of glacé (water) icing instead. You can also buy sugar-free icing mix, which uses sweeteners to achieve a sweet taste without the calories. If you’re adding icing to the middle of the cake, you may not even need to ice the top. Opt for a light sprinkle of icing sugar on top instead – use a stencil of a holly leaf or bell for a truly festive touch!

An image of christmas cookies

Bake with unsaturated fat and oil

Use an unsaturated spread instead of butter. Not only is it lower in fat, you’ll achieve a lighter texture with your bakes. You can swap spreads for butter in most recipes, but be sure to choose spreads that are suitable for baking.

Oil is also a good alternative, as long as it’s unsaturated oil, such as vegetable, rapeseed, olive or sunflower. Don’t directly swap butter for oil though – find recipes that specifically use it – the liquid nature of oil means the cake mix quantities will probably be different. It has the added bonus of creating lovely moist cakes too!

An image of a cheesecake

Portion control and sides

We all deserve a treat now and then, but at Christmas many of us tend to overindulge. The simplest way to reduce your calorie intake, but still enjoy a treat, is to be mindful of your portion size. Cut your bake into ‘bite sizes’ to help both yourself and others eat less. When it comes to dessert ‘sides’, opt for low-fat Greek yogurt or crème fraîche instead of ice cream, double cream or custard. 

Brownie slices

Get baking

Here are three of my festive favourites you can have a go at baking yourself. These recipes use sweeteners and/or oil to replace sugars and butter, meaning they’re lower in calories, but trust me – equally as delicious!


Enjoy... and merry Christmas!

Rachael Eden
Dietitian at Bupa UK

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