Christmas is upon us, and you know what that means!
Sugar! And it’s everywhere!!
I’ve eaten more cookies than I care to admit, and we just keep getting more sweets in the house. It’s like they’re just materializing directly on my kitchen counters, waiting for me to sneak in after my 4-year-old goes to bed and tear ’em up.
So, I haven’t been a very good low-carb eater these days, but I’m finally back to eating well and I fully intend to stay that way into the new year.
That is why today I’d like to share with y’all some of my favorite low-carb swaps so you can enjoy versions of all your favorite holiday treats that will have minimal effects on your blood sugar and insulin levels, and help you stay in ketosis.
Keep in mind that although these products are typically very low in net carbs, they contain lots of fiber and/or sugar alcohols. So if you overdo it, you may be spending a lot of time on the toilet.
However, it’s truly amazing what great low-carb alternatives are available that weren’t around just 5 or 6 years ago!
Here are some of my favorite holiday (or anytime!) baking ingredients:
Lily’s Baking Chips
Lily’s baking chips are phenomenal. I love the milk chocolate ones because they taste just like a Hershey’s bar, but only have 2 net carbs per serving.
They melt extremely well and are perfect for dipping candies, baking chocolate chip cookies, or eating by the handful when you just need a little something sweet.
In fact, there are about 5 days out of every month when I go really hard on these things. Just being honest.
I buy mine at Wal-Mart, but if they’re not available near you they can be ordered on Amazon.
Natural Mate Monkfruit Sweetener
I’ve tried several different zero-net-carb sweeteners, and Natural Mate Monkfruit Sweetener is by far my favorite.
Stevia has a strong bitter aftertaste, and erythritol has that “cooling” effect in your mouth that can be kind of strange. My first attempt at low-carb baking was a king cake made with erythritol, and the sensation was just far too much. I’m also making a concerted effort to avoid artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame when possible because they may damage your gut microbiota and decrease your glucose (sugar) tolerance.
The Natural Mate Monkfruit happened to be on sale when I needed to order some sweetener, so I gave it a shot. I was so pleasantly surprised! The taste and texture is indistinguishable from sugar, but it is twice as sweet so you only need half as much. It does contain some erythritol, but absolutely no cooling effect unless you’re eating it by the spoonful (which I don’t recommend).
I buy my Natural Mate sweetener on Amazon. Buy in bulk to save some money, and Natural Mate almost always send you a fun sample of one of their other products!
Psyllium Husk Powder
My final recommendation is one that I only just started using, but it’s definitely become a baking essential for me. Psyllium husk is 99% fiber, and it’s normally used as a supplement to help ya poop.
HOWEVER, it adds this perfectly bready, soft, glutinous texture to low-carb breads that really makes them more… carb-like, I guess. This is because it turns to a gel in the presence of liquid, which (TMI) is the same reason it can help relieve constipation!
You really need to try it in fathead dough, because it takes the dough from “bread-like” to straight-up bread.
It’s also awesome in 90-second bread, which I make often for a quick meal of avocado toast (I’m a millennial, after all) or cheese toast. Before I started using psyllium husk powder in the recipe, the bread was edible but extremely dry and didn’t have the right texture. However, I found a recipe (linked above) using psyllium husk and it makes the bread perfectly soft, chewy, and wonderful.
I use NOW Foods Psyllium Husk Powder that I order on Amazon. I’ve heard some reports that psyllium husk powder can turn your food purple (ha!), but I haven’t had that experience myself.
Bonus: Parchment Paper and Silicon Baking Mats
Since you can’t use flour to dust everything and keep your doughs from sticking to cookie sheets, your hands, the annoyingly hard to clean ridges on the edge of your counters, etc, it’s important to keep some parchment paper on hand for low-carb baking too. This makes it a breeze to roll out sheets of dough for cookies, pizza crust, or cinnamon rolls.
I also recommend silicon mats for your baking sheets. When I worked at Subway in college, I loved these things! They were the perfect nonstick surface for bread and cookies. I finally got some of my own and I’m totally in love. I use them almost daily. Here are the ones I bought. Considering I only paid about $25 for the set of 3 cookie sheets and 3 mats, I’ve been really impressed with the quality.
I understand it’s a little late to share this for Christmas baking, seeing as Christmas is in 2 days. If you’re anything like me you couldn’t get paid enough to go to Wal-Mart or a grocery store right now.
BUT, I think low-carb baking is a really fun hobby. It’s so satisfying to make treats that I can enjoy without getting kicked out of ketosis, and it’s even better when it’s something my family likes too!
So whether you are staying “on plan” over the next few days, or enjoying all the foods that only come around once per year, remember: don’t stress out about it, enjoy yourself, and enjoy the time with your family.
I hope you all have a very merry Christmas!