Healthier Holiday Baking Alternatives

The holiday season is officially upon us – and you know what that means…

Dessert.

A lot of dessert.

I try to keep my diet balanced when I’m at school, but as soon as winter break begins, all bets go out the window. All of the delicious things I’ve saved to my “Indulgent Recipes” Pinterest board now come to life – like Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread, Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars and Buckeye Balls, just to name a few. 😉

I know, I know. It’s bad. I spend the entire year building healthy habits, just to fall off of the bandwagon once the Christmas lights are hung.

Rather than feeling guilty about all the treats I eat, I’ve found that there are some healthier alternatives to the ingredients that we use for holiday baking. After all, Christmas only comes once a year! Let’s make our treats healthier, rather than cutting them out altogether.

The three alternatives that I use the most are applesauce, flax seed, and Greek yogurt.

Replacing vegetable oil with applesauce is the first alternative I tried. The ratio is 1:1, making it super easy to try.

I made brownies with applesauce (from a boxed mix!) for the first time a few years ago for a party, and I got so many compliments on them and their texture. If applesauce can make brownies from a box brag-worthy, imagine what it can do to recipes made from scratch.

(Confession: My friends will never let me live down bringing “applesauce brownies” to a party…)

Another trick I use is to add flax seed to recipes. It works especially well with sweet breads and muffins, but you can try it with any kind of baked good. Simply fold in a handful to the batter. You can’t taste the flax seed, but it secretly adds fiber and protein to your treat.

Greek yogurt is another secret baking weapon. It cuts fat and adds protein to nearly any recipe. It can replace butter, oil, sour cream, mayonnaise, cream cheese, buttermilk, heavy cream or milk. The substitutions can be a little tricky, but here is a handy chart.

I hope that these tips are ones that you can use both during the holidays and throughout the rest of the year.

Happy Holidays!

…and Happy Baking!

 

 

Healthier Holiday Baking Alternatives

Fads…

I’m not typically one to jump on board with health fads. I’ve avoided the world of detoxes, odd diets, and the latest and greatest fitness trends…but then I discovered Pure Barre.

Pure Barre is a workout class that mixes ballet with Pilates and yoga, creating an intense, full body workout. It’s a new way to work your body – and I love it.

Don’t get me wrong…it’s hard. Throughout the 55 minutes, your entire body will be shaking. Not because you’re lifting weights that weigh as much as you do (it’s not Cross Fit, don’t worry), but because you’re holding two pounds for what feels like an eternity. If you think 10 seconds is short, you certainly haven’t been to a barre class yet.

One of the criticisms it receives is for being “cultish” – and I understand. You’ll look around and think that LuluLemon has officially taken over the world. For a full breakdown of an outsider’s perspective of the class, check out this guy’s blog entry after going to a class with his fiancé.

But I’ve learned to appreciate and love the community that it fosters. Everyone is there with the same objective – to improve themselves. No one is looking around and judging others for their performance, which is something that I constantly feel at the gym and during other classes.

I look forward to the hour to myself – even though 20 other women surround me. The music is empowering, the instructors are motivating, and I’m constantly surprised at what my body can do.

I hope that Pure Barre isn’t just some fad – it’s become a part of my life. I’ve seen the changes that have come to by body and to my mental health, and I can’t wait to sign my name when I reach the 100 Club.

Fads…

Confessions of a Teenage Health Blogger: Fitness Trackers

I have a confession…

I hate FitBit culture.

I’m a millennial who loves fitness and wants to go into IT. Aren’t these bands a combination of my two favorite things? Nope.

It’s becoming difficult to escape over the past few years. Everyone seems to be sporting these bands – all over college campuses, gyms, and malls.

Why has the mission to get 10,000 steps per day become a part of our culture? I’m not sure. Sure, our society is fighting a war against obesity, but is this really the solution?

Here’s another confession…I fed into this for three years. I bought an UP band in 2012, before the hype of fitness trackers began. I had always thought of myself as an active person, so wearing the band felt like a symbol of health to me.

At face value, it seems like these bands bring more awareness to fitness. However, I believe that it takes away the self-awareness aspect of fitness.

Shouldn’t we be exercising because we know that our bodies need it? Not to get the gratification of a piece of technology congratulating us on a job well done? Do we really need a piece of technology to tell us if we are working our bodies enough? Are we becoming closer and closer to the world of Wall-E?

I lost my passion for health and wellness because of my band. I was no longer exercising for my own benefit, but for the gratification that it presented. I wanted to outdo what I had done the day before, to continue my streak, and to beat the rest of my family in our competition.

The band brought a level of anxiety to fitness that didn’t belong. I constantly checked my phone to see my number of steps, I wouldn’t exercise in ways that didn’t increase my step count, and I wouldn’t even hold anything in my left hand for the fear of it interfering with the accuracy of my steps. It was unhealthy.

Fitbits are becoming so widespread that I’m concerned for the future of health and wellness. Why I agree that yes, something needs to be done about the issues of health in our country, I don’t think that these bands are the answer.

Confessions of a Teenage Health Blogger: Fitness Trackers

How I Became a Morning Person

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My morning productivity trio: my planner, to-do list, and cup of coffee. Photo by McKenzie Floyd.

It’s safe to say that I’m a minority on my college campus – and not for any of the reasons that you’d think. It’s because I’m a morning person.

It’s a rarity on a college campus, but I love that it gives me time to myself before the rest of the world is awake. I use the time to have a relaxing cup of coffee, hit the gym, or get some work done ahead of time to free up my afternoon. I now depend on this time to center myself.

However, I haven’t always been a morning person…it isn’t easy to become a morning person on a college campus where late nights and late starts to the day are the norm. I’ve found that it is essential to my happiness and wellbeing, so it has become a priority.

Want to give mornings a shot? Here are some of the strategies that I’ve found to be helpful to make this transition.

Set an alarm…for the night before. Give yourself a reminder of when it’s time to start winding down. Put the work and phone away, get off of social media, and get in bed. Experts believe that electronics before bed can decrease our sleep quality, which makes it even harder to get out of bed in the morning.

Separate work and relaxation. Whether it’s school or a career, creating separation between the two is essential. Do work in the library, in a coffee shop, or anywhere outside of your room. It will make it that much easier to drop your backpack and hit the sack right when you get home.

Keep your phone and alarm across the room. Getting out of bed is the hardest part. Turn the lights on, while you’re at it.

Plan something exciting. I’m one of the most excitable people in the world – and coffee happens to be one of the things that I get the most excited about. I love waking up knowing that I have a pot of cold brew iced coffee waiting for me to get out of bed. It makes getting out of bed just *that* much easier.

Make it a routine. I can admit that getting up at 7 am on a Saturday isn’t my favorite thing, but it’s the only way your body will get used to it. You’ll learn to love it. I’ve heard that it takes 21 days for something to become a habit, SO JUST KEEP GOING!

How I Became a Morning Person