It's the most wonderful time of the year — and that means delicious goodies. While your social media feed is flooded with mouthwatering recipes for holiday baking, don't panic about how the irresistible treats might affect your waistline. Model and healthy-eating enthusiast Olivia Culpo shares with Us Weekly some simple, yet impactful, ways you can tweak holiday recipes to lighten your sugar intake — without sacrificing flavor.
"I have a major sweet tooth," Culpo, 24, explains to Us. "But I know it's not the healthiest thing to indulge all the time." So when the passionate baker whips up some sweet treats around Christmastime, she swaps out the sugar with healthier alternatives.
"There are great substitutes for sugar," the 2012 Miss USA tells Us. "One trick is I like to sweeten things with banana, a natural source of sugar. And if you freeze an old banana it ends up becoming sweeter!"
Another surprising pantry item Culpo trades in for sugar: "Applesauce!"
The star, who credits both her mom, Susan, and the Food Network for teaching her how to cook, also shared her healthier tweak for chocolate sauce: "Cocoa powder is a great chocolate source and it doesn’t have a lot of sugar. It’s pretty bitter. So what I like to do for a chocolate sauce is I use cocoa and then coconut oil and Xylitol. I get a sweet sauce that tastes really good and it hardens like coconut oil normally would. It creates a shell!"
Culpo, who was raised in Rhode Island and now lives in Los Angeles, says she often uses sugar substitutes available in grocery stores such as no-calorie leaf extract Stevia, liquid Stevia and sugar alcohol Xylitol. "You can also use goji berries to sweeten things up," she adds.
The Rampage brand ambassador, who shared her pumpkin and bacon pizza recipe with Us earlier this month, has another genius use for fall's signature squash. "You can use pumpkin as a substitute for egg," she says, noting that the vegan alternative is "a good binder" to hold other ingredients together.
To add additional fiber to her recipes and make them more filling, she adds chia seeds or flax seeds: "I like to play around with all this stuff and see what I can come up with!"
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