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Deck the Halls With Reduced-Calorie Baking

MISSION, KS -- (Marketwire) -- 12/06/12 -- (Family Features) From sugar plums to sugar cookies, the holidays may well be the sweetest season of all. But when all of that celebratory goodness comes with extra calories, the most wonderful time of the year suddenly becomes less sweet.

Fortunately, there are ways to trim calories in your favorite recipes this holiday season without sacrificing flavor. Simple substitutions for higher-calorie, higher-fat ingredients can help make a big impact.

Follow these easy tips to convert original recipes -- like Grandma's famous apple crisp, sweet potato casserole or cut-out sugar cookies -- into great-tasting, reduced-calorie treats:

1. Substitute the Sugar: Sugar adds sweetness, structure and moistness to baked goods, but the calories add up at 760 calories per cup. Try a natural sugar substitute specially formulated for baking, such as Truvia Baking Blend. Truvia Baking Blend is a mix of sugar and zero-calorie Truvia sweetener, which is made with the best tasting part of the stevia leaf. Use half as much Truvia Baking Blend as you would sugar to cut up to 75 percent of the calories per serving from sugar.

2. Cut the Fat: Use canola oil to replace all or a portion of shortening and butter in the recipe, in order to reduce saturated fat in cakes, cupcakes, cookies and muffins. To cut total fat, use applesauce or nonfat Greek style yogurt for a portion of the oil in a recipe. Limit fat reduction to no more than 50 percent to help keep the recipe texture close to that of the original.

3. Resize the Serving: Reduced-calorie, reduced fat substitutions can make a recipe lose some bulk, meaning the recipe may not rise and expand as well when baking. To reduce this effect, use a smaller pan like an 8-inch pan in place of one that measures 9 inches. Or try baking individual cakes, crisps, cobblers and brûlées in ramekins or small oven-safe dishes, which can also help control portion size.

Get started on your figure-friendly holiday baking with this recipe for Sugar Cookies. A serving of 2 cookies delivers 120 calories and 3 grams of sugar per serving compared to 150 calories and 11 grams of sugar per serving in the full sugar version.

Sugar Cookies
Yield: 6 dozen cookies

1                     cup unsalted butter
1                     cup Truvia Baking Blend
2                     eggs
2                     teaspoons vanilla extract
1                     tablespoon skim milk
4                     cups all-purpose flour
1/2                   teaspoon baking soda
1/2                   teaspoon salt

In large bowl, cream together butter and baking blend until smooth. Beat in eggs, vanilla and milk.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Gradually add flour to creamed mixture, beating well after each addition.

Place dough on lightly floured work surface. Divide dough in half; pat each into a circle and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill dough for 30 minutes or until slightly firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll chilled dough to 1/4- to 1/8-inch thickness on lightly floured surface.

Cut with cookie cutter and place cookies 1 inch apart on lightly greased cookie sheets.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges of cookies are lightly browned.

Allow to cool 5 minutes on pan, and then place cookies on wire rack to cool completely.

Nutrition, per serving (2 cookies): Calories, 120; Total Fat, 5g; Saturated Fat, 3g; Trans Fat, 0g; Cholesterol, 25mg; Sodium, 45mg; Total Carbohydrate, 17g; Dietary Fiber, 0g; Sugars, 3g; Erythritol, 3g; Protein, 2g; Vitamin A, 4% DV; Vitamin C, 0% DV; Calcium, 0% DV; Iron, 4% DV.

Use themed cookie cutters to make festive shapes, then add frosting and decorations. (Note: This will change the nutrition information listed above.)

For this and other reduced-sugar, reduced-calorie seasonal recipes, visit www.truvia.com/baking.

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Matthew Barksdale
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