How Professional Bakers Don’t Get Fat at Christmas

If you like to turn out baked goods but hate what it does to your waistline, follow these tricks and you'll avoid holiday (or any day) weight gain.

By Liz Vaccariello and Perri O. Blumberg
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    Make a "break time."

    Set a timer or alarm, and create a ritual where you do something fun or useful between or after batches. Walk around the block to check out your neighbors' holiday decor, blast your favorite holiday tunes for a living room dance party, or just fold some laundry. By deliberately slowing down and removing yourself from the kitchen, you give your brain time to signal to your stomach that it's not actually hungry, it's just smelling good things.

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    Use chopsticks to swipe a lick.

    Do you have to lick the bowl of batter clean? Try using a pair of chopsticks instead. It'll be a lot harder to balance dough on their slim points, but you'll still get a satisfying nibble. Better yet, after you've poured your ingredients out of your mixing bowl, immediately grab the liquid soap and start washing.

    Bake what you don't like.

    Office cookie swap or neighborhood potluck? Volunteer to make a dessert you don't care for and you won't have to worry about indulging while baking, keeping any extras, or taking home the leftovers. If you're baking goods to ship to family and loved ones, "Cool them, wrap them, and ship them off immediately so they aren’t staring you down from your kitchen counters or cupboards," says Lena Kwak, co-founder and president of Cup4Cup.com.

    Bake early in the morning.

    Especially after you've brushed your teeth—you're less likely to sample sweets then. If you're not an early bird and have to nibble, try keeping out a healthy snack with protein and fiber like hummus and carrots. If you have to taste as you go, "make mini cookies, or cut dessert bars into bite-size pieces for automatic portion control," says Emily Day, owner of the San Francisco bakery Flour & Co.

    Add extra nutrition where you can.

    "I love to add ground flaxseeds, which are rich in omega-3s and fiber, for a nutrition boost and a wonderful nutty quality to quick breads," says Lena Kwak. Catherine Ruehl, a baking instructor on Craftsy, shares this tip: "One easy way to reduce the fat in any recipe that calls for oil is to substitute an equal measurement of applesauce, non-fat plain (or vanilla) yogurt, or mashed banana. This works brilliantly in muffins and quick breads but can also be used in layer cakes such as carrot cake." She adds, "I also swap canned coconut milk for cream or unsweetened coconut milk in the carton for dairy milk" to help with weight loss.

    Choose your chocolate carefully.

    When making homemade chocolate treats, "choose high-quality chocolate for greater satisfaction. A little goes a long way," says Jean Thompson, CEO of Seattle Chocolates and jcoco.

    Slash calories by halving nuts.

    "Nuts are super nutritious, but if you're counting calories [they] can really tip the scale out of your favor. Eliminate, or reduce by half, the nuts called for in any recipe," suggests Catherine Ruehle. When you sample, choose unsweetened varieties; any "light" dusting of sugar can really pack on calories.

    Bring leftovers to the office.

    The real trick, though, is to keep them far away from your desk. Research has found that just the sight or smell of food in close quarters can encourage mindless eating. If you're hosting a party and have baked goods, "keep empty takeout boxes on hand and fill them with remaining cookies and brownies to send with your guests on their way out," suggests Pamela Giusto-Sorrells or Pamela's Products.