Some people call this time of year the start of bulking season, but not everyone is looking to pack on the pounds. No matter how you approach the holidays, no one likes to be left out of the festivities — especially because of the food. We spoke with Quest Nutrition media chefs Paul Castro (@paulsfoodhaul) and Joe Castro (@nonstopeats) to uncover their secrets to carbing down any recipe for fall.
1. Pumpkin Is the New Applesauce
This time of year, we’re always tempted to indulge in the seasonal delights that tend to be high in fat content. Some of us know that unsweetened applesauce can be a great replacement for oil, but we wanted to find out if there was another miracle substitute that wouldn’t add the extra carbs and sugar of applesauce. Paul made a surprising suggestion: “Most people replace oil with apple sauce, but you can replace oil with pure canned pumpkin. It’s a lower-carb oil alternative that will even add a nice fall flavor. Goes great with cinnamon!”
2. Flour Power
When it comes to pastries, self-control goes out the window. Those fresh-baked, golden-brown crusts and the seductive aroma of steaming hot carbs soaked in butter cast one big, delicious holiday spell on us. But Paul had a great idea to carb down your baked goods: “Almond and coconut flour are great alternatives to all-purpose flour. They’re lower in carbs, and they bake really well. Coconut flour tends to have more coconut flavor, obviously, so I lean more toward almond because the flavor is more neutral. If you use too much coconut flour, it can make the coconut flavor overpowering.”
3. Satisfy the Sweet Tooth, Without Sugar
Sweets are everywhere, like inescapable ticking sugar bombs ready to explode and knock your meal plan off-balance. Of course, a little sugar won’t hurt you, but moderation is key. To combat the cravings, Joe offered up his favorite zero-calorie sweetener: “I like this natural brand that’s a combination of erythritol and stevia. It’s the closest I’ve tasted to actual sugar. You can sprinkle it on anything.” In that case, bring on the sugar-free almond flour cookies!
4. Guilt-Free Chocolate?
Cutting back on sugar is one thing, but cutting back on chocolate requires almost superhuman strength and determination. Even Paul and Joe can’t resist the sweet, tempting taste of chocolate. But a good sugar-free chocolate — does that even exist? Paul shared some great news: “Lily’s chocolate is perfect because it’s sugar-free, and they sweeten their chocolate with stevia — and,” Joe chimed in, in perfect unison, “it still tastes amazing.”
5. Think Outside the Mug
There’s one guilty fall indulgence we can’t do without: hot chocolate. But with the sugar in the milk and the chocolate, it’s a low-carb nightmare. Joe had a solution: “Who said the hot chocolate in your cup needs to be in liquid form? We’ve created a great recipe for Rocky Road Mug Cake — a high-protein, low-carb chocolate cake made in a mug. Try filling your cup with that kind of hot chocolate while cozying up by the fire!”
These are just a few of the many ways to survive the carb-heavy holiday season without sacrificing taste. Have tips of your own to share? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below! For more from the Quest Nutrition media chefs, be sure to follow @QuestCooking on Instagram and check out Joe’s weekly Web series Questify!