I love to bake. I love to bake with my daughter. I love to eat what I bake. But having baked goods around the house all the time can be dangerous. Portion control is something I try to practice, but we all have our weak moments. Instead of banishing home-baked goods from my life, I have found ways to incorporate them into my healthy lifestyle. I have learned three easy ways to make baking recipes a little bit healthier, and now I’m passing them on to you. Are you ready for some healthy baking?
Healthify Tip #1 – Swap for whole wheat flour
Most baked goods, like cookies, muffins, cupcakes, brownies, and cakes, are made with good old white flour. You probably know by now that white flour has been stripped of all of its natural nutrients and has very little nutritional value. Your goal should be to eliminate or reduce your white flour consumption as much as possible. Eat whole grains whenever you can. Your body will thank you.
With baked goods, however, this can be tricky. If you try to replace all of the white flour in a baking recipe with all whole wheat flour, it doesn’t always work. You may end up with a flat, hard brick. Sometimes it does work, though. Unfortunately, you just have to experiment until you find what works, and every recipe is going to be different. If you’re new to baking with whole wheat flour, start small. Start by replacing 25% of the white flour in the recipe for whole wheat flour. So if the recipe calls for one cup of white flour, add in ¾ of a cup of white flour and ¼ of a cup of whole wheat flour. If it still baked up fine, then you can try to add more next time. It’s all trial and error.
The texture of baked goods may change a little bit as you add whole wheat flour, but it is something that you will get used to if you give it time. Remember, whole grains have fiber and nutrients that are good for your body. Another thing you can try is white whole wheat flour. It is lighter in texture than whole wheat flour, and works better in baking.
These recipes all use whole wheat flour:
Healthify Tip #2 – Reduce the sugar
Most baking recipes have way more sugar than is needed. Sugar is necessary in recipes chemically, as well as for sweetness. If you’re used to full-sugar recipes, this is another change you want to make slowly. Start with a 10% reduction. You shouldn’t notice a change in taste from this small amount. Keep trying to reduce a little at a time. If you start to feel like your baked goods taste bland or change in texture at all, then you reduced too much.
Once I find the perfect amount of sugar for a recipe, I make a note of it so I know for next time. Reducing sugar in baked goods is a good thing because most people are consuming too much sugar in their diets. Sugar gives us a quick energy boost, and then a quick crash. It’s not a good feeling. Eating too much sugar can also lead to obesity, diabetes, and host of other debilitating diseases. Small changes are the realistic way to go.
Healthify Tip #3 – Add veggies
This last tip is one I started to explore after I had kids and I wanted to get veggies into them anyway I could. My kids are pretty good about eating their veggies, and I want them to like them, but it can’t hurt to sneak more veggies in to their bodies whenever I can. The bonus of this trick is that I am also sneaking more veggies into my own body. Adding veggies to baked good is so easy, and you can’t even taste them.
The obvious veggie add-in comes in zucchini bread or muffins. I put a lot of zucchini in mine. You can get the recipe here. My whole family loves this bread and I love that we are all getting a healthy dose of veggies. I have also added pureed spinach to muffins. I know it sounds kind of gross, but trust me when I say that you will not taste it. This works well in a muffin recipe that is on the darker side in color, because the muffins will take on a slightly green tinge.
It doesn’t bother me, but if you’re trying to fool your kids, you have to be careful. I add the pureed spinach in with the other wet ingredients in the recipe. It does look disgusting, so start with a small amount until you get used to it. I do this addition with pumpkin muffins because the orange color of the pumpkin kind of tames the spinach’s dark green color.
Popular add-ins in brownies are black beans and beets. I have tried both, and again, you would never know they were in there if no one told you. Plus the color doesn’t change at all because the brownies are already a nice dark chocolate. Carrots are a nice veggie to add to cookies and cakes because they are slightly sweet themselves. Just shred them up and throw them in. The finer the shred, the less noticeable they will be.
All of these changes are experimental. You need to try different ratios and amounts until you get the right taste and texture that you like. If you turn your beloved cookie recipe into something you don’t like, then it’s not worth it. Any small change that makes them healthier is going to make a difference.