Hey Angels and Alphas,
If you’re familiar with baking and you love to bake, whether it’s a batch of cookies or a healthy meal with lean chicken and potatoes, you might know that over here in the nutrition world, we preach the philosophy that baked goods of all kinds can be healthy in a given moment, and no food should be off-limits.
That being said, one of the most common questions people have when it comes to baking is, how can we make our baked meals healthier without sacrificing any flavor and taste?
This is no easy task — anyone who has experimented with baking has probably made a few flavorless quick breads and cookies after going overboard with their “healthy” ingredients.
But through trial and error, we’ve developed (and listed out below) a few fail-safe strategies that help strike a balance between taste and good-for-you ingredients.
#1 LET’S START BY TALKING ABOUT SUGAR
We would be remiss to not address the use of sugar in baking.
Without question, sugar is one ingredient that makes baked goods taste sweet and absolutely delicious.
But added sugar consumption (i.e., the kind of sugar in most baked goods) is also quite high in the United States and may contribute to a plethora of health problems if consumed in large amounts over long time periods of time.
We are not, however, going to tell you to toss out all of your sugar and never use it again during your baking. Nor are we going to tell you to replace it with other ingredients that are low in sugar but not as satisfying.
Rather, you should use sugar when it’s called for in a recipe, or replace some (but not all of it) with fruits and veggies so you can enjoy your baked goods from time to time, all within the context of a rich, plant-emphasizing diet.
Other types of sugar such as honey and maple syrup can be used instead of traditional cane sugar if you like, but when it comes down to it, sugar is sugar, and sugar will act the same way in the body when you digest it regardless of its type.
#2 PUREED PUMPKIN
Pumpkin puree can be used as a great substitute for fat, such as butter or oil, in a 1:1 ratio. This means that if your recipe calls for 1 cup of oil, you can basically substitute it for 1 cup of pumpkin.
Pumpkin puree is an amazing baking ingredient because it has a hint of sweetness while bringing in a ton of moisture. It’s awesome when making quick breads, muffins, and even cookies.
You can usually substitute it for half the amount of butter or oil, such as, for example, 1/2 cup of butter and 1/2 cup of pumpkin and for a recipe that lists out 1 cup of butter.
This way, you will still get the usual flavor and texture you get from butter (which is actually impossible to replicate), all while getting in less saturated fat.
Pumpkin also provides vitamins and minerals crucial to overall health, like vitamin A and potassium, and not to mention, heart-healthy fiber.
#3 HIGH-QUALITY BUTTER
Although there are great substitutes for butter, like pureed pumpkin, eschewing butter altogether isn’t entirely necessary.
Fat is a crucial component of your diet. It helps your body absorb important fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K, and it also supports hormone production, cell growth, protects your organs, and more.
Butter is one of the most common sources of fat used in baking, and the qualities it provides inside of baked goods helps make your foods satisfying and delicious.
By using only low-fat butter substitutes, the actual end product may be less satiating and less flavorful, ultimately resulting in you eating much more of the said baked good.
When you are using butter for baking, you should focus on using good quality butter.
Grass-fed butter should be at the top of your list, as it has been found to contain less saturated fat and more healthy monounsaturated fats compared to the butter you’d find in grain-fed farms.
#4 ADDING VEGGIES AND FRUITS TO YOUR BAKED GOODS
Perhaps one of the easiest ways you can boost the nutrient content of a baked good is to just add fruits and veggies. What’s more, they will go a long way toward adding flavor and texture. Adding more vitamin A and fiber-rich grated carrots or zucchini to your muffins and quick breads goes a long way toward making any baked good healthier.
Apples, bananas, and most berries are also super versatile and healthy options packed with antioxidants. Fruits, as well as certain veggies, such as beets or carrots, will also add their own hint of sweetness to any baked good and will help reduce the amount of sugar you need to put inside them (by just a tad.)