Just because you’re looking to follow a healthy lifestyle, doesn’t mean you have to sit out on all the fresh-baked fun! There are many tricks that natural food chefs and nutritionists alike use to help raise nutrient density, therefore lessening the guilt. While these ingenious methods may not give us the liberty to eat breakfast bread like it’s a leafy green salad, they do offer a wonderful compromise in creating better-for-you, great-tasting treats. These are some of my favorite tricks to use:
Sneak in Fruit and Vegetable Purees | To achieve moist baked goodies, like a soft cookie or dense brownie, most chefs rely on large amounts of butter or oil (which, as you can imagine, raises the calorie and fat content of a dessert faster than you can say “oh no, I really shouldn’t”). The good news is there are many other ways to keep moisture in desserts that are far healthier! Using fruit or vegetable purees is a go-to method of mine, as it not only keeps desserts moist, but purees also help sweeten, add flavor, and provide extra fiber at the same time. For fruits, the most versatile varieties include mashed bananas and applesauce. As for vegetables, purees of pumpkin, squash, and even carrots work excellently. How much to use ranges from recipe to recipe – as a baseline, I often use about half of the normal amount of oil a recipe calls for, and substitute the other half with a puree in a 1:1 ratio. This way, you won’t sacrifice any flavor!
Celebrate With Smart Sweeteners | I talk a lot about using different types of sweeteners, but it bears repeating – there’s simply no need to use empty sugars like white cane sugar and corn syrup when we have a world of great sweeteners that actually offer some benefits! Use low-glycemic coconut sugar as a one-to-one replacement for all your white sugar needs, and try healthier liquid sweeteners like yacon syrup or maple syrup when you need something in liquid form.
Use Superseed Eggs | While eggs do offer protein, these days, many people are increasingly avoiding them due to eggs being a high cholesterol, acid forming (and thus inflammation promoting), and/or allergenic food. To keep everyone in your cookie list happy, try using a binder replacement of flaxseeds or chia instead, which offer protein, healthy fats, fiber, and minerals! Once these seeds are ground into a powder, they can be mixed with water and left to sit for 10 minutes to form a jelly-like substance that acts very egg-like in recipes that don’t require eggs to rise (this includes all cookies, brownies, and many cakes). To use this egg-hack, just remember this ratio: 2 tablespoons powder + 1/3 cup water = 2 eggs.
Boost With Superfoods | Healthy eating isn’t all about what you take out; it’s also about what you put in. If your recipe of sugar, oil, and flour seems pretty nutritionally dire, think about what you can add into the recipe that will subtly raise its healthy value. For example, adding in real cacao nibs into chocolate chip cookies not only adds a chocolaty crunch, but loads of important minerals too. Replacing a couple tablespoons of flour with unflavored or vanilla protein powder stealthily adds bonus protein and fiber. Or try adding in the enjoyable sweet chew of antioxidant-rich dried mulberries to create a treat as extra delicious as it is nutritious.