Diet & Nutrition

4 Ways To Give Your Baking A Makeover

Healthy eating isn’t all about what you take out; it’s also about what you put in.

Photo by Oliver Barth / LA Food Photography

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.




5 Responses to “4 Ways To Give Your Baking A Makeover”

  1. Adriana Reply

    I have followed a lot of Julie’s recipes, always being so conscious about using products unsweetened, or without any sugar added. However, i found recently a recipe in her super food snacks book, that she uses crystallized ginger. I research about crystallized ginger and found is made with a lot of sugar. So i’m not sure how to interpret this. WHen can i use sugar? or is there a variety of unsweetened crystallized ginger? Let me know! i’m confused. Thanks a lot.

    • Hi Adriana; such a great question! Here’s the scoop: yes, crystalized ginger is made with cane sugar — far from the best kind of sweetener — and I’ve not been able to find one that isn’t (though when I do, I’ll switch!). I don’t use this ingredient very often because of it, but since crystalized ginger offers such a unique (wonderful) flavor, I file it under the “once in a blue moon” ingredient category. That recipe, which doesn’t use very much of it, is this blue moon that I speak of. I feel it’s best to consume better-choice sugars and foods as much as possible, and if you’re in the habit of creating clean recipes at home, your exposure to more processed or less-than-awesome ingredients is extremely low. But, superfoods and clean eating are not a black and white practice, and rather a collective effort of great choices. If a quarter cup of crystalized ginger gets sprinkled on a 16-serving superfood-enriched dessert every once in a while, I consider it an occasional treat. Hope this is helpful to you Adriana, and if you don’t want to include that ingredient, by all means leave it out.

  2. Hi Julie, I have been struggeling with a very old, very Southern cobbler recipe. It’s one cup each self rising flour, melted butter, milk and sugar. Melt the butter in a glass baking dish and mix the rest and pour in the center of the baking dish. Add fresh or frozen peaches and bake. I have replaced the milk and half of the oil, but the sugar is giving me trouble. Can you recommend a replacement that works well in a custard like dessert? The coconut sugar didn’t work well for me.

  3. The purpose of my comment was to get a recommendation and to ask the name of the recipe pictured in the post. It reminded me of the peach cobbler.

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