‘Healthy’ Baking – is it possible?
There has been a lot of discussion recently about the sugar-debate and many new studies have been commissioned to try to shed some new light on what has been a confused and controversial issue. I talked about refined sugar-free baking in this recent blog post. But if you remove the refined-sugar from your baking recipes, does that automatically mean your baking is healthy? What about all the other ingredients that contain fats, oils and other sugars?
Well, putting on my dietitian hat, it’s hard to come across baking that is considered healthy enough to eat as an every day thing. However I do believe that there is a healthier way of, excuse the pun, having your cake and eating it too.
The truth is all baking needs some fat and some sugar to taste good, whether the fat comes from butter, oil, avocado or nuts, and the sweetness comes from refined or natural sugars. Fat and sugar play important roles in baking, including tenderising and making the baking lighter. They do this by coating and weakening the gluten bonds within the structure (if the gluten bonds are too strong, you will end up with a tough texture). Fats also help keep baked products moist, giving a good mouthfeel so that it doesn’t taste dry.
You can however make your baking more nutrient-dense by replacing empty calorie ingredients like refined white flour and sugar, with natural unrefined alternatives. Swap refined white flour for wholemeal flour, buckwheat flour (gluten-free), spelt flour or ground almonds (gluten-free), and refined sugar for honey, apple syrup, pure maple syrup or dates. At least these ingredients actually provide some useful vitamins and minerals as opposed to just providing calories (and no nutrition).
My food philosophy is all about putting a healthy spin on food, making everyday recipes more nutritious, while remaining delicious. I’m all for making things healthier (and more nutrient-dense) as long as it doesn’t compromise the yumminess of the end product – otherwise why go to all that effort for something you’re not going to enjoy?
Here are my top tips for making your baking that bit healthier:
1 – For a nutrient-dense gluten-free option, use ground almonds instead of refined wheat flour – like in my Apple Almond Crumble Cake
2 – I love using dates or honey in my baking as a substitute for refined sugars – like in my Lemon, Coconut and Honey Banana Loaf
3 – Always take the opportunity to add more fibre – whether it be oats, nuts or sneaking in more fruit, vegetables or beans – like in my Oaty Apple and Sultana Muffins
4 – Substitute some healthy monounsaturated fat oils in place of using all butter.
5 – Treat it as a treat – that’s what treats are for!
I’ve posted a few healthier baking recipes that are free of refined sugar, gluten and dairy, and they’ve all been a hit. So be sure to click on the links above to try my latest popular healthier baking recipes. While they are considered to be more virtuous than their standard equivalents, I would still never deem them ‘healthy’ enough to be eaten regularly. So feel free to have some baking every now and again, but make sure you enjoy it as a treat – that’s what treats are for!
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To be doing what I am today is a dream come true. It all started when I was 12 years old. I was watching TV after school one day and Jamie Oliver was cooking up a storm on The Naked Chef.