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How to bake healthier treats at home.
A quick scan of any social media and you are likely to see a number of scrumptious looking, home baked treats, cakes and balls. Generally these tempting delights are also referred to as ‘healthy’ – healthier alternatives to the regular baked muffins, cakes and banana bread that we typically find in cafes and food courts. And while they may look healthier, and even be made by a dietitian or nutritionist, the reality is that these treats can often be as high in fat, calories and sugars as regular treats. Now they may use healthier fats, or less white sugar, but they still lean on high calorie ingredients such as coconut, rice malt syrup, dates and honey to achieve the sweet tastes and textures regular cake does.
So if you do enjoy a little something with your tea and coffee each day, and would rather make it yourself, here are my top tips for healthier baking.
1. Go for a wholemeal base
With a myriad of flour alternatives available in supermarkets it can be easy to think they are all healthier options but you really need to pay close attention to what is on the labels. Coconut flour for example is higher in protein and fibre than regular flour but also much higher in fat. Banana flour is extremely rich in fibre but does not bake as well as traditional flour. As a general rule of thumb, substituting some flour for fruit or oats is a great way to boost the nutrition of your baking, and simply choosing wholemeal flour will instantly improve the nutritional profile of your baking.
2. Watch the sugars
While it may not say sugar, if your recipe calls for any syrup, honey or dates it still contains plenty of sugar. I try and limit my recipes to one source of added sugar eg; honey or a little sugar, and measure at most 1/3 -1/2 cup for an entire recipe. Another option is to seek out the growing range of lower sugar baking blends which generally contain 1/2 sugar, 1/2 natural sweetener which can significantly reduce the overall sugar content of any food you are baking or blending. Low calorie, low sugar additions that also help to flavour your favourite bites and cakes include vanilla essence and cinnamon.
3. Choose your fat
Traditionally we turned to butter, more recently coconut oil and in the last few months I have seen more and more products that utilise vegetable oil within the mix. While butter cops a bad rap for its saturated fat content, I would argue that vegetable oil, which is usually a blend of a number of heavily processed fats is far worse, even though it can improve the texture of baked cakes. Coconut oil too is less than ideal as it packs in plenty of saturated fats. My go to is a little butter for binding along with a 100% Mayver’s Nut Spread – here you still can achieve the consistency a fat offers, with the extra nutritional benefits of added nuts to your recipe.
4. Bump up the nutrition
Whether you are adding fruits, wholegrains, nuts or dairy, adding whole nutritious foods to your baking will naturally improve the nutritional profile. For example, adding natural or Greek yoghurt as a wet mixer will add protein and calcium while nuts and fruit will add plenty of fibre. A little flour can generally be replaced by soft fruits, while oils and fats by extra yoghurt and nut spreads. Here you still end up with a cake or biscuit or bite, but one with far less fat and sugar than a traditional recipe, with a whole lot more nutrition. And that is what healthy baking is, not just replacing one source of fat and sugar with another.
Recipe: Peanut Butter Oat Balls
1 tbsp. butter
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup Mayver’s Peanut Butter
1 cup oats
1 cup alternative cereal (granola, All Bran Flakes, crushed)
¼ cup dried cranberries
1. Over a medium heat, heat butter, honey and peanut butter and stir until smooth.
2. Remove from heat and add oats, cereal and dried cranberries.
3. Drop spoonfuls of mixture onto baking tray and refrigerate until set