As I am sitting here typing I am finishing the last lemon cookie that my mother-in-law brought over for a cookout last night. They are so delicious, refreshing and summery-y, but I am sure there could have been some ingredients swapped to make them a little healthier. I am super excited that Courtney has agreed to guest post for me to share her tricks for healthy baking. We all know I am sucker for cupcakes… and cookies… and donuts.
So let’s get with it and let the expert share her tips & tricks.
Hello there, Muscles & Munchkins readers! I’m Courtney from FitCakes, a healthy recipe and tips blog, and I’m so excited that Hollie asked me to do this post for you today. I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite tips for healthier baking because, uh, we still want to be able to have cake even though we’re fit… right? I knew you’d agree!
And of course, part of staying fit is finding balance in all parts of our lives. You know what I mean? For all the hard work we do to achieve our goals, rest and recovery is important. For all the time we spend helping our families and our friends out, time to care for ourselves is important. And, for all the spinach and broccoli and chicken breast we eat, a little cake is important, too. Well, isn’t it?
So for me, this means making that cake (or whatever I’m baking) both as tasty as possible AND work for my goals of being fit and healthy. If I have both, I feel like I can REALLY enjoy my little treats! So here are some of my go-to swaps that will help you and your family have your cake and be fit, too!
1. Applesauce and fruit purees for butter and oil.
I love using unsweetened applesauce in place of the butter in my baking. Butter and oil are basically included in recipes as a moistening agent, and keeps your cakes and cookies from drying out while giving it a really nice crumb or mouthfeel. Applesauce, as well as almost any other kind of fruit puree, does this too! It can also provide a little bit of natural sweetness and fiber as an added bonus. Depending on what you’re baking, you can swap out anywhere from half to all of the butter/oil with the fruit puree.
How to: Choose the puree you want based on what you’re baking. Unsweetened applesauce, avocado, and pumpkin puree have very mild flavors that won’t show up as much in the final product. Some berry purees can work as well for milder flavored recipes, but keep in mind some of them will change the color! Use banana puree only in banana-flavored recipes (or some stronger flavored ones, like peanut butter or dark chocolate!) Even pureed beets work well if they are in a stronger flavored recipe, like brownies. You can swap out ½ the butter/oil in most cakes or muffins, but up to all of it in cookies!
Checkout these Fudge Brownies that contain beets!
2. Stevia in the Raw or erythritol for sugar.
I use Stevia in the Raw for most of my baking nowadays, because I prefer not to have the sugar spikes I get from using sugar. Especially when I have a lot of baking to do, like around birthdays and holidays, it can really start to add up! Both stevia and erythritol are naturally-derived sweeteners, which means they don’t have controversial chemical alterations, and are great options for most recipes! The only thing to consider when swapping out your sugar for these is that sugar helps to brown and moisten the final product. Some recipes can come out more dry and not browned if you take out too much of the sugar, so take that into consideration.
How to: start by swapping out ¼ the total sugar called for in your favorite recipe, see how it works, and feel free to bump that up to ½ the total sugar the next time. I have found that certain recipes, like many cookies, brownies, and even certain cakes, can work perfectly with all the sugar traded for stevia or erythritol.
3. Whole wheat flour for regular flour.
Many people know about the health benefits of whole grains over processed, white grains: higher fiber, more nutrients, they can help you avoid spikes in blood sugar, etc. But when it comes to making the switch in their recipes, it can feel like a gamble as to whether or not it will turn out as the recipe intends. I’m here to tell you to go for it! While whole wheat flour can toughen some of the most particular recipes, such as some angel food cakes, almost any recipe can handle a 100% switch to whole wheat without a hitch.
How to: determine what kind of recipe you’re going to make before deciding how much and what kind of whole wheat to use. For most cookies, brownies, bars, and many basic cakes, regular whole wheat flour will work just fine. If you’re making a lighter cake, or a very dainty cookie, look for white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour. These kinds tend to be more delicate and help with lighter textures.
Check out these Lemon Blackberry Swirl Cookies with whole wheat flour.
4. Coconut oil for butter or other oils.
Coconut oil is a great swap for butter and other oils for a lot of reasons, and if you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend it! Coconut oil is made up of medium-chain fatty acids, which are some of the best fats for the body to process. The composition allows the body to quickly and efficiently convert it to energy instead of immediately storing it away for later processing. The healthiest coconut oil you can get is extra-virgin, cold pressed. This avoids extracting all of its best natural qualities. Because it’s solid at room temperature, it makes a wonderful vegan substitute for butter, keeping the same texture as butter would in the final product.
How to: swap the same amount of coconut oil for butter or oil in almost any recipe. The best coconut oil will retain a little of its coconutty flavor though, so keep in mind what recipes you are using it in and determine if it will affect the flavor.
Next time you are ready to bake, think of Courtney and try out one of these swaps. And please remember, just because you bake things healthier does not mean that they are 100% clean and that it gives you the free reign to eat double, or daily. I still believe in moderation, balance and not indulging every single day. Thank you, Courtney!
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