Being healthy doesn’t have to mean saying goodbye to baking this festive season! Check out these nutritionally superior options to help cut back on some of that unnecessary fat and sugar.
When it comes to swapping traditional white flour it takes a bit of experimenting but it opens you up to a world of different textures, flavours and most importantly, nutritional diversity.
Swap it for…
Coconut Flour – unlike white flour, coconut flour is packed with protein and fibre, and is much lower in carbs. It’s also a gluten and grain free alternative for those who can’t tolerate wheat. Baking with coconut flour can be a little tricky at first so it’s best to start by making recipes designed for coconut flour before you start experimenting. When substituting for a traditional white flour, note that coconut flour soaks up large amounts of liquid so be sure to compensate by adding extra liquid to your mixture. You may also find you need some additional binder, such as eggs to keep the final product together.
Best for: Muffins, cakes, banana bread
Buckwheat Flour – this fibre-rich alternative is packed with protein, antioxidants, magnesium, and potassium and is thought to assist with and blood sugar control and improve gut health. It has a strong nutty taste and is suitable for people with wheat or gluten sensitivities.
Best for: Pancakes and muffins.
Almond Meal / Flour - another grain and gluten free option rich in vitamin E, protein, and skin-loving fats. However, due to the lack of gluten you will need to add extra raising agents such as baking powder and eggs to give the final product structure. Almond meal and almond flour are not the same thing: almond flour is similar to wheat flour and necessary for finer textured baking. Almond meal on the other hand makes a baking mix much more dense and extremely moist.
Best for: Cakes, pancakes, crumbing.
HOT TIP: Raising agents such as baking powder and baking soda are added to gluten free flours to increase the volume and lighten the texture of the final product. They are however chemically different – baking powder contains baking soda (a base) and a mild acid, while baking soda or bicarbonate soda must be used in the presence of an acid such as apple cider vinegar or buttermilk.
Apart from its role as a sweetener, sugar adds moisture, tenderises dough and batter and can also help with browning the finished product.
Swap it for…
Fruit Purees – steer clear of the store bought varieties as they often are packed with added sugar and preservatives. Simply make your own by cooking fruit or vegetables (roast pumpkin makes a delicious puree) in the oven or on the stovetop until tender, then use a blender or food processor to turn it into a puree. It may require a little added sweetness – say one teaspoon of honey or 100% pure maple syrup per cup of fruit.
100% Pure Maple Syrup or Honey – both are natural sugars and while each of which has their pros and cons, unlike sugar (sucrose) they are largely unrefined and manage to retain many of their nutritional qualities. However, both still contain similar kilojoules to sugar and should only be used in small amounts. 100% Pure Maple Syrup (as opposed to Maple Flavoured Syrup) is also low GI meaning it doesn’t cause rapid spikes in blood levels.
Stevia – 300 times sweeter than sugar and with next to zero kilojoules makes it a good option for those watching their waistline. Stevia comes in many varieties from the commercial processed version to the natural ground stevia leaf, however the latter tends to be much less tolerated due to its intense sweet taste!
HOT TIP: Add spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to prevent the need for additional sweetness.
Butter is found in many baked goods as it provides moisture and tenderness, as well as imparting enhancing flavour. However, it is very high in saturated fat, which can impact blood cholesterol and risk of heart disease.
Swap it for…
Olive Oil – rich in heart-healthy fats, vitamin E and antioxidants, a diet rich in olive oil can protect against many cancers and disease. Just ¾ cup of olive oil is the equivalent to 1 cup of butter, helping to reduce the kilojoule contribution from the unhealthy fat. Different olive oils have different intensities of flavour. Sweet baked goods may be best suited to light or extra light olive oil which refers to the taste (not the fat content).
Best for: Muffins, breads and cakes.
HOT TIP: Always opt for extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) for every day cooking (grilling, sautéing, salad dressings) as it is a nutritionally better quality oil.
Avocado – also rich in heart-healthy fats, as well as being a source of fibre and skin-loving vitamin E. Pureed avocado is an excellent alternative to butter imparting a familiar feel in the mouth , while its subtle neutral taste makes it perfect for sweet or savoury baking.
Best for: Chocolate mousse, loaves and desserts.