While the holidays bring smells of gingerbread and sugar cookies, pumpkin pie, and nutty brownies, baking is a year-round hobby for many, which is great for their friends and family, but not the best when you’re trying to maintain healthy lifestyle. It’s easy to get caught up in the fun of baking and forget about the sugar, butter, and extra calories that go with it, but a few simple tips and tricks can help you maintain the fun (and the yum), while holding onto the healthy principles that support overall good health and wellbeing.
Even if you did not make any ingredient type or quantity changes to your recipe, simply making sure you purchase high-quality products can improve the nutritional value of your baked goodies.
For example, when you make brownies, do you buy Dutch-processed cocoa powder or natural unsweetened cocoa powder? If you buy processed, it is an ingredient you can improve. Even if you buy natural cocoa powder, you can kick the ingredient up a notch by going for raw cacao powder (no, cocoa and cacao are not the same thing), which offers more nutritional benefits.
The quality of your sugar matters too. Do you buy the same old bag of white granulated sugar? You can get the same sweetness and even a little more actual flavor with raw cane sugar (that has not been bleached or overly processed).
Butter & Milk
Now, when it comes to butter, we have a question for you… What color is it? Is it almost white or is it yellow? Butter from pasture-raised, grass-fed cows is yellower and creamier than the usual garden variety butter you see at the supermarket, and it is higher in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin K2 and other good-for-you nutrients. The same goes for other dairy ingredients, like milk. Choosing organic milk from pasture raised, grass fed cows is much better for you than generic milk.
Eggs, preferably organic, from pasture-raised hens provide the most nutritional benefit AND, being a product from a healthier and happier hen, will do a better job binding your ingredients.
Tips and Tricks
Once you’re committed to buying high-quality ingredients, you can use these tips to make your baked goods a little healthier.
- Cut the fat by ¼. If the recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, use ¾ cup.
- Cut sugar by ¼ to ½.
- Add finely grated beets to brownie or other chocolate recipes and reduce sugar by ¼.
- Make cookies and brownies smaller.
- Substitute ¼ of the white flour in your recipe with buckwheat or almond flour.
- Keep the cake frosting thin. Add moisture to inner layers by brushing apple juice on the layers surrounding the frosting.
- Make pie crust out of meringue.