By Fredrica Syren:
I love baking … Yes, I love baking cookies, cakes and bread. And … I love eating them. I’m one of those people who bakes when I’m sad or stressed or tired. Baking makes me happy. Unfortunately, eating all these baked goodies is not all good for me. Now, though, I have learned a few tricks to make my home baked goodies a little healthier with some healthy baking substitutes.
Let’s start with flour: White flour is well known as lacking in nutrients. The good news is that there are many options that are much better for you.
Spelt flour–Is an ancient grain and is is rich in many nutrients, such as protein and minerals.
Whole wheat Flour—Contains vitamins and minerals along with some hearty fiber and good protein. If you’re not big on the super healthy whole wheat flour, you can substitute 50/50 whole wheat and white flour.
Nut flours—Naturally rich in nutrients and fibers, but can make it hard to use all on its own because the product will be very crumbly or dry. Try substituting 50% nut flour and 50% whole wheat or white flour. If you want to bake all gluten-free, you need to add a starchy flour as well, so try using 50% nut flour and 50% rice flour or quinoa flour.
Buckwheat flour–Contains high amount of fibers, antioxidants and is gluten-free.
Quinoa flour–Is both gluten-free and high in protein and contain all nine essential amino acids plus high amounts of fiber, magnesium, B-vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E.
Sugar substitutes: The problem with sugar is that it is a simple carbohydrate, which tends to spike your blood sugar. These substitutes are sweet but a bit easier on the blood sugar:
Coconut sugar—1 Tbsp. is 15 calories compared to 60 calories for 1 Tbsp. of sugar. It has a lower glycemic index than regular table sugar. It also contains vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients as well as a small amount of zinc and iron.
Dates—Dates are loaded with nutrients like vitamins A and K, magnesium, copper and fiber. Dates are super sweet, so you may not need as many when baking. I use dates to sweeten granola, and for making raw cakes and energy bars.
Agave nectar—Agave has a lower glycemic index than sugar and, unlike sugar, it does not mess with your blood sugar. I like baking with agave and using it as syrup on pancakes.
Banana—Ripe bananas are low in calories but high in nutrients and fibers.
Applesauce—This is a very low fat sugar alternative I like to use; however, it’s not as sweet as sugar, so if you like sweet goodies, maybe substitute 50/50 applesauce and sugar.
Chia seeds—Rich in omega-3 and fiber, it makes a gel when mixed with water, so it’s a good substitute for eggs. Mix 1 Tbsp. with 3 Tbsp. water, then let it sit for 5-10 minutes before using. Equals one egg.
Flax seeds—Flax seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and contains lots of fiber. Mixed with water, it becomes like a gel and makes a good egg replacement. Mix 1 Tbsp. with 3 Tbsp. water, then let it sit for 5 minutes. Use as one whole egg.
Banana—Perfectly ripe banana is one of my favorite foods to substitute for eggs because it’s creamy and easy to use. Banana contains lots of vitamins and fiber, and aids digestion. I use it in all my pancakes and waffles instead of eggs, and it works great.
Oil and Fat substitutes:The purpose of oil and fat in baking is to help soften the texture of your finished product. Unfortunately, too much oil and fat is not good, but there are substitutes that will still make baked bread and sweets good.
Applesauce: 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce contains only about 80-100 calories compared to about 120 calories in 1 Tbsp. of canola oil. Applesauce is a great way to bake with fewer calories, so I always have a jar of it handy in my fridge for baking with less fat. However, applesauce has a high water content, so it’s important to reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe when using it.
Banana—Not only is a ripe sweet banana perfect for added sweetness (instead of sugar), but it also works great as an oil substitute.