Lighten up :: How to make your baked goods more healthy!

Well, Thanksgiving is past.  I hope everyone had a wonderful time preparing and sharing a delicious meal with family and friends this year.

This is definitely a food-focused time of year.  We all tend to eat more than we should of the kinds of food that aren’t what you would call Healthy or Light. It’s just not the way of it. And that’s okay.  It’s only a few months out of the year, right?

I find that I feel somewhat penitent after these big food events that occur at the holidays. The pies! The cookies! The stuffing! The potatoes! It’s all good and completely irresistible. So, when there’s a break in the action, I like to lighten up my meals for a while.  This way I feel less guilt and down right I-deserve-it-ness about fully part-taking in the next food-filled gathering.  It’s a win-win.

When contemplating what I might do during the next few weeks to eat more sensibly and healthily, a friend happened to email me to find out how to make more healthy and nutritious her baked goods.  See, she recently scored a Kitchen Aid standing mixer and since then she can’t stop the baking. And who could blame her? The upgrade from hand mixer to standing mixer is far too exciting for the foodie to resist.

So, for her, and you, here are some ideas for making your baked goods *slightly* more healthy.

Whole Wheat Flour :: replacing up to half of the all-purpose flour called for in your recipe is a great way to make your baked goods.  If you are making muffins or cookies, try to find the finest grind you can. A good whole-wheat pastry flour is a wonderful thing to have handy.

Wheat Germ :: I like to add a little wheat germ to just about anything I bake, but especially breads and muffins. It’s great in a Morning Glory muffin or anything with raisins.

Brown Rice Flour :: this is a great option for people with wheat allergies. Replace up to 1/4 of any wheat flour with rice flour.  Baked goods can tend to be crumbly, so you may want to try adding more egg to reduce crumbliness.

When I use alternative flours, I usually buy Bob’s Red Mill Brand.  They’ve got it all and great recipes on the website.

Sugars :: for the most part, I try to avoid refined sugar.  Granted, there are many times where I find it’s the best choice and totally called for, but there’s lots of places you can use alternative, natural, more healthy sweeteners. I tend to use maple syrup and honey the most. The tricky part is figuring out how to substitute. Here are some tips!

Maple Syrup :: use 3/4 cup of pure (organic if you can) maple syrup for 1 cup white sugar called for in the recipe and be sure to reduce the liquid in the recipe by about 3 tablespoons.

Maple Sugar :: use an equal amount of maple sugar as white sugar. In other words if 1 cup of white sugar is called for, use 1 cup of the maple sugar as well.

Honey :: substituting honey for sugar is somewhat a matter of taste. I like the flavor of honey, so I tend to use it cup for cup, but other people prefer 1/2 cup – 2/3 cup of honey per cup of white sugar. Remember to reduce the amount of other liquids in the recipe by 1/4 cup for every cup of honey used. You may also need to add a 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda for each cup of honey you use.  The honey is naturally acidic and the baking soda will help temper it.

Applesauce :: you can replace half of the butter, oil or shortening called for in a recipe with applesauce. Your result will be healthier, but still moist!

Milks :: I often replace whole milk with soy or rice milk.  If that doesn’t float your boat, you can try skim milk to make your result lower in fat.

Those are my best tips to feeding your passion for baking without padding your hips so much!  When I get bit by the baking bug, but don’t want the calories, I give the goodies to my hubby to take to work. It’s a win-win. I get the fun of baking and his co-workers get the fun of eating.

Works for me!