Nothing compares to the smell of freshly baked goodies. Whether it is bread, muffins, cake or cookies, it just smells amazing. Unfortunately once we start losing weight, trying to maintain a healthy weight or starting a healthy eating journey, we completely cut out baked goods or only enjoy them on cheat days. This does not have to be the case, you can still enjoy baked goodies even if you are eating healthy. Here are a few tips and tricks to change your baking from unhealthy to healthy.
1. Replacing eggs
There are so many substitutes nowadays for replacing eggs in baking. Generally eggs have one of two purposes when baking. One, the eggs are a binder, meaning the eggs bind the ingredients together. Or the eggs are a lifting agent, meaning the eggs help the baked good to rise. Sometimes the eggs can fulfill both purposes at once, so it is important to determine what purpose the eggs have in your recipe. The following are substitutes for eggs in baking:
Chia egg or flax egg- This is a great substitute for eggs if you are vegan or if you have an egg allergy or intolerance. Simply mix 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds or chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water. Let the mixture sit for five minutes. The result should be an egg like consistency. This is wonderful in baking and helps to bind ingredients.
Ripe bananas- Use 1/4 cup/ 60ml of mashed bananas instead of 1 egg. Keep in mind that bananas have a strong scent which will be imparted into your baked goodies. Bananas also make baked goods moist and help bind ingredients.
Apple sauce- Replace 1 egg with 1/4 cup/ 60ml of unsweetened applesauce. Again, keeps baked goods moist and helps bind ingredients. Tip: if you only have sweetened apple sauce use less sugar or sweetener when baking.
Vegetable oil- 1/4 cup/ 60ml is suitable for replacing 1 egg in baking. If the recipe calls for more than one egg best to use another substitution method. Because it will leave your baked good greasy and unhealthy.
Aquafaba (bean juice) - This is simply the juice that comes out of a can of chickpeas. An amazing substitute for whipped egg whites, (great for vegan baking). Use 45ml of liquid for 1 egg. Whip up aquafaba to resemble stiff egg whites. It helps to bind ingredients and is also a lifting agent.
Plain yoghurt or butter milk (dairy or non-dairy) - 1/4 cup/ 60ml of yoghurt or buttermilk replaces 1 egg. It makes baked goods moist and is also a lifting agent.
2. Fat free
Fat or oil plays such an important part in baking. Like eggs we need to understand its purpose when baking. The most common reason for using oil in baking, is to keep baked good moist. In some cases such as baking scones, the butter also acts as a raising agent. Know the purpose of the fat/oil in your recipe to find the perfect substitute from the list below.
Pureed (mashed) vegetables and fruits- Fruits and vegetables such as bananas, raspberries, butternut, sweet potato and beetroot are great substitutes for oil in baking. Plus it adds extra nutrients with few calories. For 1 cup/ 250ml of oil substitute with 3/4 cup/ 1800ml of pureed fruit or vegetable. Or you can substitute 1/2 cup/ 125ml pureed fruit or vegetable and 1/4 cup/ 60ml oil for 1 cup/ 250ml of oil in a baking recipe.
Applesauce- the most popular healthy replacement for oil in baking. Applesauce has a mild scent so it will not impart an apple scent in your baked goods. Plus in is lower in calories than oil. Replace apple sauce one-for-one with oil, meaning replace 1 cup/ 250ml of oil with 1 cup/250ml of applesauce.
Dairy products- Products such as yoghurt, buttermilk, mayonnaise, sour cream and maas are wonderful replacements for oil in baking. Even non-dairy options will work too. Replace 1 cup/ 250ml of oil with 3/4 cup/ 180ml of dairy product. Note some of these dairy products can change the flavour profile and texture of the baked goods.
Healthy oil options: alternatively you can replace fat/oil with healthy fats/ oils such as avocado oil, coconut oil, coconut butter, vegan butter, grape seed oil or olive oil. These are pricier than the options listed above. Remember to replace one-for-one in baking.
3. No refined sugar
Sugar does not only add sweetness in baking, but also gives us texture and moistness to our baked goods. Also, it prolongs the shelf life of cakes and cookies, if they last that long. Sugar also gives that beautiful golden finish to baked goodies. Here are some healthy options to sweeten up your baked goods.
Agave- Is a sweetener that comes from the nectar of the agave cactus. A great substitute for golden syrup in recipes or honey if vegan. Substitute agave one-for-one with honey or syrup.
Xylitol- Natural sugar alcohol that is developed in most fruits and vegetables. It taste exactly like sugar. It is an excellent replacement for white sugar. Substitute xylitol one-for-one with sugar. Note cakes and cookies that are sweetened with xylitol tend not to have that beautiful golden brown colour. But no worries it tastes amazing.
Coconut sugar- natural sugar made from the sap of the coconut palm tree. This is an excellent replacement for brown sugar. Coconut sugar is not as sweet as brown sugar so substitute 1 cup of brown sugar with 1 1/4 cup/ 310ml of coconut sugar.
Stevia - A plant based sugar substitute that is calorie free. Replace 1 cup/250ml with 1T/ 15ml stevia. Note stevia has a slight aftertaste that can be imparted into your baked goods.
Fruits and vegetables- Are a natural replacement for sugar, plus boost the nutritional value of baked goods. Fruits such as mango, bananas, apples and pineapple are amazing in cakes, muffins and cookies. Vegetables such as pumpkin, butternut, sweet potatoes and courgettes are great in baked goodies. Play around with fresh, dry, or pureed fruits and vegetables. Substitution measurement will depend on the type of recipe, but from personal experience add in less fruit or vegetables than the sugar needed.
4. Alternative flours
Gone are the days where the only flour you could use in baking was all-purpose flour. Now there are so many options to making baking healthy and allergy friendly. I have listed my top five healthy and affordable alternative flours.
Whole-wheat flour- This is not an alternative flour, it is still a wheat flour but it's a healthier substitute to regular all-purpose flour. Whole-wheat flour has a high nutritious count compared to white flour but whole-wheat flour is dark in colour and tends to make baked goods slightly dense. Substitute 1 cup/250ml white flour with 1/2 cup/ 125ml of whole-wheat flour and 1/2 a cup/ 125ml all-purpose flour.
Coconut flour- Coconut flour is made from the dried coconut meat. This flour is gluten free, high in fat and as well as fibre. Coconut flour soaks up a lot of moisture, so a little of this flour will go a long way. Replace 1 cup/ 250ml of white flour with 1/4 cup/ 60ml of coconut flour. Also double or triple the amount of eggs needed in your recipe. Note when baking with coconut flour, your baked good will have a scent of coconut.
Chickpea flour- Also known as Gram flour, is finely ground up chickpeas. This flour is high in protein and is gluten free. Substitute 1 cup/ 250ml of white flour with 3/4 cup/ 180ml chickpea flour.
Oats flour- Oats flour is made from finely ground up oats. This flour is high in fibre and is gluten free. Substitute 1 cup/ 250ml of white flour with 1/4 cup/ 60ml. Note oats flour is very dense so a little flour will go a long way.
Beans- I know that this might come as a surprise to you but beans are an amazing replacement for flour in baking. The most popular substitution beans are black beans and chickpeas. Just make sure the rinse the beans and mash them up as smooth as possible. Substitute 1 cup/ 250ml white flour with 1 cup/ 250ml mashed beans.
5. Make your own
I always preach that homemade is healthier and cheaper, so why not make your own buttermilk, oats flour and icing sugar.
Buttermilk- in a jug mix 1 T/ 15ml of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice with 1 cup/ 250ml dairy or non-dairy milk. Let is sand for 5 minutes before using.
Oats flour- To a blender pour in 2 cups of oats and blend until super fine. Sift the flour to remove any lumps in the flour.
Icing sugar- Combine 1 cup/ 250ml brown sugar and 1t/ 5ml corn flour in a blender. Process until a powdery consistency.