The month of anticipation, excitement, parties, feasts, celebrations and family is upon us! This time of year you need all the energy you can get so you can feel your best for the festivities, but staying healthy amidst the late nights, cold weather, sweets, drinks and stress can be a difficult feat.
I hope to help you power through the month healthily and happily with a December series on kitchen substitutions. Learning how to substitute healthy foods for the less healthy counterparts in your favorite recipe is a great way to keep your body feeling good without missing out on the treats. This week I am starting with an introduction to baking substitutions, to be followed by more in depth tips and recipes in the following weeks. Please leave a comment and let me know what substitutions you want to learn about or post a recipe that you would like to see transformed!
In baking, when you look for ingredients to substitute, pick out just a couple that are the highest priorities for you. Trying to change too many variables in a recipe can lead to disaster. For me the type of flour and amount of sugar are big ones. Substituting whole grains and natural sugar works well and creates a product that I feel much better about putting into my body.
To get more whole grains in your baked goods, try substituting half the amount called for with whole wheat flour. Some recipes hold up better to whole wheat and I have had great luck using all whole wheat flour in many of my banana, zucchini and pumpkin bread recipes. Paired with the fruit or vegetable base in breads or muffins the whole wheat does not make as dense and dry a product. You can also substitute half the amount of flour with other whole grains such as cooked quinoa, amaranth or spelt.
For sugar, I find it best to cut the amount called for almost in half. Most recipes are designed to call out to our sweet tooth but work well and taste great with much less sugar. If you want to completely replace the sugar, raw honey, agave nectar and brown rice syrup are good options. These substitutes are not low calorie foods, they are healthier alternatives that burn slower and provide more nutrients for your body.
Low calorie sugar alternatives are not high on my list for many reasons including their level of processing, link to life threatening diseases and detrimental impact on the body. However, because healthy sugar substitutions are liquid you will have to reduce the liquid content of your baked good by ¼ cup for every cup of the liquid sweetener that you use. For instance, if the recipe calls for 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk you would reduce the milk to ¾ cup.
In almost every baked good I make, I also try to include some sort of whole fruit or vegetable. This not only adds nutrients, but also adds flavor and texture often in the place of sugar or oils. Check back next week for lots of great information on cooking with whole fruits and vegetables.
Don’t be intimidated to start experimenting with your favorite recipes and give your body a healthy gift this holiday season. Here is one of my favorite healthy holiday breakfast bread recipes to get you started. It also makes a great housewarming gift!
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp allspice
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
2 large eggs
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan.
Whisk flour sugar, spices, baking soda and salt in a medium sized mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl whisk eggs, applesauce, honey, water and brown sugar. Mix dry and wet ingredients until just combined. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake 50-60 minutes or until tester inserted comes out clean. Cool for 30 minutes before turning bread out of pan. Cool completely before wrapping.