I, like a lot of people, really love to have a little something sweet at the end of a meal. There is a joke that dietitians never keep junk food in their homes for fear that someone will see that they have unhealthy habits, too. That’s why we keep all the parts to make something unhealthy in our cupboards at all times. That’s right. If you come to my house on any give day, I most likely can make you either a batch of chocolate chip cookies or the best brownies. There is nothing wrong with eating “less than healthy” items, as long as you don’t overdo it. And, to help you on your journey, here are a few ways to make baking just a little bit more nutritious.
- Use unsweetened applesauce instead of oil in things like cake and brownies. Most people recommend using about half the amount of oil and then make up the difference with unsweetened applesauce. Some people even recommend just using one of the lunch-sized containers of applesauce and making up the rest of the called-for amount with oil. Remember to use unsweetened since baked goods already have sugar in them. The applesauce will add fiber and cut some of the fat from the recipe.
- Leave the skin on fruits in pies, cobblers, etc. There are texture differences to get used to, but leaving the skin on fruits such as apples can help to increase the amount of fiber and nutrients in things such as apple pie or apple crisp.
- Use half whole wheat flour. Most baked goods work well using half whole wheat flour and half regular all-purpose flour. Don’t try to use all whole wheat flour unless the recipe already calls for it or you are ready for an experiment. The amount of liquid used in the recipe will have to be adjusted if you use all whole wheat flour. Using half whole-wheat flour will add a little texture to your products as well as fiber.
- Use dark chocolate instead of milk or semi-sweet in things like cookies. There are dark chocolate chips you can buy or you could rough chop up a dark chocolate bar. Dark chocolate has more antioxidants than other forms of chocolate. So, if you’re going to eat chocolate, you might as well be getting some extra benefits out of it.
- Use unsalted butter instead of margarine, shortening, or salted butter. All fats have disadvantages to them. Most people agree that butter tastes the best in baked goods so you might as well use it. Always pick unsalted. We get more than enough sodium in our diets already and you don’t need your butter to add any more.
While these tips help to make your food healthier, they can change the flavors and textures of your favorite foods. Try out a couple of suggestions to see if you like them before making a huge batch of whole-wheat, half-applesauce, dark chocolate chunk brownies for your next potluck. You may find out that your grandma’s chocolate chip cookie recipe tastes best with all white flour, but that the dark chocolate really adds a nice little something to it, and that is perfectly fine. Good nutrition is about sustainable changes that add enjoyment to your life, not take away from it.
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