After a month of holiday feasting, healthy eating may be one of your New Year's resolutions. Thankfully, there's an easy way to indulge in your favorite sweet treat and increase its nutritional value. I'll show you how you can still enjoy that chocolate cake -- and feel better about your health -- with a few key ingredient swaps.
Healthier Natural Sugar Alternatives
A simple way to healthy up treats is by swapping out white sugar with natural sweeteners. Natural sweeteners contain extra vitamins and minerals that are lacking in processed sugar. Alternative sweeteners like coconut sugar, dates, honey, maple syrup, and stevia can easily be used as replacements for white sugar. The unique flavors of these natural sweeteners can complement other ingredients in your recipe (for example, honey and fruit in a blueberry scone pair wonderfully) and most can be found at your neighborhood grocery store. Some also are low glycemic, making them ideal for those with blood sugar issues. Here's a look at some sweet options, and how to use them:
- Coconut sugar: High in B vitamins and high mineral content (potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron) and a low glycemic food. Substitute one for one with white sugar.
- Dates Dates contain dietary fiber, iron, potassium, A, B and K vitamins. Substitute one cup date puree (puree one cup pitted dates with 1/2-1 cup hot water into a thick paste) for one cup of sugar.
- Honey: Full of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and selenium. Substitute 1/2 cup honey for one cup of sugar, reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup, and increase the baking soda by 1/4 teaspoon. When baking with honey, lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees to avoid over browning.
- Maple Syrup: A good source of zinc and manganese. Substitute 3/4 cup maple syrup for one cup of sugar and reduce by three tablespoons the other liquid content in the recipe for each cup of syrup used.
- Stevia: Substitute one teaspoon powdered or liquid stevia for one cup sugar. For every one cup of sugar that is replaced by stevia, 1/4-1/2 cup of a complimentary moisture-adding ingredient (applesauce or other fruit puree, yogurt, etc.) should be added.
Here are two delicious chocolate cakes that are low on guilt and big on flavor. One is made with coconut oil and the other made with coconut sugar.
Healthier Flour Alternatives
Another simple healthy swap: Replacing all-purpose flour with whole grain flour. Studies have shown that whole grains help lower the risk of chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and also contribute to body weight management.
There are many whole grain flours to choose from and they are excellent sources of minerals such as iron, potassium, phosphorus, and calcium. They are also complex carbohydrates, unlike refined flour, which has lost much of its fiber content.
Start by incorporating whole grains in your baking by replacing a cup of all purpose flour with a cup of whole grain flour, then experiment with proportions until you find your perfect combo of whole grain to white. Some flours, like rye or barley flour, are better used in smaller amounts while flours like whole wheat pastry or spelt can be used interchangeably for white flour. Many can be purchased in bulk, so you can buy just a little as you ease your way into more nutritious and delicious, baking.
- Barley Flour: Slightly nutty in flavor. Swap out half of the all-purpose flour for barley flour.
- Oat Flour: A light and delicate flavor. In your favorite cookie or muffin recipe, substitute half of the all-purpose flour for oat flour.
- Rye Flour: Rye flour is best in a pie or pizza crust recipe; substitute 1/4 cup of all-purpose or whole wheat flour with rye flour.
- Spelt Flour: A tender, mild flavor. Spelt flour is wonderful substituted one for one with all-purpose flour in most baking recipes.
- Whole Wheat Pastry Flour: The best flour to ease yourself into whole grain baking. Substitute one for one with all-purpose flour.
Here's my recipe for light and fluffy pancakes made healthier with spelt flour, and sweetened with a touch of maple:
Need more healthy ideas?
- Check out this delicious fermented drink you need for a healthy 2017.
- Yes, pizza can be healthy too! Check out these easy, nutritious pizza recipes.
- These simple slow cooker favorites will make healthy eating a whole lot easier.