Instead, consider smart alternatives like whole-wheat flour, fruit purees, maple syrup, dried fruit, and even spices. These ingredients can add fiber, flavor, vitamins, and minerals.
Look for recipes like those that already incorporate natural ingredients. But to experiment yourself, refer to “Smart Substitutions” at the bottom of this article for healthy options. Then get baking!
Flours and Grains
White flour is popular for baking, but it’s not the healthiest choice. Refined white flour has had 93 percent of its fiber removed, as well as most of its vitamin E. The bleaching process strips remaining nutrients, often leaving behind dubious residues.
Try using whole-wheat and other whole-grain flours instead. Experiment with a little at a time when substituting these, since the texture of the final product may vary with whole-grain flours. Also, look for recipes that include whole oats and oat flours. Both are excellent sources of fiber. Substitute whole oats (not instant) for up to one-third of the flour when baking breads, cakes, cookies, and muffins.
Natural sweeteners tend to have more vitamins and minerals than highly refined white sugar, and they’re easy to use. When choosing one, consider the flavor you wish the final product to have. Molasses will add a totally different taste—and color—than honey.
Here’s a list of some popular sweeteners and their benefits:
- Honey contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, as well as potentially beneficial enzymes. Since it’s twice as sweet as sugar, use half the amount of honey as you would sugar in a recipe. Decrease another liquid by one-fourth cup per cup of honey, and add a pinch of baking soda.
- Maple syrup is an old-fashioned favorite and contains trace amounts of vitamins B2, B5, and B6. Use three-fourths cup to replace one cup of sugar, and reduce another liquid in the recipe by three tablespoons.
- Blackstrap molasses is a byproduct of sugar refining and is rich in iron and minerals. Instead of one cup of sugar, use three-fourths cup molasses. Decrease another liquid by one-fourth cup, omit any baking powder, and add one-half teaspoon baking soda.
- Applesauce and other pureed fruits can replace some of the oils and sugars in baked goods. These natural sweeteners make the end product more moist and tender while adding fiber.
- Fruit juice concentrates are frozen products made by cooking down fruit juices. To use them in place of sugar, just substitute three-fourths cup of thawed juice concentrate for each cup of white sugar, and decrease the liquid in the recipe by three tablespoons.
After opening liquid sweeteners, store them in the refrigerator. Keep fruit juice concentrates frozen until ready to use.
Spices add distinct flavors to your baked goods. The flavors that spices add help to cut down on salt and sugar use, too, making low-fat eating tastier. You can reduce the amount of sweetener in fruit and dessert recipes by adding cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, anise, or fennel.
When shopping for spices, look for organic varieties. Regularly discard spices that are over a year old since they lose some of their flavor and potency.
Adding dried fruits to baked foods is a smart way to increase fiber and flavor. Dried blueberries, cherries, or cranberries make healthy and tasty substitutes for raisins.
To rehydrate dried fruits, place them in a glass cup or bowl. Add boiling water or fruit juice.