Good Eating Monday: Tips for Making Your Baking Healthier

Greetings! Welcome to August!  Halfway to Christmas already!
Finally got past that cold I had last week! Yay!

Today's Good Eating topic are Tips for Making Your Baking Healthier. 
By healthier I mean less fat, less sugar and more good-for-you stuff in your baked quick breads, muffins, cookies & cakes!
I've notated what's easy & more difficult & provided links on thing like how to use honey, agave, etc.

Tips for Reducing Fat:
The main fat in baked goods is the oil, butter or margarine.

* Easy: Replace the oil/butter with an equal measure of Unsweetened Natural Applesauce. For example: if a recipe or box mix calls for 1/3 cup oil, use 1/3 cup applesauce.

* Easy: If butter is important to the recipe, use Light Butter. It comes unsalted or salted, too and has half the calories of regular! I've never had a problem baking with it.

* Easy: If you prefer a non-dairy margarine, read ingredients and select one that doesn't contain "partially-hydrogenated" oils!

* Easy: Replace your oil meaurement with mashed banana: 1 medium mashed banana = about 1/2 cup. 

Tips for Reducing or Replacing Sugar in Muffins, Cakes, Quick Breads:
There are lots of options and it depends on what you like.
Just be aware that substitutions that add more liquid to your recipe require adjustments to the dry measurements to compensate.

* Easiest: just reduce the amount of white sugar called for in the recipe by 1/2 cup:  For example, if the recipe calls for 2 cups of sugar,  reduce  it  to 1 1/2 cups. Brown sugar can be reduced by 1/4 cup or simply "not packed."

* Next Easiest: Replace white sugar with equal measurement of either Sugar in The Raw, which is unrefined cane sugar, or a sugar substitute like Splenda or Splenda for Baking or Sweet & Low. 

* Also Easy: Replace white sugar with an equal measaure of applesauce or mashed banana or other chopped fruit.  But be careful of your moisture levels if you use these as both sugar & oil replacements! I use both in muffins often, but I add an extra 1/2 to 3/4 cup of oats to absorb the extra moisture!

* Less Easy: Replace sugar with Honey in a ratio of 3/4 cup honey per 1 cup of sugar and reduce other liquids called for in recipe by 1/2 cup. For example: if 1 cup of milk is called for, reduce it to 1/2 cup. I'd also consider honey a fairly expensive option. Also you should buy a local native honey and not use Clover Honey, which has a higher sugar index. More info baking with honey in eHow article here.

* Also Less Easy: Replace sugar with Agave Nectar in a ratio of 2/3 cup aAgave per 1 cup of white sugar and also reduce other liquids in recipe by 1/4 cup. Another option I've never used because it involves so much adjustment. More info on this in eHow article here.

* Even Less Easy: Replace sugar with Molasses. This one is tricky. Go here, for more info in an eHow article about it. Plus the flavor might not be appropriate for everything. I have a friend who often combines molasses & honey in baking as sugar substitutes.

Tips for Getting More Whole Grains in Your Baked Goodies:
Be aware, the more whole grain you add to baked goods, the denser they become and the less they rise.

Easy: Choose unbleached flour rather then bleached white flour. If you can find white whole grain flour stocked at your grocery, that is an excellent choice as it produces a lighter, fluffier product then whole wheat flour.

* Easy: If you have whole wheat flour on hand, you can substitute about 1/2 cup wheat for 1/2 cup of white, keeping the ratio of white higher, if you want a light result. Unless I can find a small mini-bag of whole wheat at a grocery, I don't usually keep whole wheat on hand myself. Storage issue. 

* Easiest: This is my preferred method, since I always have oats on hand and a box of unprocessed bran is easy to store: Replace half the flour measurement with with either all oats or a mix of oats and unprocessed bran. For example: if 2 cups of white flour is called for, I reduce the white flour to 1 cup and make the other cup either all oats or a mix of oats and unprocessed bran. 

* Easy: With any cake box mix or brownie box mix: add 1/4 cup oats or unprocessed bran to the batter. This won't effect the moisture levels, but will up the healthiness as the bran adds roughage.

* Easy: If you want a baked good to be chocolate flavored, opt for adding 1/2 to 1 cup cocoa powder rather then adding chocolate chips. Cocoa powder has no sugar added and is full of antioxidants.

*Note on baking mixes or self-rising flour: because leavening is added already, you cannot reduce the amounts called for if you're using them. You can however add 1/4 cup oats or unprocessed bran for added roughage and use sugar substitutions, depending on what the item is. Biscuits still require a light butter or healthy margarine.
That's it for today!  Bake healthy & eat up, me hearties, yo-ho!


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