If you’ve put on a few pounds this year, trust us – you’re not alone. After all, many of us turned to baking as a way of keeping busy when COVID was at its peak – whether it was trying out home-made bread for the first time, or perfecting those gooey chocolate brownies you just couldn’t nail before.
Baking is widely described as an activity that’s soothing and therapeutic – something we were in dire need of during lockdown. And the fact that we could tuck into something delicious after all our hard work? Well, that was just a bonus, wasn’t it?
If you’re starting to feel guilty about the amount of baked goods you’ve consumed in 2020, fret not. We’ve rounded up our favourite hacks to healthify baking so that you can approach your favourite hobby with a whole new healthy mindset. Enjoy!
1. Try out new flavourings
Lots of baking recipes require vanilla extract (such as cakes, cookies and muffins). That said, you can play around with different essences to experiment with flavours, without increasing the calorie-count. According to pickyeaterblog.com There are loads of great vanilla extract substitutes out there, such as butterscotch, coconut, coffee, and almond. And those are just a few examples. Try out something new each time and who knows what new flavours you could discover!
2. Wave bye-bye to butter
Butter is classed as saturated fat, which is bad news for our cholesterol levels and can put us at higher risk of nasties like heart disease and stroke. Instead of butter, try using unsaturated oils, such as olive oil, coconut oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil. Just be sure to limit these to one teaspoon per serving.
3. Embrace the avo
Avocados can do a whole lot more than just make killer guac to dip your nachos into. You see, it’s classed as a healthy fat, and it’s another awesome replacement for butter when baking things like cakes, bread and cookies. Avocados have a smooth, creamy texture plus they’re packed with protein and nutrients. Best of all? This much healthier butter alternative doesn’t scrimp on flavour.
4. Go nutty for nuts
We all know that nuts and seeds are packed with loads of the good stuff – we’re talking magnesium, Vitamin E, omega-6 and omega-3. They can also greatly improve the texture and flavour of a recipe. Got some fussy little ones that don’t appreciate having nuts snuck into their baked treats? Use a blender or a processor to grind them down first. They won’t have a clue they’re in there and your secret’s safe with us, we promise!
5. Swap sugar for banana
We’re serious! Instead of loading your recipe with a bunch of unhealthy artificial sugar, the humble banana makes for a brilliant alternative sweetener, and it’s nice and easy to digest, too. The best time to make the swap? When the banana is really ripe and therefore ultra-sweet. Other alternatives include honey, maple syrup, dates and agave. Believe it or not, vegetables can also be used to sweeten a recipe. Cake batter, for instance, can be elevated with the likes of blended parsnips, sweet potato or courgette. You’ll experience more subtle flavourings, as opposed to a huge hit of sweetness, as well. Get ready for the same energy release without the crash associated with sugar. You’re welcome.
6. Bid adios to white flour
There are much healthier alternatives to white flour, which is refined and processed, with no fibre or nutrients. Not only that, did you know that it’s actually bleached to get its attractive bright-white hue? It’s also much harder to digest than the likes of whole grain flour, spelt flour, rye flour and brown rice flour. Make the swap and you’ll be so glad you did.
7. Go easy on the chocolate
We’re all big fans of chocolate chips, but something as simple as going for the smaller-size varieties can make all the difference. Similarly, consider using dark chocolate for your baking recipes as opposed to milk chocolate. If you can get one with at least 70% cocoa in it, even better. Not only does dark chocolate contain way less sugar, but it’s more flavourful and choc-full of nutrients (see what we did there?!).
8. Make mindful baking choices
It’ll come as no surprise that what you put in your bake is determined by what you bake. So the next time you don the apron and get your rolling pin out, consider opting for a treat that’s healthier than one you’d usually choose. You just might be surprised how much you enjoy it. Instead of chocolate chip cookies or a jam-lathered sponge cake, try something like pumpkin scones, coconut and banana muffins or a lemon and yogurt Bundt cake. That’s just naming a few of the healthier treat options out there!
9. Watch your portion sizes
This is crucial when it comes to weight-watching in general – especially if you’re baking on the regular. If you don’t have one already, invest in a muffin tin. It’s so much better than using a typical 8×8 dish, as your treat sizes are pre-determined – you can’t get excited with a fork when your dessert comes out the oven. They’re not just for muffins, either. For instance, you can use these tins for the likes of cupcakes and brownie treats. And there’s a whole world of savoury treats to be baked in muffin tins – it’s not just about the sweet stuff.
10. Be sure to use a tried and tested recipe
You’re making healthy swaps in your baking – good job! Now’s not the time to experiment with a brand-new recipe, though. Instead, choose something that you’ve nailed in the past. That way, your substitutions are much more likely to work well. The last thing we want to be doing in this day and age is wasting food.