I am sure majority of us have experienced the problem of “having a cake and eating it too”. Although the proverb refers to all aspects of our lives, it is so right about the cakes, and not only in the literal meaning. Because, is it even possible to have two good things that usually don’t come together – delicious cakes and healthy, lean body – at the same time?
The first reaction for most people will probably be “no, it is impossible”. Delicious treats contain a lot of not-so-good or even (for some of us) banned ingredients like butter, cream, white flour, etc. They are also highly calorific, and this is never good for the waistline.
However, many of us do not realise how easy it is to make our favourite treats better for us. It only takes some creativity and determination to make healthier alternatives to our most-liked recipes. You can test it by following any (or all) of the following tips:
Healthier Fat Substitutes
Most recipes for cakes and cookies call for large amounts of butter or some other fatty ingredient. They work as both a binder and a flavour maker. But you can avoid the unwanted trans-fats and add some more health benefits by using fat substitutes that are healthier like e.g. oils. There are many types of oils to choose from, including canola (rapeseed) oil, sunflower or more aromatic (thus not suitable for all kinds of cakes) – olive oil. Peanut butter also works very well for some cakes and cookies like in these gluten-free and vegan Blondies.
If you want to take a step farther, you can swap the oil for the equal amount of pureed fruits or even vegetables (e.g. avocados) in muffins, cookies and cakes.
Eggs are naturally not unhealthy, but some people can’t eat them due to allergies or plant-based diets they follow. But not eating eggs doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your cake!
Pureed vegetables and fruits are brilliant egg substitutes. Apart from working as a binder, they also give a great taste to any cakes. For example, you could use pureed apples with a dash of cinnamon to prepare cookies, and you already will be on your way to success.
Grated zucchini works well as a binder in brownies. The flavour of the cocoa is so strong that you will not even taste the vegetable. And you won’t notice the texture either. It is a perfect solution for kids and adults who are not big fans of vegetables.
If you prefer not to add any fruit or vegetables to your cakes and you don’t want to use eggs, there are other egg substitutes for baking: ground flax seeds or chia seeds. Just mix 1 tablespoon of either type of the seeds with 3 tablespoons hot water. After a few minutes, the mixture thickens, and then 3.5 tablespoons of it can be used as a replacement for 1 egg.
Get Creative with Your Flours
There are many healthy substitutes of all-purpose white flour. And certainly, the growing amount of people on a gluten-free diet has made it easier to find the right replacement.
You could start with small steps and replace some of the all-purpose flour with the wholemeal one. This small change will provide your body with some extra fiber and nutrients.
If you want to be more adventures, check into alternatives like for example chickpea flour. This gluten-free option has fewer carbohydrates than the all-purpose or even wholemeal. But at the same time it is high in proteins, fiber and iron. It does have a pretty strong taste though. So it is safer to use up to 25% of the chickpea flour in place of the regular one. That way it will not overpower the flavour of your dish or cake.
Almond flour is another great gluten-free option. It is heavier than the all-purpose meal so that you will need more raising agent for your cake. It also gives moisture, and because of that, it works very well in gluten-free mixtures. Like for example in these Gingerbread Cookies.
If you want to try something unobvious, next time you bake your brownies, substitute 1 cup of flour with 1 cup of mashed black beans. They will enrich your cake with extra proteins and fiber.
Although cakes and cookies can have different flavours, there is one common denominator for all of them. They are all sweet. However, we know how unhealthy sugar is. So can we do anything about it?
Firstly, whenever possible, try to prepare your sweets with less sugar than initially stated in a recipe. But be careful because some cakes (e.g. meringues) will not turn out fine if you don’t add enough sugar. So you can cut down the sugar by 15-20% at first. And if the cake comes out great, you can further decrease the amount of sugar the next time you bake it.
Using natural sugar substitutes is another solution. Not each of them may be suitable for all types of cakes and cookies, but luckily there is a wide range of healthier alternatives. You can choose between honey, stevia, maple syrup, coconut sugar, dates, xylitol, agave nectar.
Avoid Artificial Additives
Some recipes call for trans-fatty synthetic ingredients. Those are never good for you and your diet. So you can either avoid recipes using margarine or substitute it with either oils or butter.
Whenever possible try to use natural colourants like beetroot juice, carrot juice, matcha powder, etc. It is true that they may not give the same intensity of colour as their artificial equivalents. But they have a significant advantage of being 100% natural.
Healthier Baking Recipes
As we all know, success in baking sometimes relies on luck. You can bake a beautiful cake from the same recipe 10 times. But the 11th will turn out as a disaster. So when you test some of the egg substitutes or fat substitutes, you may not be successful straight away with your healthier baking. You probably will have to go through some trial and error process to ensure that everything tastes and looks the way you envisaged. But imagine how impressed your friends and family will be when they eat your cake and find out that it is not only delicious but also healthier!
But what if you are not entirely happy with your healthier baking results? The good news is that lots of people have already been working in this area. Which means tere are plenty of recipes for healthier cakes available on the internet.
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