Recently, a friend asked what I was snacking on. When I told her it was a healthy dark chocolate muffin, she commented, “Isn’t that an oxymoron?” I was pleased to inform her that the muffin was rich in flavanols, an antioxidant from the dark cocoa, healthy monounsaturated fats from the canola oil, whole grains from the whole white wheat flour, and sweetened with apple sauce, making for a respectable nutrient punch. She then asked how I find such good tasting, healthy recipes. This is a common question I receive when health coaching so I thought I’d share …
While there are a massive number of recipes available online, often I simply use one of my tried and true recipes while making a few alterations. How you modify a recipe ultimately will depend on your goal. For instance, when baking if you’re looking to cut calories, I’d recommend substituting half of the oil for unsweetened applesauce or plain yogurt. For example, if the recipe calls for 1/2 cup of oil, I’d use 1/4 cup of canola oil and 1/4 cup of applesauce. I find this makes for a moister baked good, cuts fat, and I’m generally able to decrease the sugar a bit as the applesauce provides sweetness as well. Because fat is more calorie dense, 9 calories/gram versus 4 calories/gram for the applesauce, this substitution would decrease the total calorie count.
One of my main goals when altering a recipe is increasing the nutrient density. Knowing that every nutrient, vitamin, and mineral has a different and purposeful use in our bodies makes me want to ensure that I’m eating a variety of foods. I also realize in order to maintain my weight; I can consume a certain number of calories per day. Therefore, I want to get the most nourishment for the least amount of calories. This is where nutrient density comes into play – even when I’m making a treat. For instance, when I’m baking cookies, I’ll switch out the all purpose flour for 100 percent whole white wheat. I’ll also replace the butter or shortening with an equal amount of canola oil and I’ll decrease the amount of sugar, even if it’s only from a cup to ¾ cup.
In the same way, if I’m baking a breakfast or snack item such as banana or zucchini bread, I’ll experiment with adding extra fruit or vegetables. I may try half whole wheat flour, half whole white wheat flour or I may add a handful of raisins or berries to increase the fiber content. One trick I’ve found is to beat the oil and sugar together first. Then, I add the eggs and continue to mix well. This seems to make for fluffier muffins or bread which is important seeing whole wheat flour is heavier and tends to produce a denser product than traditionally used flours. I also make sure to always add the flour last avoiding any potential of over mixing which makes for a tough item.
In the end, there are a multitude of ways to make your food choices healthier. Taste is so subjective that it simply comes down to personal preference. Please see the attached pumpkin chocolate chip muffin recipe for one of my family’s favorites. If you have any “healthified” recipes you’d like to share for future e-newsletters, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time, remember taking care of yourself is one of the best gifts you can give you and your family this year!
Jennifer Smith holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Medicine with a concentration in nutrition and a minor in education, a master’s degree in exercise science and health promotion, and is a nationally certified personal trainer, group exercise instructor, and speed coach.