Happy December, sugar plums!
With the flurry of festive spirit, it’s hard to keep my excitement under wraps. The warm scent of fresh shortbread, cinnamon and pine needles still bring me back to being a kidlet at Christmastime…
While there’s no shortage of healthy holiday treats out there, it’s comforting to know we can tweak traditional recipes and still satisfy our sweet tooth — without the bloating, blood sugar spike or new year’s detox resolution (ahhh).
Here are a few ways to integrate a healthier baking approach:
- Unrefined sugar
Rather than opting for a cup of plain old sugar, go for more nutrient-dense natural sweeteners like coconut sugar, raw stevia, lucuma, mesquite, date paste or Yacon syrup. Although most natural sweeteners still break down to glucose in the blood at a solid pace (and don’t curb our sweet cravings), overall they’re more nutritious.Whole foods like mashed banana, unsweetened applesauce and puréed squash or sweet potato also work brilliantly as sweeteners.
- Nuts & seeds
Ever tried roasting your nuts and seeds? It’s divine. Although dense in calories, they pack a rich source of nutrients. And since roasting enhances flavour, you can use a smaller quantity in baking. Incorporating nuts (like almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews) and seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame) will up the yum factor by tenfold.
Adding ground flax or chia seeds into your baking routine is an awesome way to increase omega-3’s and dietary fiber. Both can even be used as egg replacers, and they infuse a nice nutty taste into cookies and muffins. Baking with beans is another sneaky way to get more plant protein and fiber, like these zucchini black bean brownies.
- Whole grains (or grain-free)
Nowadays, it’s easy to get our hands on sprouted grain options, as well as grain-free flours like almond and coconut. Other fun nutrient-dense flours include quinoa, teff, amaranth, sorghum and garbanzo bean. When baking with gluten-free flours, it’s usually most effective to combine a few different varieties, along with xanthan gum as a binder.White rice, tapioca and potato flours may be cheaper and gluten-free, but I find it best to steer clear of these fast-acting pulverized carbohydrates (otherwise my blood sugar takes off like a bandit).
- Quality fats
Organic unrefined coconut oil, vegan shortening or grass-fed/salt-free butter will seriously impact the integrity of your baking. Using coconut cream or plant-based buttermilk (almond milk + apple cider vinegar) is another way to skip the heavy dairy.
- Raw treats
Beyond being delicious, no-bake desserts tend to tread lighter on our health and the planet. They can also be outrageously decadent. Most raw desserts stick to the gluten-free, vegan, unrefined sweetener principles too. For more inspiration, check out these mouth-watering raw foodie desserts at One Green Planet.
- Get creative!
On your next cozy slipper snow day…make your own natural food colouring with beets or pomegranate juice (for red), and liquid chlorophyll, spirulina or matcha powder (for green). Create a dark chocolate drizzle with melted coconut oil, cacao powder and natural sweetener. Or a cashew cream icing. The more playful, the better.
Merry, wholesome baking! xo