Here’s a scary, if not super surprising, stat: The majority of Americans eat more than the recommended amount of added sugars and saturated fats, while three-quarters of Americans aren’t meeting the daily recommendations for fruits and veggies.
While the obligatory cupcake at your coworker’s office bday celebration is an obvious sugar splurge, your everyday muffins, scones, and breads also inch your sugar count upward. The blueberry scone you might pick up from Starbucks with your coffee comes with 20 grams of sugar (the same as a pair of peanut butter cups) and 10 grams of saturated fat—and that’s supposed to be a “nutritious” breakfast.
But a life without sugar is just not so sweet. And if you can’t imagine a week without lemon poppy seed muffins or banana bread, you may not have to eliminate them completely in order to eat a more healthy diet, especially if you start baking yourself. Here are tricks to healthify your baked goods to lighten up your daily menu.
Make a flax or chia egg. Baking for a vegan? Instead of binding your baked goods with eggs, you can mix either chia seeds or ground flax with water. Whisk them together, let it sit, and it will form an egg-like consistency. Not only does it cut the saturated fat and cholesterol from the egg, but it boosts your omega-3 intake. Learn more benefits of chia seeds here.
Add produce. Everyone knows you can use applesauce in your baked goods instead of eggs or oil, but you can also use pureed banana, pumpkin, or sweet potato. In addition to the added nutrients, you might also be able to cut back on added sugar thanks to the natural sweetness and flavors from the produce.
Try zucchini or silken tofu. Applesauce and banana certainly add a distinct flavor, so keep things neutral with peeled, pureed zucchini or tofu. Bonus: Tofu provides a major protein boost (and you definitely won’t taste it).
Swap out the flour. Americans love white flour, but you’ll get more fiber and protein from whole-wheat, chickpea, or almond flour. These flours can’t always be swapped cup-for-cup with white flour since they have different rising and binding properties, so do your research before pulling a switcheroo. (Check out this strawberry coconut cookie made from coconut and almond flour.)
Choose low-fat or plant-based milks. If you’re skipping dairy, nutritionists recommend unsweetened soy milk. Otherwise, choose low-fat milk, and try evaporated milk instead of heavy cream.
Mash up some avocado. It’s a lesser-known trick, but it works wonders in the kitchen. This healthy fat can replace the butter and oil in your goods and make a moist, luscious brownie or muffin. Be warned, though, it might leave a subtle green hue in your treats—but that just makes it more fun. Learn the health benefits of avocado here.
Want more tips for cutting sugar from your diet? Here are 9 tips to cut back on sugar without feeling deprived.