Nothing tastes better (and makes the house smell better!) than a delicious home cooked batch of cookies or brownies. Plus, cooking with your kids can help to strengthen family bonds and increase their competence in the kitchen. But these homemade treats can wreak havoc on a healthy family meal plan. Often made from refined flour, lots of butter, and tons of sugar, baked goods can pack in a lot of calories with not much nutritional value – thus increasing the risk of weight gain and health problems when consumed in large amounts by children.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though! Below are some easy substitutions you can make to improve the nutritional quality of your baked goods. While baked goods shouldn’t make up large portions of our meal plan, they can certainly fit in occasionally to a healthy lifestyle – especially with these changes:
- Bake from scratch. When you bake from scratch, you have more control over the ingredients and end up with tastier goods that have few preservatives. A batch of homemade cookies typically contains about 8 basic ingredients. Take a look at cookies from the grocery store and you will likely see a much longer list.
- Try replacing half of the fat in a recipe (typically butter or oil) with mashed banana, prune puree, or applesauce. The creamy consistency and moisture of the fruit helps to maintain a great texture and prevent products from drying out while cutting the fat in half.
- Greek yogurt also works great when used as a substitute for fat (and some sugar), as well as sour cream in some baked goods like pound cakes. It keeps breads and muffins very moist, like in this recipe for strawberry orange yogurt bread, and packs in extra protein!
- Or use beans or pumpkin! This tip usually surprises people. These make great substitutions for the oil and eggs in brownie mixes and recipes. You can substitute a 15.5 ounce can of beans, pureed in the blender or food processor, for the typical 1/3 cup oil plus the egg in a boxed brownie mix. If you’re using it in your own recipe, try a 1:1 ratio for the amount of pureed bean for oil/butter. The beans contain much less fat and calories, and add fiber and antioxidants to the recipe! Or you can do the same with that amount of canned pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix). If you go with the pumpkin, you’re also cutting calories and fat and adding a hefty dose of vision boosting Vitamin A.
- Use whole wheat flour rather than white flour. Whole wheat flour contains more minerals and fiber compared to its refined counterpart. Fiber can help you feel full quicker, so you may be more content indulging in a smaller serving. Whole wheat pastry flour is lighter and works better for dishes like cakes, while regular whole wheat flour can be a great choice for hearty breads.
- Consider adding oats. They add fiber and texture, and can be incorporated easily into most cookie recipes. You can also use oats to make a modified pie crust!
- Replace cream or whole milk with fat free half and half, skim milk, almond milk, or buttermilk. The best replacement will depend on the recipe.
- Add fruit whenever possible. Consider hearty breakfast breads made with banana, chopped apples, and cranberries, or cookies with dried cherries.