As a health practitioner, I am always on a look out for healthy tips for patients, especially during the holiday season. Here are some amazing tips provided by Christy Heath, the founder of HEALTHY HEATH.
By Christy Heath
Within the last two years I developed sensitivities to dairy, bakers yeast and sugar cane. I have always loved to bake and have always enjoyed the baking that I do. Not being able to eat dairy and sugar cane put a hitch in my ability to make all the treats I enjoyed. So, I started to look at alternative ingredients that would allow me to still create great tasting, even decadent goodies that I could enjoy.
The key to making healthy substitutes in baking is to experiment with quantities, consistencies, and flavors until you find what works for you, with a touch of google research to pull it together. Here are some of the substitutes that I use:
Sugar: I had begun years ago using alternatives to refined sugar. I started with puréed dates, concentrated fruit juice, maple syrup and honey. Through lots of trial and error I found recipes with which each of these worked well. In general I have found the best alternative for baking to be coconut palm sugar (made from coconut tree nectar), which can be used like brown sugar and has a very low glycemic index. When a recipe does need a “white” sugar, I choose xylitol (made from tree, fruit and plant fibers). These are my personal preferences because both use a 1:1 ratio to brown or white sugar.
Butter or Fats: Substitutes that I use for butter vary depending on what I am making. Vegan margarine works well if you are just trying to cut dairy, but avoid palm kernel oil. Safflower or sunflower oil are good. Coconut oil is a fantastic substitute and it adds extra tropical flavor.
Milk, Cream and Yogurt: There are so many alternatives available to substitute milk in a recipe. Rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk, and flax milk can all be used. Depending on the recipe, you can even use juice (apple is the most versatile) or water. I like coconut cream the best substitute for cream and yogurt. You can buy coconut cream and mix it with water (mix it thick). Or you can refrigerate a can of coconut milk for about 6 hours and skim the cream off the top. This refrigerated coconut cream can be used to make a whipped cream.
Flour: I use unbleached instead of white flour. I also use whole wheat flour whenever possible. If you are using a premixed gluten free pancake mix, make sure you find one with low sodium. I have recently tried coconut flour. It is gluten free and is also suitable for those on a paleo diet. The amount of coconut flour should be reduced. For example, I use 3/4 cup of coconut flour for 1 cup of regular flour. You would need to use more eggs to maintain the needed consistency when using coconut flour.
Eggs: If you want to make your recipes vegan you need to substitute the eggs as well. There are a few things that work well but they all depend on the recipe you are making. So experimentation is necessary. Applesauce can be used in soft baked goods like muffins, pancakes or cakes (1/2 cup applesauce = 1 egg). Bananas can also be used. These work well in muffins, brownies and cookies ( 1/2 a banana = 1 egg). The most versatile substitute is ground flax seed ( 1 one tbs of ground flax seed = 1 egg). Boil one tbs of ground flax seed w
ith three tbs of water, remove from heat and let it form into a gel.
The real key is trial and error, and willingness to test out your recipes. Then make sure you write down the ones that work. He
re is a recipe for Gingerbread Cookies that are gluten free and can be made paleo by using coconut oil and vegan by using flax instead of egg:
- 1/2 cup vegan margarine or coconut oil melted
- 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 3 eggs or 3 tbs ground flax seed boiled with 9 tbs of water
- 1.5 cups coconut flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
Cream together the margarine or coconut oil, sugar and molasses; beat in the eggs or flax. Sift together the dry ingredients and gradually mix with molasses mixture. Roll out on lightly floured surface and cut with cookie cutters. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes depending on the size of the cookies. These cookies don’t have the lifespan of traditional gingerbread so eat them within a day or two.