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    Ask the Chef: Healthier Baking

    By Julie Morris, Navitas Organics Executive Chef | December 14, 2015

    What are some good tips for baking healthier?

    Around this time of year, our ovens begin to turn on a little more frequently as the craving for warm pastries and traditional sweets intensifies. But just because you're looking to follow a healthy lifestyle, doesn't mean you have to sit out on all this fresh-baked fun! There are many tricks that nutritionists use to help raise nutrient density and therefore lessening the guilt. While these tricks may not give us the liberty to eat breakfast bread like it's a leafy green salad, they do offer a wonderful compromise in creating better-for-you, great-tasting treats. Here are some of my favorite methods to use:

    Sneak in Fruit and Vegetable Purees
    To achieve moist baked goodies, like a soft cookie or dense brownie, most chefs rely on large amounts of butter or oil (which, as you can imagine, raises the calorie and fat content of a dessert faster than you can say “oh no, I really shouldn'tâ€). The good news is there are many other ways to keep moisture in desserts that are far healthier! Using fruit or vegetable purees is a go-to method of mine, as it not only keeps desserts moist, but purees also help sweeten, add flavor, and provide extra fiber at the same time. For fruits, the most versatile varieties include mashed bananas and applesauce. As for vegetables, purees of pumpkin, squash, and even carrots work excellently. How much to use ranges from recipe to recipe - as a baseline, I often use about half of the normal amount of oil a recipe calls for, and substitute the other half with a puree in a 1:1 ratio. This way, you won't sacrifice any flavor!

    Celebrate With Smart Sweeteners
    We've covered the different types of sweeteners here on the blog before like coconut sugar and yacon syrup, but it bears repeating - there's simply no need to use empty sugars like white cane sugar and corn syrup when we have a world of great sweeteners that actually offer benefits! Use low-glycemic coconut sugar as a one-to-one replacement for all your white sugar needs, and try healthier liquid sweeteners like yacon or maple syrup when you need something in liquid form.

    Use Superseed Eggs
    While eggs do offer protein, these days, increasing numbers of people are avoiding them due to eggs being a high cholesterol, acid forming (and thus inflammation promoting) food. To keep everyone in your cookie list happy, try using a binder replacement of flaxseeds or chia instead. Once these seeds are ground into a powder, they can be mixed with water and left to sit for 10 minutes to form a jelly-like substance that acts very egg-like in recipes that don't require eggs to rise (this includes all cookies, brownies, and many cakes). To use this egg-hack, just remember this ratio: 2 tablespoons powder + 1/3 cup water = 2 eggs.

    Boost With Superfoods
    Healthy eating isn't all about what you take out; it's also about what you put in. If your recipe of sugar, oil, and flour seems pretty nutritionally dire, think about what you can add into the recipe that will subtly raise its healthy value. For example, adding in real cacao nibs into chocolate chip cookies not only adds a chocolaty crunch, but loads of important minerals too. Replacing a couple tablespoons of flour with hemp protein powder stealthily adds bonus protein and fiber. Or try adding in the enjoyable sweet chew of antioxidant-rich dried mulberries to create a treat as extra delicious as it is nutritious.