What comes to mind when you hear the words snickerdoodle, spritz or sugar? The childhood memory of a beloved four-legged friend? Well, maybe but I think of a house filled with the delicious smell of baking cookies at Christmas. When making a sustainable lifestyle change, is it realistic to think you will never eat another Christmas cookie? For most of us probably not and why set yourself up to fail?
A better approach is to swap out the unhealthy for a better option. Let’s preface this article by stating the obvious—just because you make a cookie healthier does not mean you can eat it every day or even once a week. Cookies, cakes, and breads are treats to be enjoyed occasionally if you are pursuing a healthy lifestyle. Now on to the good stuff!
By now, we all know the downside to white flour. Using wheat flour isn’t really healthier either. White flour is wheat flour stripped of the bran and germ or fiber. Wheat flour, because of fiber, makes the end product dense and drier than refined white flour. There is no nutrition in white flour and wheat flour contains gluten that can cause an array of health issues for many people. Coconut and almond flour are healthier alternatives for baking.
Coconut flour is derived from the pulp of the coconut which has been dried then ground into a fine powder. Almonds are milled into almond flour as well. Both flours maintain the same nutrient profile as the original product.
Coconut flour has a higher carb count at 16g per ¼ cup versus 6g. Fats are 4g versus 14g coconut to almond. The quality of fat in coconut flour is better than almond because almonds, like most nuts, are high in Omega 6 fats which are inflammatory when consumed in large amounts. Coconuts and almonds are excellent sources of the minerals manganese and magnesium. Coconuts are a rich source of iron and copper as almonds are of vitamin E.
When it comes to baking, the two flours should not be substituted for each other. Coconut flour will absorb more moisture than almond because of its high fiber count, therefore, require more wet ingredients.
Almond flour tastes like almonds that make it a great choice for cookies while coconut is mild and slightly sweet. You may substitute coconut and almond flour for all-purpose flour in recipes using a 3:1 ratio of almond to coconut flour. It’s best though to stick with proven recipes using these flours.
While there are many artificial sweeteners available today, let’s focus on three natural sweeteners to use in baking.
Honey is one of the oldest sweeteners known to man. Honey contains beneficial properties like enzymes, other proteins, minerals, and polyphenols. Polyphenols are micronutrients that help protect us against cardiovascular disease and cancer. Raw honey has a better nutrient profile than regular (pasteurized) honey because nutrients are lost during the heating process. Raw honey is opaque and much thicker than pasteurized honey. One teaspoon contains 21 calories.
The Native American Indians brought us maple syrup. It is made from the sap of the maple tree. The extraction process is performed in two steps and 100% natural. You may have noticed there are grades listed on labels of syrups-Grade A and Grade B. Grade A is further classified based on the color of the syrup-light, medium or dark amber. Grade A syrup is best for use on pancakes, French toast, and waffles. Grade B maple syrup is very dark and is best used in baking. Maple syrup does contain minerals and antioxidants. The darker the syrup the more there are of these health-promoting compounds. One teaspoon contains 17 calories.
The last alternative sweetener we will talk about is coconut sugar sometimes called coconut palm sugar. This sugar is derived from the sap of the coconut flower, not the coconut. The extraction process is also a natural two-step process. Coconut sugar tastes and looks similar to brown sugar. It contains some minerals, polyphenols, and antioxidants just like the other two. It also contains short chain fatty acids and the fiber inulin. Inulin helps to slow the absorption of glucose into the blood stream helping to better control your blood glucose response. One teaspoon contains 15 calories.
In conclusion, a healthy and sustainable lifestyle should not feel restrictive or cause a sense of deprivation. While cakes and cookies should not be a staple in your diet , the key to remember is that everything you consume is used by your body for fuel, recovery, and repair. Make sure that the food you eat is nutritious and of the best quality. Enjoying an occasional cookie or piece of pumpkin bread is perfectly okay. Check our latest newsletter highlighting the recipe Lemon Meltaways if want to try these alternative flours and sweeteners.