Six baking swaps that’ll change your life

Switch out your essential baking goodies for the healthier alternatives to enjoy guilt-free treats that are still so decadent, you won't even notice the difference! Food and nutrition writer Louise Keats shares her best swaps.

At one end of the baking spectrum there’s traditional recipes loaded with sugar, fat and white flour.

At the other end there are highly restrictive recipes that, while sugar or fat free, are often disappointing when it comes to taste.

Louise Keats, granddaughter of Australia’s best loved cookery expert Margaret Fulton is continuing the family tradition and bringing her food heritage to a new generation.

We sat down with Louise to get her secrets on the best ways to replace processed sugars and refined fats with natural, healthier alternatives, all without compromising on taste.

1. Swap your sugar

If white caster sugar is your main go-to when baking try swapping it with less refined options. Mashed banana, chopped dates, homemade fruit purees and raw honey in moderation all make great substitutes.

If you’re looking to cut down on sugar use stevia. In its pure form it has zero calories and zero impact on blood sugar – however it tastes significantly sweeter than sugar. I often use stevia alongside sugar which allows me to reduce the sugar content of the recipe but achieve the same flavor with half the calories!

2. Mix up your flour

If plain white flour sits alone in your pantry it’s time to give it some friends. By keeping flour alternatives on hand such as almond meal, quinoa, flour, spelt and ground hazelnuts you’ll be getting a fibre boost and broader nutrient diversity without even noticing.

And being gluten-free shouldn’t mean missing out on the yummiest desserts! I use a recipe combining millet, potato and brown rice flour in my Thermomix to create a lovely gluten free pastry I use in place of regular shortcrust pastry.

These [maple gingerbread muffins with kumara butter](|target="_blank") are the perfect healthy alternative for your morning tea.
These maple gingerbread muffins with kumara butter are the perfect healthy alternative for your morning tea.

3. Upgrade your peanut butter

If you’re buying a regular supermarket brand peanut butter it’s time for an upgrade. Go for one made from 100% nuts and you’ll avoid the added sugar and refined oils.

Better still, I love making a mixed nut or hazelnut chocolate spread – not only is it fresher and jam packed full of nutrients, it also is significantly better for you.

Next time you’re at the supermarket take a moment to have a look the ingredients of your favourite nut spreads, you’ll probably see their two main ingredients are sugar and vegetable oil with nuts sitting much further down the pecking order.

4. Rethink refined oils

There is a great deal of debate about dietary fats circulating in nutrition circles with a number of large studies into the effects of fat on cardiovascular disease, heart disease and mortality having seemingly conflicting results.

It may be decades before the debate is resolved once and for all so I believe the safest approach is to use a variety of fats, from the most natural possible sources in moderation.

Vegetable oils are typically produced with harsh chemical solvents so switch to cold pressed extra virgin oils or fresh avocado.

This decadent layered chocolate cake is from Louise's new healthy cookbook, Sweet Nourish.
This decadent layered chocolate cake is from Louise's new healthy cookbook, Sweet Nourish.

5. Toss the sprinkles

Your kids might love them but highly processed cupcake decorations definitely don’t love your kids back.

Dust cakes with matcha powder, cacao, desiccated coconut or even use edible flowers to decorate your cakes for a look that’s just as pretty without all the artificial additives.

6. Be choosy about chocolate

Supermarket brands of milk chocolate can have four times the sugar of good dark chocolate.

Go for quality, pay more and eat less.

Louise Keats is a food and nutrition writer and cookbook author. Her latest book Sweet Nourish, developed in conjunction with Thermomix, is out now.

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