Baking Without Guilt – 4 Easy Ways to Have Your Cake and Eat It Too
Love sweets? You’re not alone. The average American consumes an average of 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day—a lot more than the six for women and nine for men recommended by the American Heart Association. This sugar intake continues to draw not-so-sweet media attention, as more research suggests its association with everything from tooth decay to weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease.
To be clear, the sugar that matters here is the sugar that’s added to most processed foods in many different forms (e.g., white sugar, brown sugar, honey, high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, maltose, maple syrup, and more).
Tasty Desserts, Without the Guilt
If you’ve got a sweet tooth but are trying to cut back on added sugar, dessert may be the hardest challenge for you. Fortunately, by making your desserts yourself, you can control the ingredients, making it possible to have your cake and eat it too. Here are four simple tips for embracing more naturally sweet treats:
Use less sugar
One easy place to start in modifying recipes is to simply try using less sugar. Since sugar does a lot more than make foods sweet, use a more flexible recipe such as muffins or other quick breads, oatmeal cookies, or pie fillings. Sometimes you can eliminate sugar, but start by cutting no more than a quarter of the sugar and then adjusting accordingly. Pastry chef Joanne Chang, author of the cookbook Baking with Less Sugar, told The Huffington Post, “You will discover, as I did, that when you don’t focus on sugar and sweetness, you end up with desserts that are full of amazing, compelling flavor.”
Try “fruit-forward” desserts
Highlighting the natural sweetness of seasonal fruits is a nutrient-dense approach to making desserts double as one of the servings of fruit you should get each day. Berry crisps or other types of fruit tarts are great examples of fruit-forward desserts—but limit the use of additional sugar, use fresh or frozen fruit rather than canned, and try just one crust instead of two. Applesauce and mashed ripe bananas can also be added to quick breads or other batters in place of some of the fat as a moist, higher-fiber alternative. Additionally, dried fruit such as dates, figs, prunes, and raisins are packed with fiber and nutrients. They can be chopped or puréed and added to many desserts as a nutritious extra and/or natural sweetener.
Incorporate whole grains
Replacing some or all of the white flour typically used in most recipes with some kind of whole grain flour is a great way to sneak in some extra nutrients, texture, and nutty richness to your desserts. There are many varieties of whole grain flours on the market these days, including wheat, brown rice, oat, and spelt. Keep in mind how the texture may change using these heartier flours, but that may be a desired effect and one that can be adjusted using a combination of flours.
Consider portion size
One of the biggest perks of making your own desserts is that you’re in control of the portion size. Try baking mini versions or cutting a dessert into smaller portions and freezing individual pieces for later. Enjoy and savor each bite, mindfully, and you may realize that just a small bit is all you need to curb your craving.
Allison Righter, MSPH, is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and a lecturing instructor in the School of Culinary Science and Nutrition at the CIA.