RED Hearts: How To Bake Healthy, Tasty, Flavorful Treats

RED Hearts are guests posts on I Heart Daily from the authors of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today. Today’s RED Hearts post is from Erika Kwee, 21, in Houston, Texas who writes about easy, healthy ingredient swaps:

Scones, cupcakes, brownies, cookies, blondies, muffins -- if it’s a baked good, chances are I’ve either made it or eaten it in the past month. I’m avid about it. I even co-taught a course in it this past semester at my school, Rice University.

However, the sheer nutritional wasteland of most baked goods scares me. Cups of refined white flour, sugar and butter and chocolate -- not the kind of ingredients anyone should be eating on a regular basis. I’m all for staying true to the integrity of a recipe, but there are times when I’m up for something different -- for tweaking a recipe to experiment with flavors and texture, adding complexity, and maybe in the process even bringing in a few extra nutrients.

Here are some ingredient swaps and strategies I picked up along the way and taught in my baking class:

Flour: Try using whole wheat, white whole wheat, spelt, oat, or gluten-free flour mixes instead of regular all-purpose to add fiber, protein, calcium, and iron! I find that you can get away with replacing AP flour in a recipe with white whole wheat and hardly notice the difference. If you’re using whole wheat or another heartier flour, blend it with the AP so your baked goods don’t turn out overly dense or gritty.

Eggs: Substituting chia seeds or ground flaxseed for eggs ventures into vegan baking territory, which I think is awesome and shouldn’t just be for vegans. Chia seeds and flaxseeds both add healthy omega-3 fats and can lower the cholesterol in a recipe. To replace one egg, simply mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds or ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons of warm water and let sit for 5 minutes or until mixture is gelled (flaxseed gels less quickly than chia seeds).

Butter/oil: Greek yogurt is a great alternative to butter. It tastes great, even on its own (take that, butter), cuts fat, and increases protein in a recipe. Replace one half the amount of butter prescribed with half the amount of Greek yogurt. I know that was confusing: For example, if the recipe calls for 1 stick of butter (8 tablespoons), use 4 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt. Oil is of course more liquidy than butter, so applesauce or regular yogurt are good subs for half the oil called for. We modified a molten chocolate cake in class, and it was amazing. So were scones with springy add-ins that were not chocolate chips: craisins, orange zest, fresh coconut.

I like to surf baking blogs for ideas, and there are a bunch out there with terrific healthy recipes. Some of my favorites are Oh She Glows (vegan), Texanerin Baking (Erin can “go putting weird things in” her cookies, like chickpeas, and somehow make it work), and Chockohlawtay (from a college sophomore majoring in nutritional science). Happy, healthy baking!

RED Hearts guest poster Erika Kwee is an author of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today, which is out in paperback.