Tip # 1: Choose Nutrient-Rich Ingredients
When using high-quality ingredients, you create a more flavorful and nutritious product that will satisfy cravings and meet dietary requirements with smaller portions!
• Organic Whole Grains & Flours – i.e. oats, quinoa, spelt, buckwheat, whole wheat, kamut, etc.
o Substitute white flour with whole grain alternatives. Look for organic, low temperature impact milled, Canadian grown grains. Try using white spring wheat flour for a more comparable product! Spelt is also a great, low-gluten and easily digestible alternative to whole wheat!
• Healthy Fats – such as organic/grass-fed butter, extra virgin olive oil, raw nuts & seeds, avocado or coconut and their butters/oils/full-fat milks.
o Try substituting these alternatives instead of canola, vegetable oil or margarine!
o Consider adding flax/hemp/chia seeds to increase fiber and anti-inflammatory omega fats!
• High Quality Proteins – look for organic/grass-fed dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheeses or kefir) and organic/free-run eggs.
o Try replacing sour cream with Greek yogurt and some lemon juice!
• Organic or Local, Chemical-Free Produce – include any and all in fresh, frozen, pureed, or dried form for a nutrition boost!
o Add veggies (beets, carrots, spinach, zucchini, and sweet potato) – enhances vitamin and mineral content.
o Use fruits (berries, apples, bananas, pumpkin) – adds fiber and antioxidants.
• Natural Sweeteners –use raw, local honey and pure maple syrup! Note that fruit purees/sugars (i.e. dates, bananas, applesauce) also work well to sweeten recipes naturally.
o Substitute white sugar for cane sugar as it retains natural molasses (and nutrients)! Tip: make your own healthier icing/confectioner’s sugar by combining 1 cup of organic cane sugar (or xylitol) + 1 tbsp. organic corn starch and blending until powdered.
• Extra Nutrition Boosters – these provide plenty of flavor, nutrients and health benefits!
o Organic Spices & Extracts –
o Cinnamon helps stabilize blood sugar levels, ginger aids digestion and helps fight inflammation, clove has anti-bacterial properties, etc.
o Tip: replace regular table salt with sea salt in half the amount for added nutrition!
o Protein/Fibre Powders – help stabilize blood sugar levels to control appetite, sustain energy and prevent cravings!
o Matcha Green Tea Powder – rich in antioxidants, helps boost metabolism and burn fat, provides energy and promotes a relaxed, yet alert/focused state of mind.
o Cacao Powder or Nibs – great source of iron, magnesium and packed with fiber, protein and a ton of antioxidants!
As a rule, avoid partially hydrogenated oil (or trans fats), processed/refined ingredients and artificial additives and dyes in things such as sprinkles, mixes, frosting, sauces, etc.
Tip # 2: Special Diet Alternatives
• Calorie Conscious?
Substitute up to half the fat in your recipe for Pureed Fruit/Vegetables…or use Greek Yogurt instead to boost protein content!
Try using Stevia as your sweetener of choice! It has 0 calories and 0 glycemic index. Due to the fact that it is up to 300x sweeter than sugar, it is recommended to use 1 tsp. per cup of sugar.
• Grain & Gluten-Free Alternatives?
Pureed Beans/Legumes (i.e. black beans, chickpeas) or Nut Flours (i.e. coconut, almond) can be used as your base! Keep in mind that almond flour falls apart easily and requires additional binders, while coconut flour absorbs easily and requires additional liquids. Easy tip to avoid grains – make your dessert crustless (like pies)!
For those who are not avoiding grains but are sensitive to gluten, look for a Gluten-Free Flour Blend that uses brown rice flour, xanthan gum & potato/tapioca starches.
• Managing Blood Sugar?
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol found in many fruits and vegetables. It comes in at around 30 calories per tablespoon with a very low glycemic index of 7. Xylitol is a natural insulin stabilizer and can be used in a 1:1 ratio with sugar. Look for a birch-derived product!
Coconut Palm Sugar is a natural sugar evaporated from the sap of coconut trees. It has roughly 30 calories per tablespoon and a glycemic index of 35. It is a slow-release food and a great alternative for those looking to manage blood sugar levels! This serves as an ideal substitute for brown sugar because of its caramelized flavor.
• Allergy-Friendly: Egg, Dairy or Peanut-Free?
Eggs - Combine 1 tbsp. of chia or flax seed with 3 tbsps. of water. Allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes or until it “gels”.
Dairy– Use coconut, cashew or almond milk alternatives instead of cow milk, yogurt, etc.! For buttermilk, add 1 tbsp. of lemon juice & let sit for 10 minutes. Plus, try making dairy-free whipped cream by refrigerating full-fat coconut milk overnight (allowing the fat and liquid to separate), then removing the solid portion and whipping together with sweetener of choice! In addition, ghee is clarified butter, in which casein, whey and lactose have been removed.
Peanuts – Try using sunflower seed, almond, cashew, pumpkin seed, sesame (tahini) or coconut butter in your recipes instead!
Tip # 3: Other Considerations
• Natural Food Coloring – Try matcha powder for green, beet crystals or phytoberry powder for pink/red and cacao powder or organic coffee for brown!
• Portion Control – Prepare mini-sized desserts, pre-cut dainty trays or pies into smaller pieces, and portion out cookie dough using a tablespoon. Remember, it is easier to grab one small piece instead of breaking something in half and walking away wanting to finish it. As with everything, moderation is key. The goal is to taste the dessert, not to fill up on it completely – that’s what the main meal is for!
• Managing Chocolate Intake– Try cutting back on chocolate chips in the recipe and replace with dried fruit, nuts/seeds, coconut as fillers! Also, when a recipe calls for milk chocolate, choose dark instead (70% or higher cacao) for a more nutritious product. You can also make your own healthy chocolate with equal parts liquid coconut oil and cacao powder to half part maple syrup!
This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.-30-