With all of that holiday baking happening, I thought now would be a great time to give some tips on how to make those cookies, cakes and other treats as healthy and delicious as they can be! Personally, I LOVE to bake, and my family and friends love to eat up all of the yummy treats I make! I definitely prefer to make my recipes from scratch and forgo most of the store-bought mixes that include ingredients like hydrogenated oils and artificial colorings and preservatives. Now, don’t get me wrong, I allow my own children to partake in treat-eating at other’s homes during the holidays without being too strict on what they are ingesting. However, if I am making the treats, I can control what I put in them. I choose to put in the best ingredients I can! Take a look below to get some ideas on how to start “healthifying” your sweet creations- I promise nobody will know the difference! ;)
MEGACOOLMAMA’S TIPS FOR HEALTHIER BAKING
- Use whole wheat flour for at least half of the flour called for in your recipe. You will be getting more fiber and nutrition from the whole grains.
- Use only half (or none!) of the butter and replace it with all natural applesauce. If you are going to go with half of the butter, try using an organic unsalted butter or something like Smart Balance or Earth Balance butters. Both or made with vegetable and flax oils and work to lower cholesterol. The applesauce keeps your recipe moist and also adds a nice flavor to cookies and cakes.
- Hide some flax in the recipe. I always have ground flaxmeal seed on hand to throw in to any recipe that calls for breading, or into any cookie or cake recipe. I have found that about 1/4 cup of ground flaxmeal seed is good for one batch of cookies or one cake. I would just take out 1/4 cup of the flour being called for in the recipe and replace it with the flax. Flax is awesome for fiber, good fats, and its anti-inflammatory properties. It also provides lignans, which are considered antioxidants (cancer fighters)! Read here for more about lignans and the benefits of flax seed.
- Throw some puree in it! I also always have on hand my butternut squash puree. Any cake or cookie recipe that is cakey in texture is good for using this technique. Usually, I just put in about 1/4-1/2 cup of squash puree for every batch of cookies or one cake that I am baking. I have found it is best to throw in and mix whenever you mix in the butter. By using this puree, you are adding lots of nutrients from the butternut squash, and the flavor is not even noticeable in the your finished baked product!
- Use all natural vanilla extract. Many of the vanilla extracts available today are not pure vanilla. Make sure that you read the label closely to ensure that you are getting pure vanilla extract. What’s so special about pure vanilla extract? Well, read here to find out more! (Plus, when a label says you are getting vanilla, isn’t that what you would expect? Not artificial vanilla, right?)
- Make your own frosting. Here are some great recipes for homemade frosting. Most of the frosting and icing I find in the store is either loaded with high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils, both of which are frightening in their negative effects on one’s health. You are better off making your own and adding your own natural food coloring. (more on the natural food coloring below)
- Use natural food coloring. Do this by adding the following to your frosting: orange or lemon zest, berry juices, carrot juice…you get the picture. Did you know that the food coloring we are used to is made from a petroleum-based substance? Yup, and those substances are found in LOTS of other foods that we eat, too. Read here to find out more about the adverse effects of those ingredients on our bodies….this is an AWESOME blog that I just found about this subject, with lots of healthy recipes…love it!
- Use all natural dark chocolate chips. I found some at Trader Joes that I love, but you could probably also find something similar at your local grocer. There are many benefits to dark chocolate, and I think that putting dark chocolate in a sweet cookie recipe gives just the right balance to the sweetness.
The above tips should get you started in your journey to making your baking a little healthier. Believe it or not, but by following these tips, you will be eliminating more than half the fat, about 1/3 calories, artificial petroleum-based ingredients, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrups and a little bit of sodium. To top it off, you will be adding the following good stuff: fiber, antioxidants, lignans, flavonoids, vitamins and minerals! Why wouldn’t you want to start baking the mega healthy way?
Let me know in the comments section if you tried any of my tips and how it went! Any questions? Feel free to ask below as well! Happy baking!
Have you ever really sat down and looked at what kind of food your child’s school is offering to them? Okay, maybe you have read the menu, but have you ever looked at a list of the ingredients? You might see that they are eating a chicken patty today for lunch and think, “Ok, it’s chicken.” But, did you know that there are so many more additives and artificial ingredients in that chicken patty that it would be almost unrecognizable from its list of ingredients? Check out this ingredient list from a school in Michigan that uses a menu very similar to the ones found in every school around America. (scroll down to page 15 to see the ingredients for the chicken patty.) Did you also know that many of the additives used in this school food have been correlated to allergic reactions, sensitivities (which can cause mood swings and depression in some), cancer, diabetes and hyperactivity? Doesn’t it make sense to provide the most healthy options in a school environment rather than this artificial “food” that is so popular is school cafeterias across America today? How can we make that change?
In steps Jamie Oliver, a British chef who is on a mission to make America’s school lunches healthy! He has a popular tv program, “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” that features his experiences while trying to implement healthy lunch programs in schools. On his website, you can sign a petition to help make school lunches healthy. While you’re there, check out his section on School Food to see how you can start making a change in your neighborhood!
As you know, I am all about taking the chemicals and processed foods out of my family’s diet. I know it may sound like a seemingly insurmountable task, but you really can do it! Here are a couple of articles that will inform you a bit more as to why it is a good idea to eliminate processed foods and artificial ingredients from your children’s diets. Also, one of the articles gives you tips on how to start the process! Happy reading!
If you go to the Welch’s Facebook page on Wednesdays and “like” them, they will be giving out coupons for $1.50 off of any of their products! I like the all natural strawberry spread…this will make for a great bargain if I can find it on sale!
Your child’s diet and his/her behavior
I read an article yesterday that I would like to share with all of you Megacoolmamas! As you know if you’ve read “My Philosophy”, mostly everything my family and I eat is as close as it can be to all natural. Not only do I feel better physically when I eat “clean”, but, most importantly, I know I am doing something good for my family by choosing products that do not use artificial ingredients. This article chronicles one mother’s conversion from artificial to natural products and the effects she realized those artificial ingredients were having on her child’s behavior. Here is the link to the article. Enjoy!
And, speaking of eliminating artificial ingredients, it’s easier than you think! And, you might think it’s more expensive to do so, right? Not necessarily! That’s what my blog is about…helping you make that change and save you money at the same time! I’m sure that if you follow my tips, you will save money on what your old grocery bill used to be! I spend a LOT of time researching good, healthy buys for my own grocery list, and I share them with you! I hope you can benefit from all of my hard work!
Happy Tot find at Target
Have you seen the “new” trend in helping kids get their fruits and veggies lately? I’m sure many of you Megacoolmamas already know about this, but I just wanted to share…Happy Tot is a brand recommended by Dr. Sears that produces these cute little pouches of fruit/veggie purees that are chock-full of everything good for your little one! They are 100% organic (yay!) and can be re-sealed and re-used at a later time (their no-spill top is awesome)! Here is a pic of what I got today at my local Target at $1.19 a piece…my kids LOVE them! And I LOVE knowing they are getting their fruits and veggies!
Healthy Lunch Maker Tool
So, I found this neat online tool that helps you know whether the lunch you are packing for your kids is nutritionally appropriate for his/her age and nutritional needs! I tried it and found that my son is probably getting too much protein in his lunch, so it was useful! Here’s the link…let me know what you think!
Have you tried eliminating artificial ingredients from your child’s diet? Did you notice any changes? Let me know!
So, if you are familiar with “My Philosophy” then you know I only endorse on my blog the products that I feel pass my test: NO high fructose corn syrup, NO hydrogenated oils, NO white enriched flour, and NO artifical preservatives. I strongly believe that many health problems in the United States today stem from the use of artificial and BAD ingredients in foods that we eat; diabetes, cancer, hyperactivity, mood swings, migraines, chronic fatigue and pain, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, obesity, sleep disorders, depression (the list goes on and on) can all be linked somehow to these ingredients. (Read more about the effects of these ingredients here.) I have made it my mission to try my best to eliminate these ingredients in my family’s diet. So, this page is dedicated to those foods and companies that I have found actually produce food that is GOOD FOR YOU! I find most of these foods at my local Target, Walmart, Jewel, Costco and Meijer. This page will consistently be updated as I find more foods and companies that are dedicated to the same quality I am. My sincere hope is that you and your families can benefit in many ways from this list! Enjoy the coupons you can get from some of these websites as well (I have tried to link you directly to some, but others you may have to register with and form an account…only takes a minute!)
- Kashi (cereals, snacks, granola, frozen meals, etc.) COUPON
- Annie’s Homegrown (Kids’ snacks, mac & cheese, etc.)
- Horizon Dairy (milk) COUPON
- Old Orchard (juice) COUPON
- Healthy Life (bread)
- Stonyfield (yogurt) COUPON
- Polaner (all natural fruit spread)
- Smart Balance (butter, popcorn, etc.)
- Barilla (pasta)
- Prego (pasta sauce)
- Smuckers (all natural peanut butter)
- Hunt’s (No high fructose corn syrup ketchup)
- Archer Farms Organic (Target brand) (various products)
- Apple and Eve (juices and squeezable fruits) COUPON
- Wild Harvest Organic (various products and good advice about Green Living and Going Organic)
- Coffee Mate Natural Bliss (coffee creamer) COUPON
- Betty Crocker Gold Medal (whole wheat flour)(Please note that this is about the only item I buy from Betty Crocker)
- Amy’s (various frozen meals such as mac & cheese, burritos, brown rice & tofu & veggies, pizzas, to name a few…) COUPON
- Van’s Foods (waffles, french toast sticks, etc.)
- Sensible Portions (Veggie Straws, Apple Straws, etc.)