Beetroot brownies

How to make healthier bakes

Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), shares her tips for creating heart-healthy bakes, so you can have your cake and eat it…

Baking doesn’t have to be bad for you, and healthy baking doesn’t have to taste, or look, terrible. Next time you’re in the kitchen, put these tips to the test and see if you can create something delicious and nutritious.

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Top tips for making your cakes healthier

Often when you use healthier alternatives in recipes, the flavour or texture may differ. Keep an open mind, your tastebuds soon get used to the change and it is worth it when you reap the benefits! Just by making a few simple tweaks, you can make better-for-you bakes. Here are four tips to get you on your way:

  • Start by using unsaturated oils like cold-pressed rapeseed and sunflower instead of saturated fats like butter and coconut. Not only does this lower the amount of saturated fat in your bake, but it gives a lighter, moister texture. If you choose a baking spread to replace butter, check labels for trans fats. These hydrogenated fats should be avoided where possible.
     
  • Opt for wholegrain flour instead of white. While this may give a denser texture, the health benefits will be far greater. Wholemeal flour will increase the fibre content and make your cake feel more filling.​It also provides a lovely, slightly nutty, flavour.
     
  • Think fruit and veg have no place in a cake? Think again. They can add fibre and sweetness. Plus, fruit is a great way to keep your baking moist. Sweet vegetables such as carrots and beetroot, or fruit like apples and berries can also mean you don’t need to add as much sugar. Try this banana bread recipe next time you’re in the kitchen.
     
  • To finish your cake off, use a drizzle of glacé icing rather than butter icing. A light sprinkle of icing sugar can give the final touch – cut out stencils from greaseproof paper for a more professional finish. Knowing that you’ve produced a healthier version of a teatime treat will be the icing on the cake. You could also use a low-fat cheese topping such as quark – see our lighter carrot cake recipe for full instructions.

Reduce the fat in your pastry

Picking the right type of pastry can make a big difference to the amount of fat in your baking. A third or more of shortcrust and puff pastry is fat. But there are things you can do to lower the fat content:

  • Using a sunflower spread (check the label for trans fats) rather than butter will lower the amount of saturated fat in your pastry
     
  • Popping just a top crust on your pies, rather than lining the entire dish with pastry, gives a traditional finish but provides far fewer calories.
     
  • Or you can plump for filo pastry, which gives a lovely, crunchy crust and looks great for small tarts.

Better-for-you bread

Whether it’s the slice of toast in the morning, or the lunchtime sarnie, most of us eat more bread than any other baked product. If you pick your bread off the supermarket shelf without checking the label, your loaf could be hiding a lot more salt than you’d think as the amount of salt in shop-bought bread can vary widely.

By baking your own, you can keep an eye on what goes in your tin. The less salt you use, the better. You can also choose your flour – why not try spelt, barley, or oat? Or add some seeds and herbs to give interesting crunch and flavour.

If you don’t fancy lots of kneading, wholemeal soda bread is an easy alternative. Swapping a yeast-based recipe for one using bicarbonate of soda makes the whole process quick and easy – don’t forget bicarb is a source of salt so you won’t need to add too much more. It does mean the loaf needs to be eaten fresh, but it’ll taste so delicious with some hot, homemade soup that you’ll soon see that loaf turn into crumbs! Next time you feel like getting creative with dough, give these sesame flatbreads a go.

For more information on heart health…

Spotlight on… heart disease
The British Heart Foundation


This article was last reviewed on 24 June 2019 by Kerry Torrens.

A qualified nutritionist (MBANT), Kerry Torrens is a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food magazine. Kerry is a member of the The Royal Society of Medicine, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).

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