From the Desk of The Nutty Nutritionist

Baking For A Healthy Heart

In Holiday Eating Strategies, Managing cholesterol, Recipes on November 19, 2012 at 7:37 PM

Are you interested in baking up some healthier holiday goodies this year?  Modifying a traditional recipe is not as difficult or unsavory as it may seem… actually, it is a piece of cake!    Read on:

Heart-healthy baking is all about choosing the right variety of added fat.  All fats, regardless of their source, contain a unique combination of three primary components:  saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fat.  Some fats contain trans fat as well, either occurring naturally (as in butter and beef) or from partially hydrogenated oil added during processing.  Eating too much saturated and/or trans fat is likely to result in clogged arteries and higher cholesterol levels, and should, therefore, be limited as much as possible.   Ideally, it is best to avoid all foods made from partially hydrogenated oil, and it is easy to do so by consulting the ingredients list.  Do not rely on the container’s Nutrition Facts panel, as “0 grams trans fat” or “trans fat free” claims are allowable for foods that contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, according to the FDA.  This is a big loop-hole that many folks are not aware of… Be sure to verify the absence of “partially hydrogenated oil” from the ingredient list.

For the majority of your baking needs, with the exception of pie crust, you can use regular (non-light) soft tub margarine spreads containing no partially hydrogenated oils, such as Country Crock, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!, Promise Buttery, Smart Balance, Olivio, Canoleo soft, and BestLife.  Do you realize that cookies, cakes, quick breads, muffins, brownies, and other baked bars, do not require solid fat?   In addition to the soft spreads mentioned above, you can even get away with using naturally trans fat free corn, canola, or blended vegetable oils as a substitution for solid fats—–doing so will modify the texture and make your baked goods softer and moister.  Sounds like a worthwhile trade-in, right?  Using Grandma’s old-fashioned recipe?  Substitute 3/4 cup oil for 1 cup of butter or shortening called for in the recipe; 2/3 cup oil for 3/4 cup butter; 1/3 cup oil for 1/2 cup butter; 3 Tbsp. oil for 1/4 cup butter.  Make sense?  It’s as easy as pie!  Ahem…

Speaking of pie, you will want to use a solid fat when making your own crust.  The good news is that there are healthier options than the typical butter, Crisco shortening, solid stick margarines, and lard used to make flaky crusts & pastries:  Country Crock solid stick margarine claims to be “Great for Baking and Cooking” and actually lives up to that expectation, as a tablespoon contains only 2.5 grams of saturated fat  (compared to butter’s 7 grams) and 0 grams of trans fat (compared to Parkay, Imperial, and Fleischmann’s 1.5-2.5 grams), and behaves itself in the oven too!  Margarines have come a long way over the years, that’s for sure.  Promise sticks, containing 3 grams saturated fat per tablespoon, come in a close second, while I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! sticks rank third, containing 3.5 grams saturated fat and no partially hydrogenated oil.

If you desire to lower the overall fat content in a recipe, you may replace part or all of the fat with applesauce, mashed over-ripe bananas, pureed prunes, low fat yogurt, or buttermilk.  These substitutions work best in quick breads, muffins, brownies, and other bars.

A final modification to reduce the fat and cholesterol content would involve substituting 2 egg whites or 1/4 cup of egg substitute (like Egg Beaters) for each whole egg.

Did you know that pumpkin pie is one of the most nutritious Thanksgiving desserts?  The nutritious part is the pumpkin…however, the traditional pumpkin pie recipe is loaded with calories, fat, and sugar, potentially requiring you to loosen your belt at the table and have 911 on speed-dial!  Stay tuned for a sumptuous pumpkin custard recipe that will allow you to enjoy the fall bounty without adding to your waistline.

Enjoy a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

  1. I always use fat free condensed milk and substitute Splendia for the sugar. I use fat free whipped cream for the topping. It helps a bit to cut calories.

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