May 7, 2020

Nutrient-dense baking + a veggie-filled muffin recipe

by Lauren Hoover, MS RD
Stay at home orders have led to many of us spending much more time at home and more time in the kitchen cooking homemade meals for our families. Some have even adopted baking as a new hobby. Whether you are baking due to boredom or to cope with situational stress, our SHIFT Dietitians are here to offer creative ways to increase the nutrient density of your baked goods.
First of all, it is completely fine to keep a recipe as-is and pass on the “healthier” substitutions. It is important to understand that with more nutrient-dense substitutions, you sacrifice flavor or texture or both to some extent. Unfortunately, there is likely no cookie made with fruits and vegetables that tastes just like a cookie made with butter, sugar, flour, and chocolate chips. If you are craving the taste of a homemade, classic chocolate chip cookie, then it is better to just make the cookie and enjoy it. If making changes to a recipe, then know the new version may have a different taste but also keep in mind that healthy substitutions can help bring extra nutrients into your diet.
With that in mind, if you are looking for ways to add in more nutrients like fiber, omega-3s, protein, vitamins and minerals and are open to some experimentation in the kitchen, then try some of the tips below.

  • Add fruits or vegetables for extra fiber, vitamins and minerals. They can be shredded or pureed and incorporated into muffins, breads, cakes, cookies, etc. (See the recipe below). Try adding shredded carrot, applesauce, pureed pumpkin or mashed banana the next time you bake in place of butter or oil in a recipe (typically you can follow a 1:1 substitution ratio). Adding fruits like apples and bananas can lend sweetness and limit processed sugar at the same time.
  • Use whole-wheat flour in place of regular all-purpose flour for added fiber. In most recipes, for each one cup of white flour, you can substitute with 7/8 cup of whole wheat flour.
  • Try using Greek yogurt in place of cream. This will add more protein without sacrificing too much of the creamy texture. Full-fat yogurt is generally best for baking.
  • If you are really feeling adventurous, try swapping avocado puree for butter/oil to replace saturated fat content with monounsaturated fats. This swap works well with brownies or other chocolate-flavored baked goods.

Overall, remember that it is important to practice moderation. A cookie made with whole wheat flour and applesauce is still a cookie and should be enjoyed as a part of a balanced diet.
In the spirit of nutrient-dense baking, our Dietitians have included an Apple and Carrot Muffin Recipe (adapted from Shalane Flannagan & Elyse Kopecky’s “Superhero Muffins” in Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow). Shredded carrots, zucchini, and apple add fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and many other nutrients. The almond meal and walnuts add healthy fats (e.g. omega-3s) and Vitamin E and they also increase the protein content. Crumble on top of Greek yogurt for a quick breakfast or eat as an energizing pre-workout snack.

Apple & Carrot Superhero Muffins
Makes 12-15 muffins
  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup grated carrot (about 2 carrots)
  • ½ cup grated zucchini (1 small or ½ large zucchini)
  • ½ cup grated apple (1 small or ½ large apple)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup whole milk or 2% Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Paper muffin cups
  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with paper cups.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, oats, walnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt.
  3.  In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, carrot, zucchini, apple, butter, Greek yogurt, honey, and vanilla.
  4.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing until just combined.
  5. Spoon batter into the cups to the top. Bake about 25-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.


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