Simple Tips to Give Your Favourite Holiday Recipes a Healthful Boost
Health is a continuum – not a stagnant goal post. It evolves and grows with you as you practice it. One of the easiest and most important means by which to improve your overall health and wellness is to improve your diet. It’s a lot easier than you may think. All it takes is learning a few key concepts and some cooking hacks to back them up!
Concept #1 – Listen to Your Body!
One of most important skills in improving your diet is listening to your body. When you tune in to your body, you will start noticing patterns related to the food you are eating. The best way to get started is to begin a food journal: simply jot down what you ate along with the time, and then check in thirty minutes and two hours later noting any symptoms you may feel. Before you know it, you’ll be able to link that bag of sugary candies you had to the surge, and subsequent crash, in your energy levels. The more you do it, the clearer this connection and any trouble ingredients/foods will become.
Concept #2 – The 80/20 rule:
Once you are actively listening to your body and eliminating those foods which do not serve you, it is important to strive for balance. Healthy eating shouldn’t be too stringent; after all, better to enjoy some cheers and beers over constant beans and fears. A little bit of junk food goes a long way! Savor up to 20% of an otherwise healthy 80% whole-foods based diet.
Concept #3 – The “All Killer, No Filler” Diet
Now that we’ve covered basic theory – let’s get on to my favourite subject: FOOD! I’ve developed a very simple method for getting the most out of your meals: the “All Killer, No Filler” Diet. Whether I’m at a restaurant or cooking for myself, I can easily up the healthy content of any meal by removing or minimizing filler foods (white processed starches like packaged breads, sugary foods, etc.) in favour of killer foods (whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole food protein such as eggs, nuts/seeds and whole grains). This can be as easy as opting for a side of veggies or a salad in place of French fries.
Healthful Baking Hacks
Now that you understand the basics, let me get to my favourite baking hacks. Having a gluten-free/vegan/paleo/allergy to contend with can seem like a daunting task but it doesn’t have to be. Rather than reaching for ready-made or packaged options, here are a few super easy 1:1 swaps you can use on your favourite holiday recipes.
“All Killer, No Filler” Baking Substitutes
Eggs. One of the most used ingredients in baking are eggs. Here is an awesome and healthy swap for a single large egg in most basic baking recipes (cookies, most cakes/muffins, biscuits):
- 1 Tbsp Bob’s Red Mill flaxseed meal
- 2.5 Tbsp water
Simply combine these two ingredients in a bowl and let it sit for about two minutes before incorporating them into your recipe as you would an egg. Note this will not work in every recipe (meringue, certain gluten-rich pastries) because they don’t bind and stiffen during baking quite like an egg does.
Dairy Butter Alternatives. Nuts For Butter TM. is the single best and healthiest vegan butter substitute I’ve worked with. As a cultured cashew-based spread (those with nut allergies beware), it behaves almost identically like butter. Coconut Oil (solid at room temp. variety) is not a 1:1 substitute for butter, but can be used in conjunction with a flax egg to make for a great vegan substitute in basic baking recipes such as biscuits, basic cookies and pizza crusts.
White Flour Alternatives. Flour is ubiquitous in most recipes. However, there are healthier alternatives to regular white flour. Look for 1:1 Baking Flour from brands like Bob’s Red Mill or Anita’s Organic Mill, which perform very closely to unbleached white flour. Or consider a Paleo alternative like Bob’s Red Mill Paleo Baking Flour. Just keep in mind you may require some extra moisture without the grain – coconut oil is a great choice.
Adding Moisture. A common complaint in vegan baking is dryness. Adding a trace amount (1-2 tsp per standard recipe) of apple sauce to a regular recipe such as muffins or cake will plump up the moisture. Looking to bake the fluffiest vegan chocolate cake you have ever eaten? Look for a recipe that incorporates silken tofu. This ingredient adds protein and moisture and is guaranteed to soften the texture.
White Sugar Alternatives. White sugar is highly refined and lacks nutritional density. A healthier alternative is coconut sugar. Rockwell’s Coconut Sugar can most often be swapped 1:1 for white sugar in a recipe and is an excellent option. One of the best whole food liquid sweeteners, maple syrup, should be your go-to to swap for sugar in a baking recipe wherever possible. The next best option where texture allows to substitute for sugar are dates. Full of fibre, this is an excellent ingredient.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored blog post in partnership with Indigo Natural Products Management.