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I have a long-standing obsession with baking. The art of creating cookies, bars, pies, and cakes got me through some of the most stressful times in my life, including holidays, college final exams, and a new job. After I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of twenty-four, however, I learned that my traditional ingredients, including white flour, sugar, and excessive amounts of chocolate, lead to high blood sugars and of course, fatigue, fogginess, and other undesirable side effects.
As I learned more about blood sugar control, nutrition, and food preparation, I began to explore techniques with which I could still enjoy baking without sacrificing my meal plan, my waistline, and my blood sugars.
1. Reduce the sugar amount in a recipe by one quarter. You'll cut the total carbohydrate count, and, trust me, the taste isn't noticeably different. If a recipe requires sugar or icing on top, try skipping it altogether. Try a dusting of cinnamon instead, or just use a thin layer, a sprinkle, or a drizzle instead of the full amount that the recipe calls for.
2. Replace sugar with agave nectar. Agave nectar is lower on the glycemic index than sugar, and it is also much sweeter than sugar, so you will require less. Because of its newfound popularity, agave nectar is widely available. Note that agave nectar requires lowering your baking temperature by 25 degrees and possibly reducing your baking time.
3. Use unsweetened applesauce in place of oil. Although oil isn't necessarily unhealthy (think canola---heart healthy!), it does increase the fat and calorie count of baked goods.
4. Throw in walnuts, flax seed, and/or wheat germ to increase the healthy fats in your baked goods and to add protein. Protein is an important part of any person's diet, and it's especially important for people with diabetes to maintain a balanced diet consisting of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
5. Try using whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, oats, or even flaky cereals in place of traditional white flour. Just keep in mind the type of food you are baking and which substitution would be appropriate. Note that whole wheat flour and oats have a nutty flavor, so you might try substituting only half of the recipe's white flour for an alternative. Often the ingredient's packaging displays recipes or a website where you can find recipes.
6. Do not use margarine instead of butter. Cut the fat in other ways. For example, use egg substitute instead of eggs. Butter has an important part in baking, and cutting out the butter will jeopardize the recipe's texture and flavor.
7. You can sometimes use soymilk or vanilla soymilk in place of regular milk. Typically, soymilk is lower in fat and higher in protein than regular milk.
8. Buy chocolate chips that are free of fillers like hydrogenated oils. I am a big fan of Ghirardelli chocolate chips, which come in semi-sweet, milk, dark, and white chocolate.
9. It's fine to use a mix for baking---just be sure to purchase items made with whole grains that are free of trans fats and hydrogenated oils. I suggest checking out products by Hodgson Mill, Naturally Nora, and Bob's Red Mill. Also search your local Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. Their mixes are often more expensive than buying the ingredients in larger quantities and using them throughout the holiday season; but if you wish to save time and energy, a mix might be your best option.
10. Experiment! Don't be afraid to revamp Grandma's apple pie. I suggest making two or three changes and then seeing how it turns out.
With some educated changes, you can still enjoy baking your favorite sweets without sacrificing your health.
Read more from Rachel at http://sugarspiceandmorethingsnice.blogspot.com/