Ten Tips For Baking Wisely

| Jan 26, 2010

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/

 

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Categories: Blood Sugar, Desserts, Diabetes, Diabetes, Food, Low Carb, Nutrition Advice, Sugar & Sweeteners, Type 1 Issues


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Comments

Posted by Anonymous on 26 January 2010

Great tips! One thing to consider besides flavor when making substitutions for white flour is texture.

White flour contains proteins, such as gluten, that help baked goods to rise and give them their characteristic light texture. If oats or other grains or flours are use, the product may be too dense. That's why I favor tried and true recipes, though I respect those creative bakers who like to experiment!

Posted by whimsy2 on 26 January 2010

It doesn't matter whether you use white flour or whole wheat or any other kind of flour --grain in ANY form will raise BGs, period. If you doubt what I say, go ahead make that cake. Before you eat the first slice check your BG and make a note of it. Eat it and don't eat anything else. Then check your BG a half hour, an hour and 90 minutes later. You will probably be unpleasantly surprised to see your BG go up-up-up. Sorry to rain on your parade, Rachel Garlinghouse, but diabetics would have much better control if they avoid baked goods.

Posted by lesincline on 26 January 2010

Come on whimsy2....of course flour will raise your blood sugar. That is why we take insulin. The trick is to figure out just how much insulin to take to cover that piece of cake you baked. I make pancakes for my family. Same recipe every time. So I figured out how many CHOs were in a 6" pancake and dose accordingly: 2, 3, 5 pancakes and I am covered. It is worth it. If you are not on insulin, then you are definitely not having any fun!

Posted by Katharine on 27 January 2010

It is possible to make a wide variety of desserts and baked goods using low carb subsitutes Eg almonds, whey protein powder, soya flour, and sugar substitutes eg stevia or granulated sugar alternatives. These are generally higher in protein and fat but considerably lower in carbs. I think the ultimate baking success I have had was making George Stella's low carb Lemon Meringue Pie. I agree that butter is essential for flavour and that although there can be a good match for taste low carb products tend to have a much denser consistency. This has no effect with biscuits and cheesecakes but can make sponges a bit heavy. Look out for good websites and low carb cookbooks for ideas. Another issue is that the ingredient cost is much higher with low carb products. If I could get almond trees to grow in Scotland I would plant ten of them in my garden.

Posted by Green Lantern on 27 January 2010

Whimsy2 is exactly right--the problem is not just the sugar in baked goods, it's the wheat. And using more insulin is NOT a good answer. Each time insulin is released, the message to the body is "STORE FAT NOW!" Our bodies were meant to run on fat, not on sugar (glycogen was emergency fuel, for example, when our ancestors were chased by saber toothed tigers).

You CAN have baked goods--but stick to ones made with coconut or almond flour, using artificial sweeteners. Then you can have your treat and avoid having more insulin. Elenaspantry.com has lots of tried-and-tested recipes.

Posted by Anonymous on 27 January 2010

Great article Rachel! I will have to try the agave nectar. I've also never bought whole wheat flour. I'll try that too.

-Maureen

Posted by Anonymous on 27 January 2010

I like Rachel's ideas for substitutions. I would have never thought of Agave nectar for sweetening. Yum! She gives some really good info about how we don't always have to use the same things over and over. There are other ways.

Posted by Anonymous on 27 January 2010

As a parent with a kid with type 1 I was skeptical at first to try baked goods without the traditional ingredients. We all have a certain expectation of how something is going to taste. To my surprise the suggestions Rachel has proposed were good. It's like trying diet soda for the first time, not quite the real thing but you develop new tastes. After all the entire article screams "Healthy" if you're diabetic or not. Good article.

Posted by Anonymous on 27 January 2010

The fear that comes with a diagnosis such as diabetes is that food can no longer be fun and creative, or will no longer feed the soul. Food is now for nutrition only and will no longer delight our being. Rachel's list shows creative & healthful(helpful) choices that can make the creation of a dish a fun adventure that doesn't come with a major guilt ingredient. The adventure inspires other bakers to try their hands at taking control of their own ingredients, and therefore, their own glucose outcome. The end result-a satisfying experience that sooths the soul, offers comfort to winter days, celebration to those special occasions, and successfully creates healthy diet patterns, all the while satisfying our baker's delight of hearing someone else say "yum!" Now that is food for the soul!

Posted by Anonymous on 27 January 2010

Whole wheat flour is healthier than white---more fiber and protein. So it can be better on blood sugars (fiber slows down the blood sugar reaction) AND on overall health. There are many other types of flours to try including almond flour, whole wheat pastry flour, etc. I'm glad there are options for people, and esp people with diabetes!

Posted by Anonymous on 27 January 2010

Great suggestions, Rach! I'll be putting some of those in practice with the next batch of cookies. Thanks!
-Shel

Posted by PJ on 28 January 2010

For about a year I have been grinding all of my flours from whole grains, AND eating slightly more bread and other baked goods.

I have found that the flavor is delightful, my BG levels do not go up as fast or as high, and overall my husband and I are both healthier. Most of the nutrition in fresh flour is gone within about 3 months of being ground, so by grinding it only a few minutes before using it, we are getting the maximum number of vitamins and minerals with each bite. Best of all, my A1C levels have dropped almost a whole point with the ONLY change being the switch to freshly ground whole grain flours, leaving the bran and germ in.

There are now a number of books with recipes that will help you produce healthy baked goods, especially breads, in as little as 5 minutes a day. Kneading is no longer required to achieve delicious breads!

Posted by Anonymous on 29 January 2010

I can't believe Green Lantern suggested using artificial sweetners! It's ARTIFICIAL!! Yuck.
Great article Ms. Rachel. Cooking, like life, should be all about balance, experimentation, natural and, above all, FUN!

Posted by Anonymous on 29 January 2010

I am not diabetic, but as a health-conscious cook and baker, I can say that you have made GREAT suggestions. And BLECH on artificial anything (butter, sugar, etc.)! : )-
Also, another suggestion, you can substitute up to half of your flour with quinoa flour, if you want to try something different. The only thing I've found is that it may affect the rising properties (since you don't have as much white flour). If that's the case, just use less quinoa flour. : ) (oh, and it will give your baked goods a slight nutty flavor)
good ideas, Rachel!!

Posted by Anonymous on 29 January 2010

This is Rachel (the author). :) I have to agree that fake sugars are just nasty. I used them for a few years. They often lead to weight gain and digestive issues. My new attitude is use the good stuff, but use it in moderation. People with diabetes need real foods just like everyone else. Fake foods aren't healthy.


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