Hiding vegies in more exciting foods has been an ace up the sleeve for many a stealth parent forever. Adding fruits and vegetables to baked goods is a great way to increase the nutrients in otherwise junky foods, use up leftovers in other meals, or as a last resort to sneak vegies into a fussy child’s tummy. There are websites, blogs and cookbooks devoted to developing recipes that include fruits, vegetables and legumes such as chickpea cookies, blackbean or sweet potato brownies, zucchini bread or banana nut muffins. The downfall to some recipes is that refined sugars are often increased in vegie-containing baked goods to override bitter or strongly flavoured ingredients, or make them more palatable to little ones with a sweet tooth. Refined carbohydrates such as sugars and flours can lead to peaks and troughs in blood sugar levels that can affect mood, concentration and behaviour, and can increase the risk of obesity, hormonal imbalance, diabetes and other health concerns.
The good thing is that you can still create a delicious treat for your child (or yourself!) without the refined sugars.
- Take out the refined sugar altogether and replace with sweet fruits and vegies that also offer added nutrients and fibre to the recipe. Try cooled mashed pumpkin or sweet potato, stewed apples, pears, berries or mashed ripe banana.
- Decrease the total amount of sugar used in the recipe, and use more complex, natural sugars such as honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup, rice malt syrup or molasses. These sugars offer more nutrients than their refined counterpart, and often have a lower glycaemic index, meaning that the energy they offered is released more slowly, rather than a quick burst. It is important to remember that these ingredients are still high-energy sugars and should be used sparingly.
- Add in extra flavour with spices that can add sweetness without the sugars such as cinnamon and vanilla. Cinnamon also has the added benefit of modulating blood sugar levels.
Refined flours are missing vital nutrients, in particular, fibre. Fibre is essential for digestive health, helping to regulate the movement of nutrients and waste throughout the digestive tract.
- When creating your baked masterpiece, be sure to choose wholegrain options.
- Grain free options include seed flours such as buckwheat, chia or quinoa flours, nut flours or meal such as almond or hazelnut, or new kids on the block, coconut or banana flour.
- Be mindful that some gluten free grains may not swap directly in recipes, and may require additional ingredients or treatment to give you the results you are after. For example, coconut flour is very absorbent and will require extra eggs, flourless cakes get their structure from beating the eggs well.
Savoury dishes are also a perfect hiding place for extra goodness. Try grating a rainbow of vegetables into frittata or quiche, into pasta sauces, stews or soups. Good options to sneak in are grated broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, sweet potato, carrot, pumpkin, spinach and other soft leafy greens that wilt easily, capsicum and lentils. Keep an eye out on our website for some more sneaky treats to come!
Thank you for reading,
Bree Jenner (Naturopath)