using subs to make muffins healthier

a parents' group invited me to advertise my baking on their site. i would like to use healthy subs for those parents who correctly state that muffins are merely cake. i've never used apple sauce to reduce sugar in a recipe and imagine in, say a banana muffin, the applesauce flavor will compete w the banana flavor. i'm curious to hear what subs u like and how good u would rate the end result in terms of taste. i think a "good" healthy muffin might still b an acceptable version of a "very good" traditional muffin.

  • Posted by: alan
  • January 3, 2022


Lori T. January 3, 2022
Commercially produced muffins do often cross the street into cupcake territory, which is one reason to make your own. But yeah, healthy has a lot of different meanings to people. So far as reducing added sugar, you can use just about any fruit puree or juice you like, to create the flavor profile you want. Up to 1 cup of puree will replace some of the added fat, and 2 or so tablespoons of the sugar. Juice can replace nearly all of the liquid called for, though some dairy is helpful for tenderness. In the end though, sugar is still sugar - whether it comes from a fruit or the white stuff everyone thinks about. And kids are not into plain bran muffins, as a rule- healthy or not. Mine would probably have preferred starvation as an alternative. You can use whole wheat, though I would suggest using one of the white wheat flours- the advantage of wheat, the look of unbleached flour! Also using various other sorts of flours, or adding in a bit of bran can up the fiber counts. Fine shred apple doesn't require peeling, by the way. And though it doesn't get much attention, you can also eat banana peels. It helps if you puree them after freezing/thawing, but you can roast a whole one and whirl it up to a puree as well. Adds in extra vitamins, fiber, and flavor. And in muffins/bread, you don't know it is there if it goes in puree. Finally, consider sprinkling coarse sugar grains over a lowered sugar content muffin. It doesn't need much, but on top hits the tongue and fakes you into believing the rest is sweeter than it is.
alan January 4, 2022
helpful. Tx
alan January 3, 2022
when next i post in the parents' group, i was planning to state that my bran muffin is the "healthy" choice even tho the link supplied to a bran muffin looks healthier than mine and i will do them both to compare. (2) re cutting back on sugar, i read that sugar affects moisture, so while i can offer to cut back on it, there's a limit. i think 1/3 is about as far as u should go. i think no artificial sweetener works in baking tho some claim one or two do. honey or maple are options. (3) i figured i could at least use applesauce in an apple muffin. i've never used apple sauce in baking, but will either buy jarred w/o sugar or make my own. i can see how apple sauce works in muffins not using apple. (4) i always imagined whole wheat flour is healthier cuz it's heartier, more bread-like. i can try using it over AP (5) in the ad i already wrote but will re-work, i already state that traditional muffins -- despite the nutritional ingredients of nuts, fruit, milk, eggs -- should b regarded as cake when eaten for breakfast. that said, i state that i prefer a growing non-adult choose my quality muffins over industrial snacks found in stores. i will incorporate the various ideas mentioned and see for myself how they turn out. i can offer these options to those who are interested. thanks for ur ideas.
Wendy January 3, 2022
I do agree with drbabs and Nancy when they say healthy means different things to different people. However, as a mother and grandmother, I strive to make healthier treats for my family. When I do muffins, I think about upping fibre and protein as well as using healthy fats and natural sweeteners such as maple syrup or honey. I like to use avocado or coconut oil, and flours with higher protein and less gluten.
Our traditional recipes reflect ignorance of nutritional sciences and the limited ingredients available to past generations.
Parents will really appreciate your efforts!
Nancy January 3, 2022
Alan -
Complicated, as drbabs says.
APPLESAUCE. I've used plain (homemade or store bought) to replace maximum half the oil in baked goods and it works. Doesn't overpower taste. Texture ok from memory. Have never used it as a replacement for sugar, but some do.
Links on using it instead of oil, and instead of sugar.,ingredient%2C%20and%20sugar%20is%20dry.
SUGAR. hard to reduce and get good results because it performs many functions (not just sweetness, but texture, color, integration of other ingredients).
Two articles from that may help (one from food52, one from King Arthur)
ARTIFICIAL SWEETENER. Have my doubts about its use for children, but products keep evolving. May worth checking out.
ALTERNATIVE RECIPES. Maybe start with items that are already lower in fat and sugar content than cakes/muffins. Two suggestions are scones and bread rolls, which each can be studded with additions like nuts, dried sugar and chocolate and still have lower content than cakes/muffins.
Nancy January 3, 2022
Should read: may be studded with additions like nuts, dried fruit and chocolate
drbabs January 3, 2022
This is such a complicated conversation, but I’ll see if I can take a stab at it. “Healthy” means different things to different people. You can increase the nutritional value of muffins by adding shredded vegetables (zucchini, carrots), using whole grain flour, adding fruit. I’ve used applesauce as a means to reduce fat in a recipe. I’ve found that you can substitute up to about 1/2 of the fat with applesauce without too much sacrifice of taste or texture. For reducing added sugar, Joanne Chang has a cookbook, Baking with Less Sugar, that could give you some ideas. You can experiment with adding nuts and seeds, wheat germ, flax meal. All will change the nutritional profile. The challenge is also finding the taste and texture pleasing.

I make bran muffins pretty regularly, and I just used this recipe: She has you make a purée of raisins for both sweetness and moisture, and the 12 muffins have only 1/2 cup of added sugar. I made them with all white whole wheat flour and they are delicious.
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