I am a sucker for bran muffins. I know bran usually has this 'healthy' connotation to it, but the unfortunate truth is that most muffins are chock full of sugar. Most of the time you might as well be eating a cupcake! Take a Tim Horton's Raisin Bran muffin for example (nutritional info from the Tim Horton's website)
69 grams of Carbohydrates and 40G OF SUGAR!!! Just to give you an idea of how much this actually is, the donut on their menu with the highest amount of sugar is their sour cream glazed and it only has 29g of sugar! Plus, remember that's only 40g of added sugar, there is another 24g of carbohydrates (starch) which the body recognizes as the same as sugar.
This is the exact reason I am all about homemade! With a 17-month old who seems to be constantly eating it's important for me to have healthy snacks on hand. It's easier than you may think to re-make an everyday recipe into a healthier one. I found this recipe for oat bran muffins at the Joy of Baking (http://www.joyofbaking.com/muffins/OatBranMuffins.html). It's not a bad recipe, and it's not too horribly full of sugar (although there is more than enough!) and it does contain wheat and dairy. So the first batch I started by just substituting gluten and dairy free ingredients and cutting down on the sugar. It worked very well, but I still wanted to go healthier. So, the second batch I cut out all the brown sugar, subbed agave nectar for the honey and upped the fiber. It worked alright, but this batch came out pretty dense and somewhat lost the 'enjoyability' factor. I went back to adding a reduced amount of sugar and then it dawned on me: Applesauce! So after a few final adjustments and add ins here is my final recipe:
Gluten-Free, Diary-Free, Sugar-Free Oat Bran Muffins
1 cup oat flour
3/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup hemp hearts
1/3 cup ground flaxseeds
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsweetened organic apple sauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 1/4 cup unsweetened original almond milk
1/2 cup raisins
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk the egg and add the rest of the wet ingredients (applesauce, vanilla, grapeseed oil, almond milk). Mix the egg mixture into the dry ingredients just until moist. Add the raisins. Bake at 400F for 16-20 min and enjoy!
So how much better is this new version compared to the original? Well here is the nutritional breakdown (thanks to caloriecount.about.com- although it doesn't show the vitamin and mineral changes).
The sugars were reduced by almost 10g, the fiber almost doubled, total carbs almost in half, protein increased by over a gram and calories reduced! You will see the fat has increased, this is because of the added seeds (flaxseeds and hemp hearts) but it's not a concern since its healthy fats we increased! And that's not even considering the vitamin and mineral differences between the two! The verdict.....mmmmmmmmm!
Notes about the changes:
Oat flour: gluten-free naturally, any gluten is due to contamination so if you do have a sensitivity to gluten, make sure you get Certified Gluten Free Oat Flour/Oats. Oat flour can easily be made by processing oats into flour. It bakes very well and isn't crumbly or gritty like rice flour can be.
Hemp Hearts: An overall amazingly healthy food! High in fiber, protein and healthy polyunsaturates fats (including omega-3s)! Not to mention packed full of vitamins and minerals (3 tbsp gives you 30% of your daily iron!). It's an easy addition to almost anything, like the flaxseeds you don't really even notice them there!
Ground Flaxseeds: I like adding this to anything I can! It has no real taste and is pretty much just pure fiber! The fiber will help to slow digestion of the carbohydrates and keep blood sugars more level. Plus, most of us in North America don't get enough throughout the day at all!
Applesauce: A great natural sweetener to use as a sugar substitute. Because it's just blended apples, you are avoiding added sugars and still getting the fiber!
Grapeseed oil: This is a more stable oil and has a higher smoking point, making it much better for cooking at high temperatures than less stable oils like olive.
Disclaimer: Naturopathic Doctors strive to provide individualized health care. The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. This information shouldn’t take the place of seeing an ND for individualized health recommendations.
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