Many of us are aware that we should be making healthier lifestyle choices like eating a balanced diet and getting more exercise. However, being healthy doesn’t have to mean depriving yourself of tasty treats. There are plenty of lower-fat, lower-sugar baking recipes that you can turn to when you want to indulge without piling on the pounds.
Whether you have a sweet tooth or savoury bakes are your thing, here are nine baking ideas with a healthy twist to help you get inspired.
1. Chocolate beetroot brownies
When it comes to baking, brownies are considered the ultimate chocolatey treat. There are few of us who can resist one of these rich, fudgy squares with a cup of tea or a dollop of ice cream!
However, just because brownies are known for being decadent, this doesn’t mean that they can’t be enjoyed as part of a healthy, balanced diet – especially if you bake them yourself with healthier ingredients.
These chocolate beetroot brownies from Sneaky Veg are a lower-sugar, lower-fat alternative to the traditional brownie. They’re made with beetroot (which adds significant nutritional value and helps to create the fudgy texture usually achieved by butter and chocolate), dates/raisins (which work well with beetroot to create a fudgy texture and add natural sweetness), walnuts (to add protein), and wholemeal flour (which is more nutrient-dense than white flour).
The main ingredient (500g of beetroot!) is packed full of essential nutrients such as calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C. Plus, it’s also a source of glutamine (an amino acid that can improve digestive health) and studies also show that beetroot can lower blood pressure.
If you’re not a fan of beetroot, you might want to try these gluten-free black bean brownies from Minimalist Baker instead.
2. Peanut butter protein balls
If you’re looking for a sweet treat that’ll boost your energy while helping to increase your protein intake, then these peanut butter protein balls from Delish are a handy go-to snack.
One of the best things about this recipe is that it contains chia seeds, which are high in protein, fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants. This makes them great for improving digestive health and supporting a healthy heart. Native to Mexico and Guatemala, these small but mighty seeds were a staple food for the Mayans and Ancient Aztecs!
Peanut butter (when eaten in moderation) can also be a good source of healthy fat (especially oleic acid). When swapped for other fats in your diet, peanut butter can help to maintain healthy blood sugar, pressure, and cholesterol levels. One study also suggested that eating peanuts every day can decrease the occurrence of heart disease by 38%.
Alongside chia seeds and peanut butter, these protein balls also contain flaxseed and oats, which are high in fibre, low in fat, and can keep you fuller for longer.
If you’re in a hurry and want to skip the oven, you could consider making some no-bake protein balls in just a few minutes. Check out the video below to see how to make them in peanut butter, cacao, coconut, or almond flavours.
3. Spelt soda bread
Mild and nutty in flavour, spelt is a popular alternative to wheat flour, which is used in most of the bread that we find in the supermarket today. Before wheat became so widely used, spelt flour was actually very common, but was quickly overtaken by wheat because it can be processed cheaper and faster.
However, spelt is a healthy whole grain with a higher protein content than wheat. It’s also lower in insoluble fibre, meaning it’s easier to digest yet can leave you feeling fuller for longer. Spelt also has a higher amount of some important vitamins, such as manganese, zinc, and copper, which support bone health.
This spelt soda bread recipe from Dove’s Farm is yeast-free and requires just three main ingredients: spelt flour, bicarbonate of soda, and natural yoghurt.
Not only is spelt bread nutritious, but it can also improve digestive health, and makes for a healthier alternative to processed, refined white bread. Though keep in mind that, spelt, like wheat, does contain gluten – so if you’re gluten-intolerant or have coeliac disease then it’s best to avoid it.
4. Skinny pineapple cheesecake bars or slices
If you’re in the mood for something fruity, then hopefully you’ll enjoy these skinny pineapple cheesecake bars from Delish, coming in at just 130 calories a piece. These little gems actually don’t require the use of an oven – though they’re so tasty that we couldn’t leave them out!
They only require eight ingredients; with the star of the show, of course, being pineapple. As well as having a delicious flavour, pineapple is packed full of the good stuff – especially vitamin C and manganese, both of which help to maintain a healthy immune system. These bars are also made with non-fat Greek yoghurt and light cream cheese to make sure that each slice contains a healthy dose of protein without being too high in fat.
5. Sweet potato muffins
If you fancy trying something a bit different for breakfast, why not have a go at making these sweet potato muffins from Jamie Oliver? Made with sweet potatoes, fresh chillies, parmesan cheese, spring onions, cottage cheese, eggs, and seeds, they’re a treat for the taste buds, as well as packing a nutritious punch.
Sweet potatoes, spring onions, and chillies are rich in antioxidants and can protect your body from free radicals (molecules that can cause cell damage and contribute to many diseases). Spring onions, parmesan, and cottage cheese are also rich sources of calcium, which is needed to build and maintain strong bones and teeth.
Meanwhile, the eggs, sunflower, and poppy seeds also give these muffins a high protein and fibre content – with each one containing an impressive 18.2g protein and 6.5g fibre. This means they’re digested slowly and can help you feel fuller for longer.
To see exactly how these muffins turned out when they were tried and tested, check out the video below.
6. Healthier apple crumble
Not only are apples low in calories, but they also contain pectin (a probiotic fibre that’s linked to a healthy gut), as well as potassium and vitamins C and K. Yet, the nutritional value associated with apples is often overlooked when they’re used in desserts like apple crumble – which traditionally has a high sugar and fat content.
However, the good news is that it’s really quick and easy to make a healthier version of an apple crumble and reap more of the nutritional benefits without compromising on taste.
This healthy apple crumble recipe from BBC Good Food is only 287 calories per serving and is vegan and dairy-free. Rather than using butter to make the crumble topping, it uses coconut oil (which is lower in saturated fat), and instead of flour, it uses oats (which have a higher nutritional profile and are easier to digest than white flour).
It also swaps sugar for a small amount of maple syrup. This is slightly better for you (in moderation) than many unrefined sugars because it contains a number of antioxidants and has a lower glycemic index than regular table sugar.
Glycaemic index refers to how quickly or slowly a food increases your blood sugar levels. A food with a higher glycemic index will make your blood sugar spike more rapidly, followed by a steep drop; which can cause headaches and/or leave you feeling shaky and tired.
7. Turkey sausage rolls
Sausage rolls are a traditional family favourite loved by many. However, they’re not known for being particularly healthy, with 100g of the average sausage roll containing 371 calories and more than 26g of fat.
If sausage rolls are top of your list of baked treats, then luckily, you don’t have to give them up in order to make healthier lifestyle choices, as it’s possible to create a healthier version at home. For example, this recipe from Sainsbury’s uses turkey mince instead of pork mince. Turkey mince is lower in calories and fat but higher in protein – making it the ideal healthy substitute.
If you want to reduce the fat content of your sausage rolls even further, you could try this recipe from WeightWatchers which, again, uses turkey mince but substitutes shortcrust pastry (as this can be high in fat) with wraps instead.
Or, for more inspiration, you might also want to check out the video below, which will show you how to make healthy turkey and hoisin sausage rolls.
8. Gluten-free lemon millet biscuits
These gluten-free lemon millet biscuits from Jamie Oliver are fresh and delicate in flavour, light in texture, and come in at just 154 calories per serving. They’re the perfect treat for anyone following a gluten-free diet and can be easily adapted to suit those who aren’t.
This recipe goes lighter on the flour and makes up for it by adding oats as a healthier alternative. Oats are whole grains, which means they’re easiest to digest and are higher in nutrients. It also uses olive oil rather than butter because it has significantly less saturated fat.
Other key ingredients include – of course – lemon, which is high in vitamin C and helps to keep our immune system healthy, as well as millet; a cereal grain that can add texture to gluten-free biscuits. Millet has the highest calcium content of all cereal grains and more essential amino acids than most too (these are important for growth and repair).
If lemon isn’t your thing, or you want to try something a bit different, you could also try these healthy cinnamon cookies from My Kids Lick the Bowl, or these gluten-free oat and raisin cookies from WeightWatchers.
9. Baked vegetable samosas
For anyone who loves Indian cuisine or appreciates a spicy snack, samosas can quickly become a firm favourite.
This recipe from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) makes tasty triangles containing potatoes, peas, chickpeas, fresh coriander, garlic, and chilli, which are low in saturated fat, salt, and sugar.
Chickpeas are high in protein, so they’re a great addition to any meat-free dishes. Potatoes have also been linked to higher blood sugar control, improved immunity, and a reduced risk of heart disease.
Samosas are typically deep-fried in oil or ghee, meaning they can often have a high fat content. However, this recipe from the BHF will show you how you can bake your samosas instead, to reduce this.
If you’d prefer to add meat to your samosas, then you might also want to check out this recipe from Painting with Spices, which will show you how to make healthy, baked chicken samosas using wholewheat tortillas.
Baking is something that we can all enjoy as part of a healthy lifestyle. Even some of the sweetest or richest recipes can be adapted to reduce the fat and sugar content, and be enjoyed guilt-free.
While making healthier choices is a positive move, if you want to create a lasting change, then it’s important to adopt a diet that feels sustainable. This often means experimenting with different recipes and considering how you can opt for healthier ingredients, whilst still creating something delicious.