A few days ago I received the following question from a reader:
"Ok, I have a . . . question . . . Do you bake? Or have any suggestions for baking healthy. My family is going through some eating changes. We truly are trying to eat healthier. I know that if I yank out all of the junk my family eats they will go in shock even though my husband is totally on board with eating better. So my question is do you have any recommendations for baking / snacking healthier. Preferably wholesome natural ingredients. I just gotta get my husband off those chips ahoy cookies! I do eat the Kashi cookies (what's your take on Kashi?) but I would feel so much better making my own cookies."
Based on my experience transitioning to a healthier diet, I can say that you are on the right thought path. Here is a general outline of how it went for me and I hope that in here you can discover my thoughts on baking:
Phase 1: Tried not to, but ate highly caloric, real ingredient baked goods when they were presented to me. Sometimes made them in my home for events and parties. When I did that, I had no control over how much I ate. Always sought out something sweet to eat at the end of the day (emotional eating).
Phase 2: Started Weight Watchers. Saw how many "points" were in the baked goods I was eating and it just didn't fit into the plan anymore. Had to find substitute "goodies" to sooth myself at night. Began purchasing highly processed but low calorie sweets like Weight Watchers ice cream bars and Skinny Cow products. Would have enough points per day to allow myself 2 of these low calorie treats. This phase lasted for months.
Phase 3: As my weight went down and I had less points to use every day if I wanted to continue to lose weight (and I did), I could not continue to eat 2 treats per day. Dropped it to 1 without much fuss.
Phase 4: Read Eat to Live and started to question the nutritional worth of the food that I was consuming. Had a mind shift and started to be repulsed by the ingredients in the "treats" I was consuming. Stopped eating them altogether. Starting eating a few dates at the end of each day. This phase lasted a few months.
Phase 5: Made a few of the baked dessert recipes from Eat for Health. Some were excellent. Found myself eating too much of these and knew that even baked goods made with whole wheat and other less processed foods are not something that I can have a good relationship with. Need to keep this stuff out of my house, but can eat at a party. If you want to explore healthier baking, I suggest doing a search on the Internet for "vegan baking" but even vegan baked goods are highly caloric and just not very healthy. The Engine 2 Diet has a great recipe for chocolate chip cookies that I will make when I want to bring something to a party or am entertaining in my home. I just need to remember not to have any leftovers in my possession. They are made with whole wheat flour but they still set off that same bad reaction for me. I classify Kashi cookies right here into this category. Yes, they are made with wholesome ingredients. No, they are not something that anyone who would like to lose weight or has a hard time maintaining a healthy weight can consume on a daily basis. They are a binge food.
Phase 6: Was introduced to the concept of "raw food." Researched a ton of recipes and saw that there is a big emphasis on raw desserts. Tried making some of them. They were good. Saw that I gained weight eating these raw desserts unless I kept it to once, maybe twice, per week. Did not find myself drawn to the leftovers. The leftovers are "safe" for me to keep in my house.
Phase 7: Having the sweet tooth that I have, still searching for that magic sweet thing that I can eat and not gain weight, I have settled on things like raw banana "ice cream" which is made up entirely of frozen bananas and a dash of unsweetened almond milk. You can top it with whatever healthy crunchy thing you like--grape nuts, raw cacao nibs, shredded unsweetened coconut, goji berries.
Here's an example of a dessert that I made for myself last night. It totally satisfies my desire for something creamy and sweet. It's probably not something that your husband would enjoy right now, but it could be something that he really enjoys after going through his own phases toward healthy eating.
Wendy's Raw Banana Chia Pudding
Makes 2 cups. Serves 1 generously or 2 nicely.
1 1/2 large frozen banana, broken into chunks
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
6 small pitted dates
1/2 tsp xantham gum (optional, but lends a nice fluffiness to the pudding-can get it at Whole Foods)
Optional: Fresh fruit for garnish (blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries would be nice)
Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender till very smooth.
If the idea of a raw pudding is intriguing to you, check out http://www.choosingraw.com/chia-chai-pudding/
There are tons of raw pudding recipes on the Internet.
And here's what I ate on day 10:
coffee with soy creamer
skipped eating and did an exercise in tolerating hunger from The Beck Diet Solution.
Carrots and cucumber with Kale Butter
Red Quinoa Salad over lettuce
Carrots and cucumber with Kale Butter
Broiled tofu with red quinoa
2 cups Raw Banana Chia Pudding