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  • Writer's pictureTara Wilson

Healthy Swaps: Fall Baked Goods Edition!

All of those delicious fall baked goods this season don't have to be completely unhealthy treats with these easy swaps!


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The Why


Fall is officially in full swing, which means...bring on all the pumpkin treats!! Eating clean can be especially difficult this time of year, especially for someone like me with a big sweet tooth and a sucker for holiday recipes! First it starts with fall baked goods, then Halloween treats, then Thanksgiving food, and then eating like it's Christmas until the new year starts...pretty soon, three months go by and trying to pivot back to clean eating in January becomes tough. However, with these easy swaps, it really doesn't have to be!

My first batch of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies this season!

If you've been following this year's monthly swaps, then you're ahead of the game and probably already incorporating some of these swaps into your diet & lifestyle - yay! For those that are new here, I'll do a quick lowdown on what I mean by eating clean:


For six (and sometimes seven) days out of the week, my household eats in a way that's similar to paleo or the bulletproof diet, but not as strict or exclusive. We basically eat organic, good quality fats, protein & produce, while limiting our intake of processed foods & added sugar, as well as completely cutting out alcohol, gluten, and dairy (with the exception of grass-fed or pasture-raised butter and ghee). To read more about why we cut out gluten and dairy, check out this blog post.


With all the fall recipes popping up, I wanted to find a way where I could enjoy these treats while also eating clean throughout the week, so I tested out a fall recipe with these healthy swaps...and guess what? It turned out delicious, and even better? It's not a cheat!


Healthy Swaps

Try out these swaps the next time you're baking fall treats:



Flour

I'm sure there are more nutritious flours to use than just organic or non-GMO gluten-free flour (coconut flour, paleo flour blend, etc), however, when I'm baking treats, I prefer the consistency to be similar to that of wheat flour, so I like using Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free 1:1 Baking Flour. With gluten-free flours, it's important to use one that specifically states that the same measurements for regular flour can be used, or else you'll have to do some math (and probably add some xantham gum, as well). Gluten-free flours with a 1:1 ratio make it an easy to use swap!


If I don't want to consider my baked goods a "cheat," then I stick with gluten-free. If I'm not concerned about gluten (like holiday meals with family), I use a baking flour that is organic and unbleached. To read more on why choosing unbleached flour is important, click here.


Oil

This awesome butter is less than $4 at Sprouts!

I almost always will use melted grass-fed butter when a recipe calls for oil, but when it calls for more than I have butter available, I like to use organic or non-GMO avocado oil or coconut oil. To read more about why the type of oil you use is important for your health, check out January's healthy swap.



Pumpkin Purée


When choosing canned pumpkin purée, I always go for organic or non-GMO, and I look for cans with a non-BPA lining, like this one. To read more about why BPA is dangerous, check out this article by Environmental Working Group.


Chocolate Chips


Along with milk chocolate chips containing dairy, some brands also contain harmful oils (like vegetable or palm oil), high fructose corn syrup, and in some cases, are more sugar than they are chocolate. This is why I love a good quality, organic or non-GMO dark chocolate for dessert during the week, and why I choose dark chocolate chips over milk chocolate chips for my baked goods. The chocolate I like to use for baking is Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate morsels. This brand is great because it's free from 14 allergens (including dairy & soy), and their dark chocolate morsels are just three ingredients: unsweetened chocolate, cane sugar, and cocoa butter. They taste great without being too sweet, and there are also health benefits to eating dark chocolate, too!


Sugar


Ok this one is tough, because honestly, there's really not anything great for your health about consuming added sugar, but part of the reason we love our fall baked goods is because they're so yummy & sweet. So...what to do? You could nix the sugar and deal with the taste, but that's really no fun for anyone, am I right? You could also take a stab at sweetening your baked goods with fruit, like overripe bananas, but I'm personally not great with ratios or experimenting with baking. So what I do is choose a high quality, unrefined organic sweetener, and I usually use less than what the recipe calls for. This means that instead of using an overly processed and refined white table sugar, I like to use an organic, unrefined dark brown sugar or organic maple syrup.


Some people like to use coconut sugar, however, from what I've been able to research, sugar is sugar, whether it comes from coconut or sugar cane, and it acts the same in your body. It may be lower on the glycemic index than regular sugar, but just because it's a coconut product doesn't necessarily mean it's more nutritious over unrefined brown sugar**. It also doesn't do well in high heat or produce the same results in baking as sugar would. So I stick with brown sugar or maple syrup.


If you're diabetic, you may want to look into natural, zero-sugar sweeteners, like organic monk fruit or stevia (to read more about zero-sugar sweeteners, check out August's healthy swap).


Cream Cheese

If you read February's and March's healthy swaps, then you already know all of the amazing health benefits of choosing cow dairy products that are specifically from grass-fed or pasture-raised cows. You also know the downside of choosing cow dairy products that are not from grass-fed or pasture-raised cows. So for those fall recipes (like pumpkin cheesecake cookies) that call for cream cheese, go for grass-fed cream cheese. Better yet? Get a certified organic grass-fed cream cheese that's also lactose-free! Even if you're not lactose-intolerant, choosing a cream cheese that's lactose-free should be less inflammatory on your gut. That's why I love this cream cheese from Green Valley Creamery - it's organic, lactose-free, and from pasture-raised cows.


Baking Materials


Instead of using aluminum foil or bleached parchment paper to line your baking sheets, use unbleached & chlorine-free parchment paper or silicone baking mats. When it comes to non-stick baking tins, be sure they are ceramic-coated as opposed to teflon. Cooking with aluminum foil, bleached parchment paper, and teflon-coated bakeware can leach toxic chemicals into your food [5, 6, 7, 8]. I've seen research go back and forth on whether or not teflon-coated bakeware made after 2013 is now safe to use, however, all of the research supports the fact that it's definitely not safe to use if there are scratches on the nonstick coating surface.


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies


Let's put these swaps to the test! As I said before, I'm not one to experiment with baking or come up with my own recipes, so after searching for the perfect pumpkin chocolate chip cookie recipe to try, I landed on Liv B's Soft Batch Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies. Definitely go check out the link, because the pictures she took of her cookies are gorgeous - her cookies look amazing!!


Here is the final recipe after I made our healthy swaps:


Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup grass-fed butter, melted (but not hot)

  • 1/4 cup organic pumpkin puree

  • 1 cup organic dark brown sugar

  • 1 tsp organic vanilla extract

  • 2 cups gluten-free flour

  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

  • 1/4 tsp Redmond's Real Salt

  • 1 1/4 cups organic dark chocolate chips


Be sure that your butter is melted but not hot when you mix it with other ingredients. I read on other cooking blogs that you shouldn't do that (after I did it, of course, haha) or else your dough will be wet, which mine was. I had to stick it in the fridge to cool down and harden a bit so I could roll the dough into balls before I baked them. Her recipe also called for 1 cup of dark brown sugar and another 1/2 cup of white sugar, but 1.5 cups of sugar seemed like a lot to me. So I decided to nix the white sugar and did a little less than 1 cup of brown. Instead of white table salt, I used Redmond's Real Salt.

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 F, and line a baking sheet pan with unbleached parchment paper.

  2. In a bowl, mix the melted butter, pumpkin puree, brown sugar, and vanilla.

  3. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the chocolate) into your bowl and mix with the just combined wet ingredients. **She suggests in her recipe to stir until it's combined, and to not over mix.

  4. Mix in the chocolate chips.

  5. Scoop out balls of dough onto your sheet pan, and be sure to leave room in-between each cookie for it to bake and spread. I used a round Tablespoon measurer to scoop out dough, about 1-2 TBS of dough for each ball.

  6. Bake for 9 minutes and then let cool.

  7. Enjoy!

She says in her recipe that these cookies can be stored in an airtight container for either four days on the counter or one week in the fridge.


My cookies didn't turn out quite as pretty as hers (I'm honestly a terrible baker) but man, were these delicious! My boyfriend and I finished this batch of cookies so fast...I'm probably going to bake them again before the end of this week, haha!


I also used these swaps to try out Half Baked Harvest's recipe for Cream Cheese Swirled Cinnamon Pumpkin Butter Bread, which also turned out pretty good!



Some helpful tips for baking gluten-free bread:


-I've read that gluten-free bread takes longer to bake, so I would bake your bread for the time your recipe instructs to, and check that the internal temperature is between 190-210. If it's not, keep your bread in the oven and check on it incrementally until it reaches that temperature. You can also do the toothpick test (insert a toothpick into the middle, and if it comes up clean, your bread should be done), however, it might not come up completely clean if you have cream-cheese swirled throughout your bread, like mine.


-Gluten-free flour can spoil quicker than regular wheat flour, so if you don't plan on using it up baking some fall treats, it may be best to refrigerate it so it can last longer. However, it's best to bake with the flour at room-temp, so some sites suggest pre-measuring the flour you need for a recipe and letting it get to room temperature before mixing all of the ingredients.


All of your favorite fall baked goods recipes don't have to completely be cheats! Sure, you definitely want to keep in mind the added sugar intake, however, incorporating these super easy swaps can help make your treats a little healthier this season! Hope you found this post helpful, and see you next month for November's Healthy Swap!



Links to Cited Articles


Here are the articles that I used for research to write this blog post.







6. What is the Safest Cookware for 2022? Carrie Forrest - Clean Eating Kitchen



 

Why I Started "Healthy Swaps" for 2022


I've always found when wanting to make a major health or lifestyle change, it's easier to take it in little steps than to try and make a massive change on the spot. Mastering little steps has always been more successful in making the change a lasting habit for me, as opposed to a temporary phase. I've had friends ask me about my diet & eating habits, and as soon as I tell them, they come back with different variations of "Oh that's too hard," "That's so much work," and "I could never do that!"


Believe me, when I started down this path to a healthier lifestyle, I felt the same way! When I have food or beauty/household products that I love, I never want to give them up. However, slowly but surely, I made little changes here & there and now, it's a lifestyle I'm happy to embrace. Sure, it's still very hard some days to make the healthier choice, even with the research I'm learning on why [insert food/product] is bad for you, but it's definitely not as hard as it used to be and I'm still striving to improve every day.


So this year I decided to create the Healthy Swaps series! Every month, I will post a new blog post with a simple swap to make, and with these small changes made every month, we can be living a healthier lifestyle by the end of the year!

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