Making a recipe or meal “healthier”
When we got married we started our life together as a family of 4. Rob’s daughter Carley was 6 at the time and my father who came to live with us who was about 78. I wanted to make meals that everyone enjoyed and would want to eat again. There is nothing more heart breaking than spending time cooking a meal that no one enjoyed!
In the beginning I choose “safe” meals that pretty much everyone liked. Dishes like meatloaf, tacos, baked chicken, burgers, mac & cheese and even spaghetti. My goal was to see how I could “add in” healthier ingredients and boost the nutrient level of the meal and still make it taste great.
Healthy “Gateway” foods for change
I started simple by “substituting in and swapping out” things like ground turkey or chicken for beef for tacos, meatloaf, and burgers. When I made pasta I added in “undetected” vegetables by pureeing them into the sauce such as mushrooms or dark greens. Carley was very vocal in letting me know how much she detested mushrooms and she was none the worse while she ate every bite of the meal and told me how much she loved it.
When I made tacos or meatloaf I added in chopped spinach which goes undetected in taste not so much in sight. When I made mac and cheese I added in finely chopped onions, dark leafy green, salsa, and a can of pinto beans – I didn’t know that chili mac even existed!
At our dinner table the “one bite rule” is what we lived by. And it is exactly as it sounds, you have to try one bite of everything on your plate. Now if you didn’t like the bite that was okay you didn’t have to keep eating it what mattered is that you gave it a try.
Carley was so young that she would often ask if she eaten the food before and without missing a beat Rob and I always told her no. We weren’t trying to pull anything on her but it can take almost 10 to 20 exposures to develop a taste for something and it was important that she continued to develop her palate.
When it came to baking…..
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the movie “Daddy Day Care” but there is a scene where they feed the kids tons of sugary junk and after eating it they all completely spaz out and go completely nuts and in the next scene the kids are all crashed out because what goes up must come down!
My first goal in baking was to boost the macro-nutrient level and find a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats – by eating them together it slows down the digestive emptying time and helps to keep your blood sugar in balance.
To increase the amount of protein I choose to add in vanilla protein powder. While eggs are great they don’t always work into a recipe like protein powder can.
I upgraded the quality of fats and fiber with wheat germ, ground flax, coconut, chia seeds and nuts. I’ve substituted bananas, apple sauce and coconut oil for butter or canola oil. Depending on the season I added in spices like cinnamon, pumpkin, nutmeg, and vanilla.
When subbing dairy my preference is almond or coconut milk. I’ve even made my own butter milk with almond milk and lemon juice. You’ll still find chocolate chips in my baking but it will be a high quality dark chocolate and half of what is suggested in the recipe.
My hope for you
I hope this helped spark your creativity in the kitchen. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be hard but it does require you to put forth effort. The quality of our meals today is vastly different from the meals I used to make in the beginning. What I did was give myself permission to start. Remember if you don’t ever “try it” how will you ever know if you’ll like it? Have some fun and experiment, what do you have to lose?
Please be sure to leave any comments or questions you may have! My personal preference is to use organic ingredients and vegetarian protein powder you can adapt the recipe as you’d like!
Organic Apple Cinnamon Protein Muffins
Makes approx 72 mini muffins
3 cups Oats
4 scoops Orgain Organic Vanilla Protein Powder
Pinch of Himalayan salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup almond meal flour
¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
2 tablespoons wheat germ
¼ cup chopped walnuts
3 apples chopped in small pieces
1 cup vanilla cashew or almond milk (unsweetened)
½ cup apple sauce
¼ cup coconut oil
Brown sugar to sprinkle on top before baking
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray mini muffin tins with non stick spray
2. Put all dry ingredients into large mixing bowl and stir ingredients well.
3. Chop apples into mini pieces, I kept the skin on but you can remove if you’d like.
4. Add in eggs and mix well, add in remaining wet ingredients and stir well.
5. Use two teaspoons to put into mini muffin tins and sprinkle brown sugar lightly on the top.
6. Bake in the oven for approximately 35 minutes, check to see if cooked all the way through, if not then cook for 5 more minutes.
Eat a few fresh out of the oven, they are the bomb! Once they are cool I place ½ of them in a Tupperware container in the refrigerator and the remaining in a zip lock bag in the freezer.
I really enjoy using the smaller muffin pans it makes it really nice when you want a small snack and you can have 1 and if you are hungrier then 2. And I’ve never been a fan of the muffin bottom!
We wish you a warm and wonderful holiday season!
Shannon & Rob Yontz