Healthy cake to feed the masses. Yes it’s true, it can be done. Deb and Nat give you tips and tricks to create healthy variants of your favourite treats to satisfy your sweet tooth.

“Healthy cake?!” I hear you cry. Yes… Believe it or not it is possible. In fact I challenge you to eat a piece of Mum's Blueberry Cheesecake and tell me it doesn’t taste like a full fat, creamy treat. Not only will that cheesecake be healthy, low in calories and fat free, but it will also contain no gluten and be vegan friendly. Did I hear you mutter the word “miraculous”?

Mum has spent the past several years working on recipes that are better for you, rebuilding original desserts by substituting ingredients with healthier alternatives, whilst sticking to the concept and retaining the flavours. Not only this, Mum and Dad also looked into food science, delving deeper into a wider range of substitutes allowing for dairy free, gluten free, wheat free and vegan options. Sounds impressive right?

Now instead of trying to tell you what it entails to create such delights, this is where I will hand you over to Mum…

Advice from Deb:
I have always tried to follow a healthy eating plan, especially with the children, and I do believe that having a Middle Eastern influence (with hubby Shari being Iranian and a chef) has allowed me to substitute western foods with delicious and sometimes natural alternatives without even realising it.

Over the years we have really enjoyed playing with alternative ways to add protein, reduce fats, remove added sugars etc and also learn about the healthy benefits of so many natural ingredients. Wrong food types can leave you lethargic, fatigued, irritable… the list goes on. I once met a wonderful young mum whose son was autistic, who was getting nowhere with conventional therapies or medicine and decided to dig deeper into alternative remedies. Now, by cutting gluten from his diet, he has not only impressed medics, but has a much better quality of life, so much so that she is now writing a book about it! It’s mind blowing to think she is actually changing his life by changing his diet.

Shari has always said to me we need to respect food, but it’s not until recently that I really understood what that Middle Eastern expression means. Food can be really powerful. Why take so many tablets and rush to the doctors if there are natural remedies and alternatives. Here are some of the things I have learnt about healthier sweet ingredients and substitutions.

Let’s start with Milk - don’t use normal milk, try Soy/Soya milk instead. It’s packed full of protein, is vegan, lactose free and has 0% cholesterol. It is rich in Omega 3 and 6 and has powerful phyto-antioxidants which protect your blood vessels from haemorrhage and lesions. It also promotes weight loss (always a bonus!) and has fewer grams of sugar than cow’s milk. It helps prevent prostate cancer and acts as a hormone replacement for women with menopause. It’s an all round winner.

If soy just isn’t for you, or like me is not suitable (I have Hashimoto’s disease), try an alternative. My milk of choice is Oat Milk which is also good for gut health as it contains beta-glucan. Also unsweetened Almond Milk is great for a low carb diet as it contains one of the lowest calories of the alternatives and has a high content of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) that are considered helpful in weight loss management .

Another ingredient I love is beetroot and I hide it in anything I can get away with! I always have some blitzed up in the fridge, sometimes mixed with apple, but most of the time on its own. You can now buy it vacuum packed and ready to use which is really handy and painless. It’s rich in potassium, magnesium, iron, vitamins A, B6, and C, folic acid, carbs, protein, antioxidants, soluble fibre- need I say more. Studies have shown that blood pressure can lower within 24 hours of drinking a glass of beetroot juice, which is pretty incredible.

Here’s a smoothie recipe I normally make for breakfast before I go rowing which contains both ingredients:

1 glass of Soya / Oat / Almond Milk alternative of choice
1 handful of frozen berries
1 tbsp of honey or maple syrup if you’re vegan
2 tbsp pureed beetroot

Whiz, whiz whiz and you’re done. Alter the quantities according to your own taste and you have a morning pick me up.

Beetroot also increases blood flow to the brain, which in turn may help fight the progression of dementia. It contains high concentration of nitrates, which help open blood vessels and increase blood flow and oxygen. It can help treat wounds and skin problems, boost stamina and makes muscles work harder while reducing blood pressure. Love it, hate it, but if you’re me also hide it in cakes. How? Hide it with chocolate in cake or brownies. It also goes very well with cream cheese or when using in cookie recipes. I found some great baking recipes using beetroot here.

Pineapples are one of my all time favourites of which I eat daily. They are a great source of Vitamin C, B, fibres, magnesium, bromelain (which is linked to helping improve digestion and can help reduce inflammation with anti-inflammatory benefits). They are also low in calories and have no saturated or trans fat. Pineapple actually has so many benefits I could be here all day listing them off!

Avocado is Nat’s favourite and can be used as a butter substitute. Its unsalted and contains water therefore giving a mixture a creamy texture, smooth consistency and makes it moist. Another great super food that can be hidden in cake recipes with multiple health benefits. Avocados can be used as a substitute for butter or oil in your favourite baked treats like cookies, cakes or muffin and can work for a vegetarian or vegan diet.

When using oil try swapping out cooking oil for coconut oil. The superfood ingredient is one of the richest sources of saturated fat known to man, with almost 90% of the fatty acids in it being saturated. Its unique combination of fatty acids can have profound positive effects on health. It improves skin, prevents heart disease, promotes weight loss and is great for the immune system. Almond oil is also low in saturated fat, unlike coconut oil... so if you can eat almonds it’s a better alternative.

Recreating these recipes to me is like ripping apart a man's suit piece by piece and putting it back together again, tailoring it, creating bespoke and much more desirable end products. Some experiments may work and some might not, but occasionally you create something that tastes amazing, is super healthy and makes you feel great.
February 10, 2023