6 tips to make any baking recipe healthier, part 1 of 2

At the Zermatt in December, I taught these six tips for making a baking treat healthier. You don’t have to know anything about recipe development. These are no-brainers. Three tips today, three tomorrow. (All of this information is in Ch. 11 of 12 Steps to Whole Foods.)

1.           Substitute finely ground whole wheat instead of white flour.

What you see on recipe labels as “wheat flour” is actually a toxic, nutrition-less white gluey mess. It’s the grain with the germ (vitamins) and bran (fiber) removed).

Ask for a good grain grinder for Christmas. I love K-Tecs, which you can find here. They aren’t terribly expensive, and you’ll need one in an emergency where you have to make your own bread, so it’s a good preparedness item.

For cookies, cakes, pastry recipes, I like SOFT WHITE WHEAT, ground on the finest grind setting your mill has. Your kids won’t even know the difference. A coarser grind will cause a heavier product, and red wheat will make it look darker. (I use red wheat for breads, etc.)

Some people think they don’t like whole wheat flour products, when in fact they’re just used to eating RANCID whole wheat. When the grain is ground, the protective shell of the grain is destroyed and oils inside begin to deteriorate. Consequently, those milled grains go rancid quickly and taste bad in baked goods. (Plus, rancid oils are carcinogenic.) Bags of whole wheat flour sometimes have spent months in warehouses and in transit before arriving in your home, and then you store them even longer.

Thus a grinder becomes essential, so you can have FRESHLY milled grains anytime you want.

2.           Substitute coconut palm sugar, or Sucanat, for sugar.

I recently mentioned coconut sugar in a blog entry and since then, we’ve gotten many queries from readers who can’t find it, to buy. I spent some time looking for it and have obtained the best organic product I could find for a good price in the GreenSmoothieGirl store: get some here.

Read about it here.

I’m thrilled about this product because of its low glycemic index for far less impact on your blood sugar and pancreas. It has high vitamin and mineral content, it is highly sustainable, more so than cane sugar, and it tastes lovely. Sucanat is in my baking recipes in 12 Steps (it’s dried, unrefined cane juice) but coconut sugar is my new favorite and is an easy substitute.

Substitute it 1:1 for any white or brown sugar called for in a baking recipe.

3.           Baking powder

Please buy the kind in the health food store that is ALUMINUM FREE. Don’t buy giant quantities because it’s good for only 1-2 years. Aluminum is a toxic metal your body has a very difficult time eliminating, and it’s linked to Alzheimer’s and many other health problems. And it’s in commercial baking powders. Substitute the aluminum-free version 1:1 in your recipes.

70 thoughts on “6 tips to make any baking recipe healthier, part 1 of 2

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  1. I didn’t know baking powder only stayed good that long–what do you do for food storage purposes Robyn?!! – we definately don’t want alzheimers here. Robyn- my mom’s step dad (my grandpa)- passed away while we were at your class last night in Sandy (we knew he was going for a couple days) he had alzheimers. I had never seen the disease so upfront and someone I was so close to. Sad. sad. motivation to eat even better!!!

    Your class was amazing! I love your laugh-you do a great job motivating- hopefully my mom will decide to get my little bro on the band wagon!

    1. Lala, thanks for coming! I’m sorry about your grampa. I keep a #10 can of baking powder in food storage–it will keep longer until opened, but I have to rotate it.

      Yeah, my laugh…… it’s unique and I try not to be self-conscious about it because it is what it is. I have a tendency to bust out with it in movie theaters. Recently one of my kids said, “I love your laugh, Mom.”

      Good to meet you and your mom in Sandy!

  2. Hello, I have a question for you Robyn. I have low thyroid. Have been on medication for many years. I stay away from vegetables that I have heard are not good for thyroid. I have heard that chard or kale are not good for hypothyroidism. Then, on your site I heard that they were o.k. I am now reading Victoria Boutenko’s book and one of the testimonials said “greens like broccoli and kale have something in them that is hard on the thyroid when they are eaten raw.” Does this mean they are not good to have at all? Thanks for your help! Enjoying your site!

    1. Diane, I can’t advise you on your specific situation…..but I have been diagnosed since 1994 with hypothyroid and (obviously) eat a lot of greens, which has kept my T3 supported and at perfect levels, along with BIOIDENTICAL hormone.

  3. Hi Robyn, I was only talking about kale. Victoria Boutenko’s book would not have a negative testimonial about all greens. I would like your opinion on kale. Thank you

    1. I read that and also her claims about eating too much of some greens causing health problems, but she never quantified that in any way–she said that she and another member of her family looked strange in the eyes, but that isn’t sufficient evidence to convince me.

  4. First of all, this is to Lala: Lala, please accept my deepest condolences for the loss of your grandpa. It’s always sad to lose a beloved member of your familly. I’m so glad to see that you are taking steps in your own life to steer clear of that devastating illness!

    Robyn, I’m so glad to hear you talk about the aluminum-free baking powder. Baking powder is such a staple in just about everyone’s pantry, and we all can do our part to get the word out that there ARE aluminum-free options! I even noticed that Bob’s Red Mill brand now carries it – and although I can’t speak for areas outside the east coast, I now see it even in mainstream super markets up & down the east coast!

    🙂 Kath

  5. Hi Robyn,

    Total a beginner here. I have a mill to grind my wheat. Do I substitute wheat flour 1:1 for recipes that call for white flour? Do I adjust recipes in any other way due to the difference in flour type?

    Never, ever, ever knew about the baking soda! My grandmother died after living with Alzheimers for 15 years.

    What do you suggest we use for pots and pans?

    Wende

    1. Wende, I would absolutely throw out any aluminum cookware and use stainless steel or cast iron. Yes, substitute whole-wheat flour 1:1.

      It’s baking POWDER, not baking soda. 🙂

  6. Hi Robyn,

    I too was going to write with a question about Hypothyroidism which I was just diagnosed with on Thursday. I also read that Kale and some other greens actually were quite problematic if eaten raw vs. cooked, so I have read the above carefully, but would appreciate any additional insight if you should have it for other nutritional boosts for low thyroid issues.

    Happenstancely, I had just stumbled upon you on you tube and have been watching your videos which have helped me decide to embark on your greensmoothie lifestyle, albeit a bit slowly to transition myself and my family into the different food choices.

    Of course I am especially thrilled because I have had a Vitamix sitting dormant for about 11 years….finally, I can use it! Anyhow, my other question is about how you actually store all of your “unique” ingredients?

    Some of them seem rather large and would be difficult to store in a regular kitchen cabinet or small pantry. Do you have a dedicated area? How do you keep track of “use by” for many of your foods? Do you keep most of them stored in plastic bags? Are some freezer storage, fridge storage, dark storage, etc?

    I think this would be an awesome segment, especially since I have now just purchased a few “unique” food tems that I have never owned before and the people at whole foods seemed to draw a bit of a blank when I asked similar questions…..

    Keep up the great work…..I am excited! Oh, and your family is beautiful and they definitely radiate health!

    Cathie

    1. Hi Cathie, my 12 Steps program answers most of these many questions. I am working on a “high nutrition food storage” course, too. Thanks–keep up the whole-foods transition path and you’ll be so glad!

    1. I would not use aluminum in any form–possibly some COATINGS keep the aluminum out of your food, I don’t know–but I’d rather just stay away from it completely.

  7. Robyn, Have you ever tried “Body Ecologies” Lakanto? Lakanto is made from some certain fruit from china.

    Love your blog!

  8. Kale is an excellent vegetable with incredible health benefits. If you are worried about the oxalates in kale you can steam it for 5 minutes and the problem goes away.

    The real enemy of the thyroid is fluoride. Dental fluorosis provides a dangerous accumulation of fluoride in the thyroid (and in the brain).

  9. I too am working with low thyroid function. My information is that all brassica vegetables are problematic when eaten RAW but not when they are cooked. So I’m using chard, spinach, lettuce, endive, celery, etc for my greens in smoothies. My Natureopath gave me this information. Since I love kale I just eat it cooked.

  10. Hi Robyn,

    I have had terrible hypothyroid readings….ten times the normal being underactive. nothing I could do including diet helped. I walked three hours a day with my dog….nothing budged.

    Then I got a rebounder and have been rebounding religiously for three months.

    I lost 25 pounds and it veritably stimulated my thyroid…..it is great for much more as well.

    Hope this helps.

    1. Cathy, Utah Wellness Center in Orem for bio-identical hormone.

      Susan, I teach all about that in my Step 8 of 12 Steps to Whole Foods course.

      Kathryn, the bag is 5#, organic cane sugar is more refined than Sucanat.

  11. On the xtend-life site the nutritionist states–Do ot use raw cruciferous vegetables like collards-kale-cauliflower-arugala-brussel sprouts-broccoli. These raw vegetables have thyroid suppressing properties and are best eaten cooked or fermented. To read some good smoothie info on the reputable site the blog is called “smoothie anyone” . Good info about combining fruit and veggies also, along with fats.

  12. Hi Robyn,

    In reference to the use of wheat flour, what do you think about the fermenting of wheat flour to release the phytase so that we can get all the nutrition from the wheat?

  13. Is Evaporated Cane Juice the same as Sucanat? They sell a large bag at Costco for a very affordable price. How big is the bag of Coconut Sugar that you sell?

    thanks.

  14. Robyn: So i recently purchased your entire 12 step program to include books, audio, and dvd. I decided to do this plan to lose weight and gain energy. I only have about 10 to 15 pounds to lose. I also chose this plan to help my kids as well. I have been doing the smoothies 1 time a day, and moving to more raw foods. In the 2 week period, i have actually gained 2 lbs…i have more energy, but i am discouraged by the weight gain. please advise!!!

    1. Ellen, let your body adjust, and know that you can “gain” 2 lbs. that is simply water retention or a cleansing reaction causing your body’s digestive system to temporarily slow down, as it adjusts to a new pattern of eating. There’s no reason to gain weight eating a diet of, in order, greens, vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and a little (if necessary) cold-pressed oils and unprocessed sweeteners. This, what I teach and base my recipes on, is far lower in calories and far higher in fat-burning nutrition than the Standard American Diet or anything like unto it.

  15. Thanks to all of you who have discussed hypothyroidism and what not to eat. I appreciate all of your help and have taken notes.

  16. Robin, One comment out of the food context. What deodorant do you recommend? I have tried several from the Health Store, Tom’s, etc. but they don’t work as well. I am a runner and I need something a little more powerful. What do you recommend?

    1. Diana, I haven’t used deodorant for many years and I love the crystal stick. I am a runner, too, and play sports a few hours each day. Reapplication is good, and maybe I just don’t sweat much, naturally–but it works great for me.

  17. If I hve a history of low thyroid, should kale be cooked? I have been using it raw in my smoothiesm. Thanks, blessings!

    1. I have low thyroid (without bioidentical hormone) and eat tons of raw, leafy greens. I believe the anti-greens thing has been WAY over-promoted and over-hyped, spreading the theory/opinion of a few.

  18. Robyn,

    Thank you so much for the information. My son loves to bake and this will give us some better options. I just wondered, do you know if the coconut sugar offered through azure standard is of the same type/quality as what you are offering on your site? The product says Coconut Sugar Crystals produced by Earth Circle Organics.

  19. In response to the question about finding an effective deodorant. I have been using the dentarome toothpaste from Young Living Essential Oils as deodorant. I have never used anything that has worked this well. Sounds crazy but it works! It was referred to me by my cousin who is a consultant.

  20. Hi Robin and All,

    I would like to share thoughts about dark green leafy vegetables since it was brought up on the blog.

    My aunt and my step mother, both wonderful ladies and very health conscious got themselves into trouble with the very dark greens.

    It is true our bodies need the great nutrition found in these healthy vegetables. The problem comes with amounts, and balance

    For my aunt it was back in the 60’s, and for my step mom it happened just this last year. They both had been eating a mostly vegetarian type diets and moved into eating more and more of the very dark greens. My step mom said she was eating them almost exclusively, both were thinking they were being very healthy.

    After some time, both started to get very very sick and could not understand what was happening. My step mom ended up at her Dr.s in Orem, where she learned she had toxic vitamin overload poisoning. My aunt basically had a revelation showing her what she was doing and that she had to stop immediately.

    The problem is two fold. The very dark green leafy vegetables are rich with vitamins A, C, E, and K, folate, fiber, iron, and calcium and smaller trace nutrients. A, E and K are three of the four fat soluble vitamins,

    the last being D not found in the greens.

    Where other vitamins will wash through your system with water these four are saved in the liver and can build up there to service your body when need arises. However, if consumed in very heavy amounts, they can reach toxic levels and are dangerous. This usually happens with supplements but in these cases, it was the raw greens themselves.

    Strange we never talk about this part of possible effects. Yes, it certainly is not common, but there are numerous web sights that will concur with this. Here is one from the Colorado State University Extension

    http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09315.html.

    This shows many of the severe health problems that can build up. It does not mention on this sight, but others do, this is so serious that extreme amounts can kill you!

    I myself, along with a young lady staying with me, innocently gave ourselves vit D poisoning. We were very sick. She was worse than I was and we were very scared when we learned what we had done.

    When we started counting up what we were getting in various small pills and multiple types of supplements, we realized we had been taking about 15000-25000 mg a day. Luckily we were able to reverse things and everything turned out OK, but the night she got so sick she was doubled up with pain and could hardly walk, I was really scared and had no idea what was wrong. We came to know she could have died.

    I love healthy things but have come to know, too much of a good thing, can turn very bad.

    Sincerely and with love

    Kristina

  21. Diana,

    I have tried many of the natural deodorants and there is one that is my favorite. It is called La Vanilla. You can get it at sephora. Also I read somewhere that the deodorant stick or rock? has alum salts in it and said you should stay away because it has alluminum. Havent researched that so dont know for sure… It never worked for me anyway, I still smelled with it.

  22. Hi Robyn and followers. I have not ventured to comment until now, however a few comments have recently caught my eye. I am currently an Aromatherapist and work with technology that utilizes both Eastern and Western medicine to balance the meridians of the body. I was an Exercise Coach/Instructor for years. I enjoy the extensive research you do for your readers, Robyn.

    Diana: I also use a crystal mineral stick for deodorant. I run and bike and use an infra red sauna (good for healing at lower temps, although I crank it up to about 120 degrees-some like it hot and can tolorate it, but work up to it slowly). The mineral crystal/stick works best if applied to clean skin. It will prevent bacteria from growing, however, if applied to already sweaty skin it will not eliminate odor already present. An alternative to that is pure theraputic (unadulterated) Essential Oils (Copals) such as Clary Sage, Cypress, Patchouli, Lime, or Lemongrass (which helps with excessive perspiration). Just be sure you always dilute them in a good carrier oil such as Olive, filtered Almond or Fractionated Coconut Oils. Theraputic Oils will also help with issues mentioned such as; lymphatic drainage, water retention, memory, infection, kills bacteria and odors, also regenerates connective tissue, assist with acne or skin disease and more. *Note/caution: some oils are naturally phototoxic (meaning: cannot wear them on skin exposed to direct sunlight) and if you are pregnant, do not use any oils without professional advice.

    Maryelsa: Rebounding is one of the best things one can do for a sluggish lymphatic system. You don’t even have to “jump” and make your feet leave the surface of your rebounder, which is why I recommend it to the elderly (they can sit on it) or sedentary when starting out, as rigorous can initially cause headaches and dizziness. For anyone feeling unsteady, install a bar for support. It is a great alternative to those who cannot tolerate high impact. For folks just starting out, only do a couple minutes and work up from there.

    Lala and Wende: My sincere thoughts of love and support to both of you and your families. Your loved ones now enjoy their full memory and more. They will even remember the loving comments and tender mercies while they had the disease.

    Brandon: (Maybe you have previously mentioned this in earlier posts, Robyn… ) A good quality liquid Ionic Mineral supplement will detox anyone from heavy metals. Especially those tranisitioning to a whole raw foods diet and still have a lot of toxic waste to clear out. Unless you grow your own or buy reputalble organic, regular grocery produce will not supply the minerals needed and that I am sure Robyn has mentioned! =]

  23. Bosch centers sell wheat-white & red. I don’t know if best price. But call first, cause sometimes they are out.

    *Deodorant….I use doTerra’s Purify blend. I mix 2-3 drops of the essential oil blend to 4 oz. Unscented talic powder & 2 oz. Baking soda. I place mix in a little container with lid. Melaleuca oil diluted with frac. Coconut oil works good too. Apply underarms. I even shake some in my kids shoes 🙂

  24. Hi Robyn,

    Are you still using Agave Nectar or are you now using the Coconut Palm Sugar exclusively? Also, I love that you are using Chia Seeds as well. Have you had any luck substituting those soaked in water for replacing any oils in recipes, not just eggs?

    1. I don’t use Xylitol, which is highly processed, but I think it’s preferable to a lot of things, including Splenda and other chemical sweeteners.

  25. Hi Robyn,

    I Have been doing your 12 step program for a liitle while now, and I absolutely love it! So do my boys 3 and 12. Although, I was wondering if you could tell me what kind of flour would work best in place of wheat flour in your recipes?Because have celiac disease unfortunately wheat is one of the things I cant have.

    1. Kristan, you can substitute any kind of flour–recipes will be “flatter” with breads or baked items that we expect to be “fluffy” when you use a gluten-free flour, but generally they do work!

  26. I started doing green smoothies consistently in mid-December and have also made other healthy changes to my already fairly healthy diet thanks to your website (sucanat, coconut oil, etc). This is kind of embarrassing, but I’m wondering if it’s normal to have a lot of gas when making these changes. My husband hasn’t noticed any change. Will my body adjust?

    1. Ann, yes, pretty normal–a very common detox reaction. You’re new, still, to these changes…..that said, it’s also a symptom of food sensitivities, esp. a gluten (or dairy) intolerance. But if you’re saying you DIDN’T have those symptoms before, and now do, it’s likely just your gut struggling to clean up, using the newly higher quantities of fiber and peristalsis-stimulating nutrients.

  27. Hey everyone came accross this by accident. I am a Massage Therapist and it is important that we “smell” good when working working with clients. I am in the beginning stages of green smothies and 12 step so my body does not smell great right now. Anyway, I use hand sanitizer after every client I work on and one day I had too much in my hand so I just rubbed in under each arm, the smell went away instantly and I was able to work on the next client with confidence. I use it every day now instead of deordant, the change in body order in imediate. It is amazing, try it and see for yourself.

  28. Hi Robyn, my son is glueten free…what type of flour can I use for breads etc. for him? I have read in several different places that even spelt bread is not acceptable with glueten issues!

  29. Robyn, I feel silly asking you this but I just went to order the coconut sugar you have recommended on your site and it says that it is boiled…I thought boinling destroys nutritional value? Can you give me some insight. Thanks

  30. Katrina and Kristan, for wheat substitutes, I use a mixture of brown rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato starch. The proportions are 2 cups rice flour, 2/3 cup potato starch, and 1/3 cup tapioca starch. I’m sure the starch has a high glycemic index, so you could lower this proportion. The fineness of the starch balances out the graininess of the rice flour. Other flours that you can use are sorghum, buckwheat, garbanzo, quinoa, and millet. Some of these have strong flavors, so you would want to mix them in with rice flour. To make your baked goods lighter and fluffier, add 50% more baking powder (if the recipe calls for 1 tsp., add 1 1/2 tsp.) Also, if the recipe calls for 2 eggs, add 3. Also add 1/2 to 1 tsp. xanthan gum per cup flour, depending on what you’re baking. When I follow these rules, no one notices that my baked goods are gluten free!

  31. Hi Robin

    I thought I might comment on the ‘Raw’ Sugar and ‘Raw’ Agava since I had the same question and spent quite some time researching the subject.

    It turns out they are all boiled to some degree to release the syrup from the fibers. Agave is one of the longer ones but is still low glycemic which works well for me. Unless you are talking about chewing on a stick of green raw sugar cane in the cane form, which believe me is not very sweet and desirable there is very little to choose from.

    What I learned was that these companies get away with their false advertizing by naming their companies The Raw Sugar Company or some other such thing. There is very little raw crystilan sugar.

    There is honey and wild maple syrup and even with that, you have to research, as much of it has been heated ‘pasturized’ and strained or processed to various degrees. Also most brown sugars are thicker crystal white sugars that just have brown caramel coloring added or the more healthy ones have some of the molasses restored. Great. Welcome to corporate American greed.

    There are a couple of types of Palm sugar but most have been mixed with white sugar to make them tasty and sell well and fill the huge market. True palm sugar drips from the honey nectar of the flowers and with the high demand for healthier sugar they are very expensive and is in very short supply. Good luck on getting the true thing.

    In our search for the sweet taste we get ourselves in a lot of trouble!

    Sincerely and with love

    Kristina

  32. I’m a little confused about the wheat flour. You wrote:

    What you see on recipe labels as “wheat flour” is actually a toxic, nutrition-less white gluey mess. It’s the grain with the germ (vitamins) and bran (fiber) removed).

    Did you mean that the recipe labels have “white” flour on them instead?

    1. Susan, food labels never say “white flour.” They say “wheat flour” or “enriched wheat flour”–which is white (no germ, no bran). Only “whole wheat flour” is unrefined.

  33. All you ladies with thyroid problems need to read Dr. Brownstein’s book

    “Iodine: Why you need it, and why you can’t live without it”

  34. I am interested in learning more about the bio-identical hormone you take. I do not live near you, so how would I go about finding a doctor who would prescribe this?

    Also concerning kale and hypothyroid, it may be an individual reaction. When I started using it with the spinach in my smoothies, my levels actually got better, not worse.

    1. Heather, look for clinics run by nurse practitioners specializing in bioidentical. There are several here locally. Me too–greens HELP my hypothyroid. This is why I get so frustrated by this internet-spread idea that somehow greens are bad for people with low thyroid. On the contrary, they underpin thyroid function in many ways. People will low-functioning or malfunctioning endocrine systems are in desperate need of nutrition and it’s tragic that someone has spread the rumor so far and wide that these folks need to eliminate all the most powerful foods.

    1. Lisa, sounds like Tropical Traditions is frustrated with the supply problem with coconuts. However, it’s a good product, I trust the market system to adjust and create more supply over time, and this is a positive thing for tropical third-world countries.

  35. Speaking of iodine, does anyone know of a good sea salt with iodine added. Any ideas of other sources of iodine?

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