Healthy Baking With Kids
Home-baked goods are awesome. Home-baked goods that are good for you are even better. Try these kid-friendly recipes to bake together.
My son is on summer vacation, and our home smells like a bakery. He’s almost 15 and we’ve been baking together for years, so these days he doesn’t need much supervision from me. That kid loves to bake. I might be worried about a sugar-and-fat overload, but I’ve taught him some tips for healthy baking that help keep things in the realm of good-for-you:
Use healthy fats. Rather than butter, butter, and more butter, which adds tons of unhealthy saturated fat, we often bake with oil. Or we replace part of the butter with ingredients like low-fat plain Greek yogurt, avocado, and fruit purees.
Sweeten with less sugar. The FDA recently added a count for “added sugars” to the nutrition facts label. That includes any sugars that don’t occur naturally in the food you’re eating — most of us consume far more sugar than we need each day. We use ripe bananas, applesauce, and other naturally sweet ingredients to replace some of the sugar in baking recipes.
Sneak in more nutrients. I don’t really sneak things in. My kid is super-picky, but I never hide healthy ingredients from him, since he’ll probably never come around to eating things like vegetables if he doesn’t understand that he already has eaten them. Whole grains, plain yogurt, fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-dense ingredients help make kid-friendly healthy baking recipes that taste great.
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Healthy fruit-based treats
If you’re wondering, “What are some healthy recipes I can bake with kids?” start here. Using fruit in baked goods adds natural sweetness so you need less sugar, and sometimes it can replace part of the oil or butter, too. Each of these easy recipes stars at least one type of fruit.
This is exactly the kind of cake I like to keep on hand: Moist, full of flavor, and more nutritious than it looks. A generous two cups of unsweetened applesauce goes into this Bundt cake along with a little honey, a little oil, and whole-grain brown rice flour. Use a blender for the wet ingredients — when my son was little, he loved pushing those buttons.
Pizza is like a magic word in my home. My son loves to make it almost as much as he loves to eat it. And while my picky eater won’t eat many things, he does love fruit. So a “pizza” with a whole-grain cookie crust, a lightly sweetened shmear of Greek yogurt and light cream cheese, and so. much. fruit just can’t lose.
I don’t have to tell you that super-ripe bananas are extra sweet, right? Add in some applesauce (which can act as a fat replacement), and you’ve got both your sugar and your fat needs covered in this quick bread — it calls for no oil at all. Whole-wheat flour boosts the fiber. Children can help measure, use the mixer, stir, and pour the batter into a loaf pan.
These bars are nearly equal parts blueberry and whole-grain batter. With just 1/3 cup of honey and 1/4 cup of coconut oil in 12 portions, nutritionally they’re pretty awesome — and of course, they taste great, too. I love that you can make this without breaking out the mixer. That means it’s perfect for young pastry chefs, who can do everything on their own until it reaches the oven.
Nutritious no-bake baking recipes
In the dog days of summer, we may not want to turn on the oven, but that doesn’t mean my son and I don’t enjoy “baking” together. Check out these cakes, cookies, snack bars, and more you can make without heating up the kitchen. With a nice long spell in the fridge, they may take a little longer than your usual treat, but they’re so worth it.
Just seven ingredients go into this pretty treat. Crushed graham crackers provide the base for a cheesecake made with cream cheese (use reduced-fat if you like) and plain Greek yogurt, lightly sweetened with a little powdered sugar and made tartly fruity with frozen raspberries. Have the kids take turns using the mixer, to make the cream cheese nice and fluffy.
OK, these yummy squares use a little heat, but that’s just to melt the almond butter, honey, and coconut oil together. Your kids can do that in the microwave! Then you stir in some coconut, oats, and cocoa powder, and have the little ones spread the mixture into a baking dish. Chill, slice, and serve. So good.
What, a cookie that doesn’t need oven time? That’s right. This healthy cookie recipe for kids also uses a little heat to melt the liquid ingredients together, but it just takes a minute. Little hands can help measure and fold in the oats — and they can definitely help form the chocolate-topped cookies.
Veggie desserts (seriously)
My kid basically won’t touch a vegetable. His one exception: When the vegetable in question is baked into something sweet. Each of these healthy baking recipes for kids not only includes a nutritious veggie, it also uses good-for-you touchstones like whole grains, healthy fats, and minimal sugar.
Moist and flavorful, this easy cake recipe (no mixer required) uses grated zucchini and carrots, with pineapple and a bit of honey for sweetness. Whole-wheat flour adds a nutritional boost, too. To keep the zucchini’s water content from overwhelming the batter, you’ll need to wring it out in a dish towel first — a perfect job for school-aged kids.
In theory, carrot cake seems healthy. But usually it’s loaded with sugar and white flour — and then there’s that decadent cream cheese frosting. I love that this chewy cookie keeps the carrots and spices but ups the nutrition elsewhere: whole grains (flour and rolled oats), just 1/2 cup of brown sugar (plus a little powdered sugar for the optional glaze), and only 1/4 cup of coconut oil. This is another no-mixer-required, healthy recipe, so kids can bake it with relatively little supervision.
Creamy avocado is full of healthy fat, so it’s a great swap for part of the butter in these cookies. (Mashing it up is a fun job for a little kid.) And the flavor is so mild, my son can’t tell the difference. He just knows they’re chocolate-chocolate chip cookies, and there’s very little that can top that in his lunchbox.
Pureed beets give these chocolate cupcakes a natural red shade while also boosting the fiber and keeping them moist — meaning no frosting is required. Buy ready-roasted beets to save some time and mess.
100% whole-grain baking recipes
Most kids (and their parents) don’t get enough fiber in their diets. Fruits and vegetables provide it, and so do whole grains. Pro tip: I find that in most sweet treats, I can swap in whole-wheat pastry flour for 100% of the all-purpose and things work out just fine.
I’ve been baking bread with my son since he was small — kneading dough is such a perfect, tactile thing for kids to do. Here, you’re using both white whole-wheat flour and whatever other whole grain you have around (I really like the graininess of cornmeal). With that lightly sweet cinnamon swirl, a nice thick slice makes a yummy breakfast.
Speaking of breakfast… Whole-wheat flour and spices meet plain yogurt, apple cider, and applesauce plus diced apples. Moist and deeply apple-y, these healthy muffins are a perfect grab-and-go way to start the day. And boy, did my son love portioning out muffin batter when he was younger. Still does, come to think of it.
I’m a sucker for a jam-packed cookie. This one has two kinds of whole grains — whole-wheat flour and oats — as well as banana, peanut butter, chocolate chips, yogurt, walnuts, and coconut. All your kids need to make these are some measuring utensils, two bowls, and a whisk.
I have to warn you: Once your kids learn they can have freshly made, double-chocolate donuts in under 20 minutes, they may want to bake these every day. But even if they do, whole-wheat flour, milk (you can use dairy-free milk, too), unsweetened cocoa, and a lighter touch on the sugar make them a perfect after-school snack.
Unleash your kids in the kitchen
Summer is the perfect time to get your kids cooking. Here are plenty more ideas to inspire them.