Nutrition Corner: Guidelines for making healthy tasty muffins

Nutrition Corner - Mary Ehret

The other day I bought oat bran. It was one of those days I wanted to try something new. I do like to make muffins and am always changing recipes to boost the nutrition value of the muffin. Learning how to add whole grains, fiber, reduce sugar and salt requires a little chemistry knowledge. Following researched baking guidelines ensures that you come out with a tasty muffin that all will like.

Oat bran is just that, the part of the whole grain — bran. It does not contain the germ or the endosperm of the grain. Oatmeal is a whole grain; whereas, oat bran is just the bran part of the grain. Is one better than the other? Replacing ¼ cup of flour with oat bran gives a bit more fiber, but oatmeal is a whole grain.

There are a few ways to add fiber to a muffin recipe. Oat bran, oatmeal or 100% bran cereal can replace up to ¼ of all- purpose flour. The oats will give a hearty, chewy texture. Be careful to keep the oats and bran in this proportion to flour.

To add whole grains to the muffin recipe, use whole grain flour and or oatmeal. Substitute regular whole-wheat flour for ¼ to ½ of the all-purpose flour. However, if you use whole-wheat pastry flour, it will have a lighter, finer texture, which makes it perfect for baked goods. This flour uses soft wheat berries. If you use oatmeal, you can only substitute ¼ of the flour.

Fats give the muffin a moist, tender crumb. The more fat you remove from a recipe, the tougher the muffin becomes. Butter, oil, margarine and shortening are examples of fat used in recipes. A good rule of thumb is to replace no more than 1/3 of the original fat in a recipe.

For cakes and quick breads, you should have 2 tablespoons of fat for every 1 cup of flour. Consider using olive or canola oil in a recipe that calls for margarine. You can also substitute half of the oil with applesauce or pureed bananas.

Salt is easy to reduce in a recipe as long as it does not use yeast. Do not eliminate salt in recipes that use yeast because it helps to control the fermentation of the yeast. If the recipe does not use yeast, then you can safely omit the salt.

Finally, yet importantly, sugar. Sugar affects the texture, color and flavor of muffins. For quick breads and muffins, use a minimum of 1 tablespoon of sugar for every 1 cup of flour. In cookies and cakes, use ½-cup sugar for every 1 cup of flours. To help the flavor, add extra vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg or other flavoring.

Here is a low fat, low sugar, whole grain recipe. Challenge yourself to alter your favorite muffin or quick bread recipe using the guidelines above! Enjoy!

Carrot Oatmeal Muffins

1 cup skim buttermilk

1 cup dry oatmeal

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg or ¼ egg substitute

1 cup finely grated carrots

1/2 cup raisins

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt

1/2 cup oat bran, dry

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix buttermilk and oatmeal. Let stand until liquid is absorbed. Add sugar, egg, carrots, raisins, cinnamon, applesauce and yogurt. Mix well. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Spray muffin tins with nonfat cooking spray and fill. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Yield: 12 muffins

If you do not have buttermilk on hand, place one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar in a one-cup measure. Add milk to measure one cup.

Nutrition Corner

Mary Ehret