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Home baking and diabetes

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Since The Great British Bake Off hit our TV screens, it seems everyone has been rediscovering the pleasures of home baking.

Having diabetes doesn’t mean you have to miss out. In fact, home baking is ideal for people with diabetes. Unlike shop-bought baked products, which may contain lots of added sugar and unhealthy fats, you can make your baking healthier as you’re in charge of what goes into the mix.

Search for 'baking & desserts' in ourrecipe finderfor some healthier bakes you can try. All are nutritionally analysed so you'll have the precise calculations of carbs, fat and sugar to help with insulin management and weight control.

 

So, whether you're a confident baker or just starting out, why not have a go?

 

10 top tips and swaps for home baking

  1. Wholemeal flour is healthier than white and can help with gut and heart health. It's more filling than white, processed flour, so a smaller portion satisfies for longer. It works in most recipes, but if you find it a bit heavy for things like sponge cakes, try using a ratio of 30:70 or 50:50 wholemeal flour to plain flour.
  2. Mashed banana or puréed apple can be beaten with a little sugar and rapeseed oil to create a similar effect to creaming butter without the extra saturated fat from butter. It also adds natural sweetness. The key is to beat it well, which helps add air to the mixture. 
  3. Add fresh fruit – grated or finely chopped apples, pears, blueberries, blackberries, or chopped peaches and nectarines all add flavour and natural sweetness.

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  4. Add vegetables – finely grate and add to a cake mixture. Courgettes, carrots and beetroot work well and soften once cooked, adding moisture without overpowering flavour.
  5. Add porridge oats – reducing flour and replacing it with the same weight of oats also adds soluble fibre, which can help lower cholesterol, and help promote good blood glucose control.
  6. If you're short of time but love to bake, most cakes and breads can be frozen so make a big batch and freeze for another day. Make sure you wrap items in foil and label before putting into freezer bags.
  7. Use oil such as rapeseed or sunflower oil or lower-fat spread rather than butter. Olive oil is good, too, but has quite a strong flavour.
  8. Coconut oil has received lots of press recently, but it's high in saturated fat. There's no good quality research to back up many of the health claims. Eat it by all means, but treat as you would butter and use in moderation.
  9. Sweeten cakes with dried fruit rather than sugar. Dried fruit contains fibre and counts towards your five a day. Soak raisins, sultanas and currants in a little boiling water to plump them up and make them juicier, then use the water, too.
  10. There are many sweeteners such as agave nectar and syrups, not forgetting honey that are marketed as 'natural' and 'healthy'. The truth is, your body still processes these as sugar, so they count towards your 'free' or 'added' sugar intake. They are best avoided but if you have to use them, try to use in small quantities.

Baking Q&A

What can I use instead of butter in my cakes? I love baking but I’m not sure what to replace butter with.

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The healthiest and cheapest option is oil. Rapeseed oil is particularly good. It doesn't have a strong flavour and has a good mix of mono and polyunsaturated fats. Or you can replace butter with usaturated spread. There are specific baking fats too, but these contain more saturated fat than spreads, although usually less than butter. Spreads and butter have 50-80 per cent fat content, the rest usually being dairy or water. Oil is 100 per cent fat, so you don't need as much.

To make up the difference in quantity, you can add water or skimmed milk, low-fat yogurt, or a mashed banana. So, if a recipe calls for 100g butter, try substituting with 50g rapeseed oil and 50g mashed banana, or 50g of 0 per cent fat Greek-style yogurt. You'll need to experiment with each recipe, especially for light sponges.

For great oil-based recipes, try ourBlackberry and apple cakeorPear and almond tray bake.

Recipes for you to try:

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Blackberry and apple cake

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Pear and almond tray bake

Could you give me any ideas what to use instead of buttercream on my cupcakes?

Glacé icing is a lower-calorie alternative, but is really high in sugar. For a healthier frosting, use reduced-fat cream cheese as a base. To cover 12 cupcakes, dissolve 9 tsp sweetener in 2 tsp lemon juice and mix with 150g of reduced-fat cream cheese and 2 tbsp (15g) icing sugar. You could add grated orange or lemon zest to flavour.

I have Type 1 diabetes and have just been diagnosed with coeliac disease. Are there any bakes I can eat? 

There is a good range of gluten-free flours available in supermarkets, and ready-made gluten free pasta in some. Or try health food shops for a wider range. You’re no doubt aware that you’ll need to be very careful to read the label on baking products.

You can buy self-raising, gluten-free flour specifically designed for cakes. Use this in place of wheat flour in your recipes, but you’ll need to add a little more liquid, such as skimmed milk or water, or it will be too dry. Refer to the packaging on the product for more information.

I’m newly-diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and I love pizza, but it sends my blood glucose levels through the roof. Do you have any tips on how I could still enjoy a pizza?

When it comes to pizza and blood glucose levels, the main thing is the portion size. The base of the pizza is usually full of carbs, so try having smaller portions. Try adding more vegetables to the topping, too. 

Try our Spanish onion and anchovy pizza or the low-carb cauliflower pizza.

Recipes for you to try:

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Spanish onion and anchovy pizza

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Cauliflower pizza

My son has Type 1 diabetes, I’m getting really stuck for ideas of what to put in his lunchbox – can you help?

Schools vary on what is allowed in lunch boxes, but these wholesome fruit-based delights would fit the bill.

A slice ofQuick fruit breador anApple sultana rock cake– both are quick to make. They can be frozen and even if you pop them into a lunchbox still frozen, they'll be defrosted by lunchtime.

Chocolate brownies are my favourite, can I still have them?

Just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t have an occasional treat. Try to stop at one brownie – and eat with a portion of fruit, such as berries, to make it more filling and nutritious.

Try ourChocolate browniesmade with beetroot and sweetener, or you might like this easyFruity chocolate tray bake.

Recipes for you to try: 

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Apple and cinnamon cake

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Fruity chocolate tray bake

Can I use ‘artificial’ sweetener instead of sugar in recipes?

You can make some cakes using ‘artificial’ sweeteners, but you may need to adapt the recipes. Sugar not only sweetens cakes, it plays an important role in the science of bakery, improving the texture. So, ‘artificial’ sweeteners alone aren’t always suitable substitutes.  

To add to the confusion, all brands are different in terms of volume and strength of sweetness. Check the labels or look at the manufacturer’s website for baking recipes. Sweeteners are easy to use is in things like pie fillings, particularly for sweetening tart fruits such as cooking apples, rhubarb or gooseberries.

Try ourApple cinnamon cake– most of the sweetness comes naturally from apples but we’ve added sweetener to make it taste even nicer, without adding any calories.

7 reasons to give baking a go…

  1. You’re in charge of the ingredients – you can adapt recipes, for example using wholemeal flour to add fibre and you can manage the portion sizes by baking bite-sized treats.
  2. It can be cheaper, particularly items like bread, flapjacks, cakes, rock cakes and cookies. Basic ingredients don’t cost that much and last for a long time.
  3. You can experiment and make some recipes healthier by adding less sugar, fat and more  fruit. Swap cream for fromage frais or low-fat Greek yogurt or light crème fraiche. Add bananas, dried dates or stewed apples to provide sweetness instead of sugar. You can even use dried prunes instead of fat – simply replace 200g fat with 100g date puree.
  4. It’s fun and doesn’t need to be difficult. Why not try our recipe of the month? The really easy pear and almond try bake to start. Baking is great fun with children too.
  5. It’s tasty – there are no chemicals or additives, you’ll be using natural ingredients.
  6. You’ll be able to cook a variety of different cakes – many more than you can buy in the shops.
  7. It’s relaxing and often brings up nostalgic memories of childhood. 
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