Over the weekend my baby girl turned 1. I can’t believe a year has passed already, and while I initially didn’t see the point of 1st birthday parties (they don’t even know there’s a party for them) after the ups and downs and memories of an entire year with her, I found myself getting caught up in the idea.
So we ended up throwing (what turned out to be) an amazing Harry Potter themed 1st birthday party that was, yes, mostly for mom. And I loved it! Stay tuned for a future blog post on how we managed to steer clear of most of the beloved birthday food in favour of some healthier options.
But this week I want to talk about her birthday cake.
She has eaten pretty darn good for the 1st year of her life; tons of fruit, vegetables, grass-fed meat, liver, and free-range eggs. We’ve managed to avoid things that come in a package, white flour and sugar for the most part. But who doesn’t want to see their little munchkin dive into a cake and get all kinds of messy at their birthday party?! We sure didn’t want to miss out on that, so I went searching for some healthy and delicious cake alternatives.
Off I went to trusty old Google and typed in “sugarless first birthday cakes.” I figured that there were bound to be quite a few moms like me, looking to make a healthy version for their babies. Now before I get to the bad stuff, I want to tell you that I did find plenty of good recipes with ingredients that I have no trouble feeding a little one. But I also found lot’s of “not-so-good” ones, and I wanted to make sure I wrote about it so no one gets fooled by the sugar-free titles.
Is sugar-free really sugar-free?
What I found when I typed in sugar-less or sugar-free, was a lot of recipes that had a ton of sugar in them, but no refined white sugar. So they threw sugar-free and healthy into the title and then added a ton of natural sugar to the recipe! I found one that had a cup of maple syrup, another with 1 ⅓ cups maple syrup, and one with 1 ½ cups agave nectar. To be clear, these things may be natural sweeteners, but they ARE STILL SUGAR! Maple syrup is mainly sucrose, agave nectar is mainly fructose, and honey is mainly fructose and glucose. All just different forms of sugar.
It made me sad to think that moms and dads might be wanting to explore healthier options for their little ones, but unknowingly end up feeding them unhealthy stuff. So if you’re looking for healthy, truly sugar-free baking options, look for things sweetened with fruit. Unsweetened applesauce, dates, bananas, etc. NOT fruit syrup, which is just the sugar extracted from the fruit.
Now if you’re looking to replace refined white sugar with the understanding that you are not necessarily decreasing your sugar intake, then absolutely explore natural sweeteners. They often have many trace nutrients, minerals, and health benefits. Honey and maple syrup both contain trace amounts of minerals and vitamins, as well as antioxidants. Agave nectar appears to be processed so much that it doesn’t have any healthful properties left, but it does have a low glycemic index. This means your blood pressure doesn’t have the big spike it usually does when it consumes table sugar.
If you’re looking to decrease your sugar intake, replacing table sugar with natural sweeteners isn’t the way to go! But if you’re planning on eating sugar anyways, you might want to try some natural sweeteners so you can get a little bit of good along with the bad.
Now for the great recipe that I did manage to find! I adapted this recipe from https://www.feastingonfruit.com/the-best-healthy-chocolate-cupcakes/ and my baby girl loved it. And so did her dad and I!
Real Sugar-free (really!) Mint Chocolate Cupcakes
1 cup Medjool dates
1 cup Water
½ Cacao powder
1 cup oat flour (or rolled oats)
1 tbsp Baking Powder
¼ cup Milk
Pinch Himalayan salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp peppermint and mint extract
- Combine dates and water and allow to soak for 10 minutes
- Pre-heat oven to 350 ˚F
- Line cupcake tins with parchment liner (NOT paper, they will stick!) or lightly coat with oil
- If you don’t have oat flour, place 1 cup of rolled oats into a food processor and blend
- Pour date solution into blender and blend until smooth (I tried this in my food processor and got brown date water all over me and my kitchen..)
- Add date solution and all other ingredients to food processor and blend until just combined
- Fill 6 cupcake tine all the way to the top
- Bake for about 25 minutes
End result…Delicious AND healthy!
Check out our blog post next week to see how we made these delicious cupcakes even more fun for our babies 1st birthday! Hint: sugar-free icing, natural food colouring, and Harry Potter all come into play!
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