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We all know why we loved baked goods so much — that warming dose of spices, soft dough, and, of course, that sweet sugar — but it’s oftentimes even more pleasurable to bake your goodies for either yourself or someone else.

There’s just something about baking that makes us feel good.

It’s not just in your head!

Turns out that there is some science to back up that feel good, anxiety-reducing, stress alleviating perk that comes from baking. There’s even a form of therapy referred to as Culinary Art Therapy (CAT). It’s not widely recognized or relied upon — how many wellness trends truly are though? — but science has something to about it.

A study published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine in February of 2017 discovered that using a “combination of CBT [cognitive behavioral therapy] and culinary therapy to help people in hospice with their grieving process” actually resulted in very positive outcomes “suggesting that culinary therapy could help prevent and limit complications that come with grief.”

Therefore, it stands to reason that baking is not just a way to appease your stomach and fill that sugar void, but it may help some of us therapeutically work through the grief, loneliness, anxiety, and stress of the pandemic situation.

With that said, eating copious amounts of sugary treats has its health downsides such as increased bodily inflammation, unwanted weight gain, increase incidence of heartburn or acid reflux, and negative effects on our blood sugar, just to mention a few.

So, where’s the balance?

Opt for healthy baking options most of the time. Yes, it’s okay to splurge every once in a while! But, for most of your shelter-in-place baking adventures, try choosing naturally sweet ingredients such as sweet potatoes, carrots, low glycemic berries, Medjool dates, figs, or plant-based sweeteners such as monk fruit or stevia.

Plant-based foods that are naturally sweet do have sugar — yes, this is true — but this sugar is wrapped and packaged with dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals that slow its absorption in the body, meaning these foods have a less dramatic and healthier effect on your blood glucose (blood sugar).

You get to enjoy your favorite baked goods without the nasty highs and crashes that come from processed sugars!

We also highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App  — with over 20,000 delicious recipes it is the largest plant-based recipe resource to help you get healthy! And, don’t forget to check out our Whole Foods Archives!

1. Blueberry Pie Ice CreamBlueberry Pie Ice Cream

Source: Blueberry Pie Ice Cream

This Blueberry Pie Ice Cream recipe by Emma D’Alessandro is the perfect example of healthy alternative usage! D’Alessandro swaps sugar for naturally sweet ingredients such as blueberries, Medjool dates, lemon juice, cinnamon, and vanilla bean paste. Add in a few super creamy additions such as cashews and coconut oil and you’ve got a sweet treat brimming with vitamins and minerals!

2. Raw Hot Fudge Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream CakesRaw Hot Fudge Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream Cakes

Source: Raw Hot Fudge Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream Cakes

This is a true slam-dunk when it comes to a low-sugar, super decadent treat! This Raw Hot Fudge Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream Cakes recipe by Medha Swaminathan is incredibly rich with an assortment of healthy fat ingredients including raw peanuts, peanut butter, and coconut oil, yet is naturally sweetened with dates, bananas, and cacao!   

3. 4-Ingredient Paleo Coconut Shortbread4-Ingredient Paleo Coconut Shortbread

Source: 4-Ingredient Paleo Coconut Shortbread

This 4-Ingredient Paleo Coconut Shortbread recipe by Aileen Metcalf is incredibly simple with only five ingredients and is super low in sugar. This shortbread is naturally sweetened with a bit of maple syrup and decadent vanilla-infused bourbon!

4. Raspberry and Chocolate MacaroonsRaspberry and Chocolate Macaroons

Source: Raspberry and Chocolate Macaroons

This Raspberry and Chocolate Macaroons recipe by Buffy-Ellen Gill is a great beginner macaroon recipe! Super easy — only four steps! — and super low in sugar, it’ll be a go-to baking recipe for many years to come. To truly make this a low-sugar macaroon, opt for coconut nectar or maple syrup over brown rice syrup.

5. Black Bean, Quinoa, and Walnut LoafBlack Bean, Quinoa, and Walnut Loaf

Source: Black Bean, Quinoa, and Walnut Loaf

This Black Bean, Quinoa, and Walnut Loaf recipe by Julie Zimmer is a great way to satisfy any savory baking desires you seek during shelter-in-place. Loaded with nutrient-dense ingredients such as black beans, quinoa, walnuts, chia seeds, and mushrooms (or zucchini!), this bread has zero added sugars.

6. Sugar-Free Banana BreadSugar-Free Banana Bread

Source: Sugar-Free Banana Bread

Store-bought banana bread is generally one of those baked goods loaded with refined sugar. Yet, this is somewhat of a quandary because bananas are already super sweet naturally! So, what’s up with all that sugar? Enter this Sugar-Free Banana Bread recipe by Melanie Kropfl! Instead of refined sugar, Kropfl relies on the natural delicacy of bananas, dates and date syrup (or date paste), and cacao. Plus, it’s rich in nutritious alternatives such as oat and wheat flour!

7. Homemade Chocolate ChipsHomemade Chocolate Chips

Source: Homemade Chocolate Chips

One of the best ways to make any recipe low-sugar and healthy is to make sure the basics in your pantry are already healthier options! Swap out refined white cane sugar for coconut sugar, maple syrup, or monk fruit sweetener. Switch refined white flour for oat, coconut, or almond flour. Choose nut butter or vegan butter over cow’s milk butter. And make your chocolate chips with this Homemade Chocolate Chips recipe by Joyce Gan!

8. Yogi Date BallsYogi Date Balls

Source: Yogi Date Balls

When you’re looking for a simple, sweet, semi-baking recipe that hits all the marks — low sugar, great for kids, vegan, and allergen-friendly — these Yogi Date Balls by Jesse Lane Lee are perfect! They are naturally sweetened with high-fiber dates and healthy fat-filled coconut flakes, while also receiving a boost of nutrients from almonds, sunflower and sesame seeds, and oats!

9. Creamy Pumpkin-Coconut PieCreamy Pumpkin-Coconut Pie

Source: Creamy Pumpkin-Coconut Pie

Think you can’t have your healthy pie and eat it too? Luckily, Annie Oliverio has solved that problem with this Creamy Pumpkin-Coconut Pie recipe! Naturally sweetened with coconut flakes, crystallized ginger, raw cashews, pumpkin puree, coconut butter, cinnamon, and liquid stevia, this recipe also relies on some superfoods such as maca powder!

10. Savory Apple and Potato PancakesSavory Apple and Potato Pancakes

Source: Savory Apple and Potato Pancakes

Not all baking has to be dipped in icing and loaded with chocolate (even though those are some of the best recipes!) This Savory Apple and Potato Pancakes recipe by Maya Sozer is a great way to stretch your beginner baking skills without loading up on decadent creations. Super filling thanks to the potatoes, these pancakes are also loaded with dietary fiber from apples and flax to get your digestive system revving in the morning!

11. Healthier Peanut Butter and Jelly Baked DoughnutsHealthier Peanut Butter and Jelly Baked Doughnuts

Source: Healthier Peanut Butter and Jelly Baked Doughnuts

There are hundreds of “healthy” doughnut recipes out there, yet this one truly captures the essence of the true doughnut without all that added refined sugar. This Healthier Peanut Butter and Jelly Baked Doughnuts recipe by Ciarra Siller uses a combination of stevia, unsweetened applesauce, and your choice of confectioner’s sugar replacement (coconut sugar is one of the better options!) to induce that sweet coma we all enjoy when it comes to a truly good doughnut!

12. Peanut Butter and Jelly CupsPeanut Butter and Jelly Cups

Source: Peanut Butter and Jelly Cups

If you want a great kid-friendly low-sugar snack to have on hand, give these Peanut Butter and Jelly Cups by Leah Moldowan a try! They only have five simple ingredients and are naturally sweetened with liquid stevia!

13. Sugar-Free Puffed Quinoa and Cacao Nib Chocolate BarsSugar-Free Puffed Quinoa and Cacao Nib Chocolate Bars

Source: Sugar-Free Puffed Quinoa and Cacao Nib Chocolate Bars

This Sugar-Free Puffed Quinoa and Cacao Nib Chocolate Bars recipe by Annie Oliverio is a great substitute if you’re craving a good old-fashioned candy bar! They’ve got that wonderfully satisfying crunch from superfood quinoa and are enriched with body-boosting cacao nibs, cacao powder, and coconut oil!  

14. Spicy Black Bean OnigiriSpicy Black Bean Onigiri

Source: Spicy Black Bean Onigiri

Maybe you’re looking for a recipe that bridges that gap between a little savory and a little sweet? Give this super unique Spicy Black Bean Onigiri recipe by Anarki “AJ” Tjon Affo a try! With a savory base of rice, black beans, and garam masala, it’s very slightly naturally sweetened with peanut butter and sweet yellow onion.

15. Sugar-Free Dark Chocolate and Blackberry Cake With Saffron FrostingSugar-Free Dark Chocolate and Blackberry Cake With Saffron Frosting

Source: Sugar-Free Dark Chocolate and Blackberry Cake With Saffron Frosting

I like to refer to this one as the “going fully decadent and almost fully sugar-less”! This Sugar-Free Dark Chocolate and Blackberry Cake With Saffron Frosting recipe by Sirke Reivo is a beautiful and tasty masterpiece that fully utilizes plant-based natural sweeteners such as bananas, blackberries, cacao, and coconut-based ingredients including coconut cream, oil, and sugar.  

Learn How to Cook Plant-Based Meals at Home!Chocolate mug cake

Reducing your meat intake and eating more plant-based foods is known to help with chronic inflammationheart healthmental wellbeingfitness goalsnutritional needsallergiesgut health, and more! Dairy consumption also has been linked to many health problems, including acnehormonal imbalancecancerprostate cancer and has many side effects.

For those of you interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest plant-based recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.

Here are some great resources to get you started:

Easy Ways to Help the Planet:

  • Eat Less Meat: Download Food Monster, the largest plant-based Recipe app on the App Store, to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy. You can also buy a hard or soft copy of our favorite vegan cookbooks.
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