Family friendly recipes and real life adventures by a mom/nutritionist

Better For You Brownies and other healthy bake sale ideas

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a potluck dinner with 40 other holistic nutritionists.  It was a kale and quinoa delight for the senses, a whole foods smorgasbord!  And the next morning I found myself in what seemed like the opposite end of the universe:  the annual school bake sale, where I also had the privilege of volunteering.  It really was odd to transition from one world to the other, I had a good laugh over it!

When I was looking for healthy bake sale ideas a friend of mine pointed out that “healthy” and “bake sale” do not belong in the same sentence, but ever the optimist I believe that is not necessarily true.  In the spirit of achieving a healthier “bake sale” here are some great ideas that I noted at the sale itself and some helpful tips on how to make the classics a little healthier:

1.  Popcorn:  no, not baked but either hot air popped or made with oil on the stovetop, lightly sea-salted and placed in brown paper bags.  This was one of the most popular items at the sale – what a great and simple idea – kudos to the parents that thought of popcorn!

2.  Date squares:  dates are naturally sweet and don’t require additional sugar to make this a delicious and healthy treat.  They are high in antioxidants and potassium and also contain choline, which is a bonus for the brain.  Make them with whole grain oats and flour, and real butter (take a pass on the margarine) and you’ve got a bake sale treat that I would line up for.

3.  Cookies:  nothing beats homemade when it comes to cookies.  To makeover your favourite recipe, start by substituting whole grain flour and healthier sweeteners for the refined stuff.  And while you’re at it, why not remove some of the sugar altogether?  When I’m playing around with a baked goods recipe I always start by removing anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 of the sweetener.  I noticed today that the classic chocolate chip cookie still has the hearts of many children.  You can switch to dark chocolate chips and even add some ground flax or chia seeds to the recipe, the children will benefit from the omega fats and fibre.  Try something a little different and serve up some coconut chocolate chip cookies!

4.  Crispy rice squares:  there are so many wonderful recipes out there these days that use whole food ingredients, you only need to search.  Hey, would you look at that,  I just happen have one right here on my website.  Why not try it with puffed quinoa for some extra protein?

5.  Cupcakes:  Do you love them?  Most kids seem to!  I will admit, I am not a big fan, I usually find them too sweet – but I do see their kid appeal.  How can a cupcake be healthy?  The same rules apply as to other baked goods – less sugar, healthier sweeteners, use whole grains, real eggs and butter.  You can always cut down on the fat in a recipe by substituting pureed fruit for a portion of the fat (apple sauce and pureed prunes work well, but do experiment!).  My absolute favourite recipe for cupcakes is made with cooked millet and orange juice.  It’s from a cookbook called Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair (I absolutely LOVE this book and highly recommend it).  Check out her wonderful Yellow Birthday Cake recipe along with her Yummy Yam Frosting (instead of baking in a cake pan, just pour the batter into lined muffin tins to make cupcakes).

6.  Brownies:  Certainly a bake sale classic and I know I don’t have to tell you that chocolate is good for us!  This brings me to my recipe for today.  These bite-sized Better for You Brownies bake up lighter than a regular brownie, but are every bit as flavourful.  I decorated each one with a Smartie (I know, I know, but you need something to stand out at a bake sale right?) normally I make them without any decoration or add some chopped walnuts to the batter if they aren’t being taken to school.  Make them however you like, but definitely make them next time you’re baking for a sale, a potluck, a picnic or are just looking for a chocolately treat!


1/3 cup unsweetened, fair trade, cocoa powder
1/2 cup whole grain flour – such as spelt
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
3/4 cup sucanat (or other whole cane sugar)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg
1 tablespoon ground flax-seed mixed into 2 tablespoons of water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)
18 Smarties (optional)


Preheat oven to 325F.

Butter or oil a mini muffin pan (usually these hold 24 mini muffins – this recipe makes 18 and doubles nicely to make 36).

Blend together sucanat, apple sauce, butter, egg, flax mixture and vanilla.

In a separate bowl sift and combine dry ingredients.

Mix wet and dry ingredients together slowly until just blended.  Stir in optional nuts if using.

Spoon batter into prepared mini-muffin pan.  Gently top each brownie with a Smartie, if using.

Bake in oven for 15 minutes or until edges are dry to the touch (do not over-bake or brownies will be too dry).

Let cool 5 minutes in pan before gently removing to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, while quantities last!

The possibilities for bringing a bit of “healthy” to a bake sale are really endless.  Puddings, fruit crisps, quick-breads – there’s no reason why these yummy bake sale treats have to be made without using whole food ingredients.  All it takes is some determination, imagination and a sense of humour for those times when it just doesn’t work out!

While our bake sale for the year is over, maybe it’s not too late for yours…

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