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As a mother of two young children (both under 5 years of age), who can be a bit finicky at times, I am constantly trying to get them to eat better. Here are a few tips for making whatever you’re cooking healthier.

1. Substitute whole-grain flour for all-purpose flour whenever appropriate.
Most recipes call for all-purpose flour, which offers next to nothing in nutrients, fiber, protein, etc. Whether you’re making pancakes, muffins or pies, it is easy to substitute whole-grain flours for your basic flour. If you want to ease into it, just substitute half of what the recipe calls for. I specifically mention “whole-grain” as opposed to “whole wheat.” Many people think whole wheat flour is the only all-purpose flour substitute. It is, in fact, my least favorite. It tends to make most baked goods heavy and sometimes “tacky.” Instead, try whole-grain barley or spelt flour. Both are lighter texture. If you are making something cake-like, try substituting oat flour.*

2. Reduce sugar by at least 25 percent.
I have yet to make a dish in which people could notice I used 25 percent less sugar than the recipe called for. I recently reduced the amount of sugar in my pumpkin pie by 50 percent and my mother noticed. That said, my husband and kids still loved it.

3. Try substituting agave syrup for sugar where appropriate.
Agave syrup is relatively new and somewhat controversial among foodies. It is much healthier than regular granulated sugar as it registers low on the glycemic index (i.e., your body doesn’t get the usual sugar spike). However, many people can notice a subtle taste difference, so you will want to experiment with where and when to use it.

4. “Sneak” in vegetables whenever possible.
Examples include adding vegetables, such as zucchini and carrots to a tomato-based pasta sauce that gets blended anyway, or making zucchini and pumpkin muffins.*

5. Consider making your own yogurt and granola.
It’s easy to do and you can really control the amount of fat and sugar that’s included.*

*Recipes to follow in a future blog.

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