Wednesday, September 24

Healthy Muffins That Taste Good. Really.

healthy muffins tin close up

The problem with "healthy" muffins is that they're usually bland, rubbery, or dry. I wanted to make a healthy muffin that actually tasted great. One you would want to eat. Turns out, that isn't so easy.

Healthy Muffins Take 1:

I hand Jeff a muffin to taste.

Me: "So what do you think?"

Jeff: Chewing, with a furrowed brow. "Well, they're a little bland. How much sugar did you put?"

Me: "Oh, no! I forgot to add the sugar!"

Healthy Muffins Take 2:

I hand Jeff a muffin to taste.

Me: "Are these better? I didn't forget the sugar this time."

Jeff: Chewing a lot and very, very slowly. "Well, they taste like they're good for you."

Healthy Muffins Take 3:

I hand Jeff a muffin to taste.

Me: With fingers crossed. "Well?"

Jeff: "These are healthy? Wow! They don't taste like it."

Me: "Yes!"

The third time really is the charmer.

healthy muffins plate and tin

After much experimentation, these "healthy" muffins really are winners. They get their nutritional kick from a few sources: whole wheat flour has extra calcium and protein; flax seeds are high in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Egg whites lower the cholesterol in the recipe without lowering the protein; and low-fat buttermilk and Smart Balance reduce fat and cholesterol while helping maintain moistness. Raisins, walnuts, and sunflower seeds provide fiber, omega-3's, calcium, and protein.

Just to be sure it wasn't me, I sent a batch to Jeff's office. The plate came back empty, except for a thank you note with a smiley face. See, they really do taste good.

healthy muffins tin centered

Healthy Muffins

Makes 12 regular size muffins.
Print recipe only here.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons flax seed (or flaxseed meal)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup light brown sugar
4 tablespoons smart balance butter substitute, melted
1 large egg and 2 egg whites
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds, divided

Place rack in center of oven, and preheat to 375 degrees F. Spray a 12 mold regular size muffin pan with cooking spray.

Combine flours, flax seeds, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl, and stir well.

In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, honey, sugar, smart balance, and eggs, and whisk well. Add to the flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in raisins, walnuts, and half of the sunflower seeds.

Spoon the batter evenly into the into 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle remaining sunflower seeds on top of muffins. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 5 minutes before removing each muffin and placing on a wire rack to cool.

Note: I tried variations with less sugar and found them to be too bland. However, if you'd like to reduce the sugar in these, feel free. They're still packed with lots of good-for-you ingredients.

You might also like these low-fat breakfast dishes:

Fresh Apricot Muffins

Ginger-y Cranberry Walnut Scones (Heart Healthy & Low Fat!)

Pancakes with Fresh Raspberry-Strawberry Sauce

I'm sending lovely Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen some muffins since she has chose whole grains for this month's Weekend Breakfast Blogging created by Nandita of Saffron Trail.

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Kalyn Denny said...

They do sound delicious. I'm laughing because I remember years ago when the oat bran craze was just starting and I went through I don't know how many different versions to get an oat bran muffin that I liked.

Jersey Girl Cooks said...

I love healthy muffins for breakfast.

Anonymous said...

Don't think the buttermilk escaped me! These sound really good.


Ivy said...

They really sound healthy and delicious. I wouldn't attempt to make them three times.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

With all those great ingredients, I bet your muffins taste good! They look perfect!



La Dolce Vita said...

Great idea! I had muffins on my mind this week too!

Manggy said...

"They taste like they're good for you!" ROFL! Anyway, they look really delicious-- I wonder if flaxseed keeps for a while. It seems we don't get any brand other than a largish bag of Bob's Red Mill :)

Anonymous said...

These look delicious!

I tend to use yogurt to keep healther muffins moist as buttermilk doesn't seem to be as readily available in the UK.

I'm intrigued that you cooked them straight in the pan for the pictures. I've still not found the courage to try that as I'm completely convinced they will stick horribly to the pan and I'll never get them out of it :-) Do you use any spray oil or similar before you put the muffin mix in?

Clumbsy Cookie said...

When someone says that something tastes like "it's good for you", you know you have to keep looking for a recipe. Seems that you found it! They look really good (and good for you ;))!

Deb said...

I make loads of muffins and these sound yummy. They would be nice with apple or fruit added too. Mmmmm. Will definitely make these.

Debbie said...

The look delicious. Hard to find a muffin that is good for you and tasty too!!! I like the addition of buttermilk...

Anonymous said...

I like the healthy-looking muffin peaks! Look's like you've perfected it!
Chris in RI

Unknown said...

Would it work to make these with all the same ingredients, substituting real butter instead? That's what I have at my house. I know it would be a little less healthy.

Just made your corn-honey muffins last night and they were a huge hit with the family.

Gattina Cheung said...

I like my husband to be the taster as well... men won't lie, at least for the food! btw, I chuckled when I read you guys' take 2 :D

Finla said...

Well i have never made a healthy muffin.
As this one got the ok from everyone, i have bookmarked to try them

ames said...

Those look *divine*! And nice and tall too ;)

Kara said...

YUM! I'm so excited! Finally a healthy muffin that looks amazing AND doesn't have too many special ingredients that I have to run out to find! These will be tried as soon as we return from our trip! They sound perfect for a new fall morning!

The Italian Dish said...

I totally agree with you about bland/dry tasting muffins that are good for you. This looks like a winner and I'll have to try them!

Anonymous said...

I seriously love muffins. They freeze so well and make a great breakfast- these healthy ones especially. It's kind of sad to see what people think are 'good for you' in terms of a muffin these days.

Kim U said...

These definitely look tasty and healthy. I've mostly given up on muffins, but I'll definitely give these a try! Plus the story made me LOL :)

Rita said...

Nice one.... I am always looking for ways to improve the nutritional content of our meals. Do you use Smart Balance regularly, or just for cooking. In my family it's a big debate, some think it's worse than butter, others think it's better for your health....
Anyway, thanks for the recipe

Lori Lynn said...

They taste like they're good for you. Jeff's funny.

I really like how you photographed these muffins all topsy turvy in the tin.

Sandy Smith said...

Thanks for these great recipes! My kids participate in sports, so I'm always on the lookout for healthy carb recipes to keep them fueled!
These look super!

Mishmash ! said...

your lively-chatty preludes are always charming :) these muffins are deft'ly wayy better than soggy oats!

Anonymous said...

Your healthy muffins in 3 takes is very funny.

But I do think that "They taste like they're good for you" was a diplomatic way for Jeff to refer to your earlier efforts.

Le Flâneur Novice said...

I'm in love with muffis that I appreciate any recipe :D Adding yours to the list.

Omg and you just reminded me my non-sugar evil muffins :))

You can't imagine how BAD a sugarless but too much cocoa powdered muffin tastes !

Deborah said...

Healthy muffins usually have a texture that I don't like, but these look so light and fluffy! I'll take 2!

Heather said...

mmm these look good! i love the last picture of them flipped on their sides still in the baking sheet. it sounds like they have a ton of flavor!

bee said...

after the first attempt, i'd have fixed a margarita. anything followed by a margarita is good for you. :D

Sara said...

These sound great, I find that buttermilk adds a lot to healthy muffins.

Stacey Snacks said...

We are all on a muffin/cupcake kick lately!
These look healthy and delicious!

You are a great baker, I am still making the choc. dipped biscotti from that amazing bakery in R.I. that you posted last year! I am addicted to them.

Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said...

I'm secretly glad that you were the guinea pig for these. Now we can reap the benefits of their ease! Love these Susan and they have been bookmarked for future cooking!

Darius T. Williams said...

Hmmm - I love that these taste good and look great!


Unknown said...

Susan, indeed a very healthy muffin,Long time back I had read in a mag that a muffin u buy from the cafe is equivalent to 3 mars bar, so never again!!!!!!.
I uually make my own using almond meal and flax seeds are a good idea too, start using them now.Thanks

Proud Italian Cook said...

I've never tried that smart balance, always wondered what it tatse like.I like making healthy muffins,I always need a little something, something with my coffee, and no need to feel guilty! I've been using the white whole wheat from, of course, none other than Trader Joes! Love it!

LyB said...

Looking at the ingredient list, I'm thinking, how can these NOT be good? They look delicious! And I like that you add nuts and seeds and raisins to these, they must have a lovely texture.

Mónica Pinto said...

Healthy and delicious, what more can you ask?

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

The perfect combination - good taste, and good for you! And nobody knows the truth! Now, can you work on frosted devil's food cake?

Alexa said...

Full of healthy goodness and good taste: perfect. Thanks for sharing this great recipe!

Prudy said...

Very convincing testimonial! I love when you tinker and toy and in the end-success!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I remember making so many muffins with All-Bran, and most of them tasted wretched. Then I put apple into one, and the moisture and sweetness really worked. If Jeff thinks your muffins don't taste like health food, maybe my husband will go for them, too!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

kalyn-My mom did that too!

lisa-Me too.

marc-It adds such moistness.

ivy-Now you won't have to!

rosa-Thank you!


mark-Hmmm...I'm not sure. I buy it in the bulk section at my market, so I can buy just the amount I need.I'm sure it could be refrigerated though.

sophie-I like using yogurt too. Yes, I coat the pans with Pam--a cooking spray. And they never stick.

clumbsy cookie-Gee, thanks!

deb-Funny you should say that, cause I just experiment with an apple one.

debbie-I'm glad you like it.

chris-Well, thanks a lot!

mara-Absolutely, real butter would work. I'm so happy to hear your family liked the corn muffins! Thanks for letting me know. :)


happy cook-I hope you like them.

ames-I like the height too.

kara-Yay! I'm so happy you're going to try them.

italiandish-Hope you do!

kate-That's true.

kim u-I'm glad. I like to bring smiles to people's faces. :)

rita-I really like Smart Balance, and I use it in both cooking and baking. But I also use real butter in both. It just depends on the dish. For ex, I use real butter when I make risotto or cookies, but I use Smart Balance when I make low-fat baked goods or add it to baked squash or potatoes.

lori lynn-I think he is too. :)Thanks!

sandy-These would be a great way to refuel after a game.

shn-Thanks, my dear!

julie-He always uses kindness. :)

bal-"evil muffins" ;) I can imagine!

deborah-Comin' up!

heather-They really do!

bee-I think Jeff had a glass of wine. ;)

sara-I do too.

stacey-Really? I'm so happy to hear it. I'll have to tell my mil.
They really are the best.

peter-Good! Hope you try them!


pearlsoffeast-OMG! Seriously? I like the idea of almond flour too. Thanks!

marie-Try it. It's really good. And you don't taste much difference in baked goods.

lyb-The texture is moist yet chewy. Mmm...

monica-Thanks a bunch!

tw-I'll add it to my list. ;)

alexa-You're welcome!

prudy-I do too!

lydia-My mom used to make all-bran muffins. Seriously. I think she may have added apple sauce though. Ted might be pleasantly surprised!

RecipeGirl said...

Well you know what they say... the third time's a ...

I'm always looking for muffin recipes that are on the healthier side since I have a little muffin maniac running around the house. I would love to try these sans the nuts as he would pick each and every one out!

Jaime said...

mmmm... look at all the good stuff you packed into there! the story of how you got to the final recipe is amusing :)

Anonymous said...

God, that looks like a lot of work. You dedicated, dedicated people. But I'll come over to your house to eat them. Call. I'm in the book.

Nora B. said...

Isn't it great that we have helpful tasters at home! :-)

You recipe looks great. I like adding flaxseed meal as well. My healthy muffin recipes usually uses yogurt, and some sort of fruit puree for extra moistness - banana, dates, prunes or applesauce.

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

These muffins really make the perfect breakfast, Susan. I'm going to try them out.
Truly healthy almost always means not very tasty. My daughter says she lives in dread of my "healthy" cooking.:)
Thanks for participating in WBB.

Sarcastic Quilter said...

YES! A recipe even my kids will eat. I don't usually tell them things are healthy up front but I was planning to horde these muffins for myself so I did. Turns out, they like them (although due to lack of materials I had to vary them slightly).

I added dried blueberries, cranberries and golden raisons, about 1/3 instead of 1/4 cup since I only had the mix in my house. I used pecans instead of walnuts and since I was out of sunflower seeds (SO DISAPPOINTING!) I garnished the tops with 4 or 5 slivered almonds.

turned out very nice. I'm thinking I'll use fresh blueberries next time. I think it will be very good with pecans and almonds AND sunflower seed garnishing the top. YUM...

Seriously, I am so happy I stumbled upon your blog!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

lori-Every house should have a muffin maniac. ;)

jaime-I'm glad you liked it.

altadenahiker-Thanks! I'll look you up next time. ;)

nora-Yes, indeed. I like to bananas and dates too. Mmm....

aparna-You're welcome. Thanks for choosing a great topic.

mbskpj-Yay! Thanks for your kind words. I love your substitutions. Even though the sunflower seeds are really good, you can't ever go wrong with almonds. Look forward to your future visits. :)

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

This looks too good to be true but after reading the list of ingredients it makes sense that they are good & healthy.

Aggie said...

It's so hard to make a good healthy muffin...sounds like you did and I can't wait to try them!

Jeanne said...

LOL - you are so right, Susan - usually health muffins do taste too healthy! I made some banana ones that may have been healthy but failed miserably to live up to the memories of childhood :( Glad to hear it's possibly to have them healthy AND yummy!

SongThanTien said...

I will definitely put this recipe to work, and will report the result.

celine said...

i made this last week, and it was awesome - the best healthy muffins ever. my hubby loves it as well.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

skinnymum-Wonderful! Thanks for letting me know. :)

Anonymous said...

I read over the recipe and it does sound great. I'm going to try and make them tonight. The only thing I am definately going to substitute is the 1 cup of sugar with stevia. I find that a lot of "healthy" recipies contain a lot of sugar.

acai said...

Anyway, they look really delicious-- I wonder if flaxseed keeps for a while. It seems we don't get any brand other than a largish bag of Bob's Red Mill :)

Acai Berry
Colon Cleanse

Anonymous said...

I did up a couple batches in jumbo muffin tins. These have been my breakfast for a few weeks now.
I've settled on using dark rye in place of whole wheat, real butter, and apples and dried cranberries instead of raisins. I also use sliced almonds, not walnuts, because they are cheaper around here.
One complaint: Why only a quarter cup of fruit? Discovering a berry in most muffins is a pleasant surprise. Why should this be? When I make muffins, I put in as much fruit as the batter will hold together. This time, I had two diced apples, two cups of dried cranberries, and three quarters of a cup of almonds. No more digging for the good stuff, because its all the good stuff.
Also, one time I accidentally substituted ground coriander for ground nutmeg. At first glance in low light, they look about the same. The end result was rejected by some, but I thought they were pretty damned good.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I'm glad you've enjoyed them. It's 1/4 cup raisins b/c these are healthy muffins, so I wanted to keep the calories down. Real butter, dried fruit, and nuts are delicious, but they also add lots of calories, which defeats the purpose of making them "healthy" muffins.

Anonymous said...

I made these muffins today with dried cranberries, walnuts, and smart balance light... it seems a lot of people think the buttermilk is adding a lot of calories, but there IS low fat buttermilk! These muffins were delicious and didnt taste like carboard health mushies! Thanks a lot for sharing your recipe!!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Anonymous-I used lowfat buttermilk in the recipe. I'm so happy you liked them! Thanks for letting me know.

Jan said...

Just made these muffins. They are sooooo good! I used blueberries, toasted pumpkin seeds and flax seed.
Thanks for sharing the recipe.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

jan-I'm so happy you enjoyed them. I'll have to try your combo now-- sounds delish!

Nicole said...

These are delish, and it's a good thing they are! Making them definitely put a dent in my a good day. After I mixed the wet ingredients something fell off a tall shelf and knocked the bowl onto the floor and spilled everything everywhere. Then, in a feat of incredible stupidity, I managed to tip over the entire muffin tray as I was attempting to slide it into the oven and it fell face down on the oven door!

They were delicious despite, and I got treated to the smell of fresh-baked muffins before I'd even put them in the oven!

Malyshka said...

Lol. love the site name! and will deffinately try the muffins.. my boyfriend likes yummy stuff that is healthy too!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

nicole- Oh, no! What a disaster! Yet, you still enjoyed them. You're so sweet!

alyona-I like the title too.:)

Shani said...

I'm a flight attendant and needed something easy and portable with all my am nutrients for energy - these fit the bill AND I still lick the bowl! Thank you!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

shani-I am so happy to hear that! It must be challenging to find healthy foods with your job, so I'm thrilled that these muffins fit the bill.

Mel knits for two said...

These were great. The kids and hubby enjoyed them as well. They froze wonderfully. Next time I will triple the recipe for muffins all week long.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

mel-That's wonderful! Thanks so much for letting me know.