My mother has recently commenced a super-healthy, vegan, vitamin-supplemented diet due to some health issues, and it's got me thinking a lot about what we should be putting into our bodies. A lot of people confuse a "healthy" diet with products that are low-fat, fat-free, sugar-free, low-calorie, or otherwise "diet" or "lite." This truly is not the case, and I'm surprised, with all of the good press now out about raw and whole food diets, that this confusion still happens.
My mother and I define healthy food as food in its most raw, unprocessed form--fruits, vegetables, and grains, but also sugars and fats. At home, we drink full-fat raw milk and use raw cane sugar and agave nectar to sweeten coffee, plain yogurt, etc. Counting calories is important in some cases, but what is really crucial is thinking about where your food comes from, how it is being processed, and how that processing is affecting our health, the environment, and the economy. Other people have written manifestos on this topic, so I won't here. (Please refer yourself to anything written by Michael Pollan, and check out Jamie Oliver's food revolution.)
I am a proponent of the idea that junk food should be junk food. If you're going to have sweets, have the full-fat, full-sugar, full-flavored variety and just eat it more infrequently, and less of it. But I'm also curious about "healthier" junk food--not junk food that is low in calorie, but which rather substitutes more raw, whole, unprocessed ingredients for the typical white sugar and flour. My first investigatory efforts are with brownie mixes. Can gluten-free, whole wheat, cane sugar, even black bean brownies stand up to Duncan Hines?
Hodgson Mill's Brownie Mix was my first experiment. This dry mix contains just five ingredients: turbinado sugar, whole wheat pastry flour, cocoa, milled flax seed, and salt. The added wet ingredients are eggs, oil, and butter.
The verdict: these brownies have great real chocolate flavor; they definitely didn't skimp on the cocoa. They are, however, incredibly coarse, dense, and filling. I felt like I had ingested one of those science fictiony, Willy Wonka whole-meal-in-one-bite things. With whole wheat flour and flax seed, it may as well be a meal substitute bar. They were better warm and gooey than cold. The wheat flavor and course texture were more noticeable once they had cooled. My fiance didn't like them, but one of our more health-conscious, vegetarian friends did. I think this dessert is good as long as you know what you're getting yourself into. If you expect whole-grain and healthy, you won't be disappointed. But if you're expecting ooey-gooey Duncan Hines, you'll have a sad reality check.