The Healthy Banana Muffin This Nutritionist Swears By

Dietitian and plant-based diet specialist Cynthia Sass shares her personal recipe for dark chocolate banana muffins, why it’s healthy and what you can eat with it for a nutritious start to your day.

A muffin can be both a treat and a healthy way to start your morning, if made with the right ingredients. As a registered dietitian, one of my favorite jobs is refining recipes to create options that are both delicious and healthy. I think I achieved both with my Banana Dark Chocolate Mini Muffins; and they are fun and easy to make.

Some of my tweaks have significantly increased the nutritional value of this healthy muffin recipe, but bananas are the star. Bananas are the most popular fruit sold in the United States and are highly nutritious. One medium banana provides 12 percent of the daily requirement for both fiber, which supports good digestion, and potassium, which acts as an electrolyte and supports heart rhythm, nerve and muscle function; it also helps regulate blood pressure. Bananas also provide vitamin C for a healthy immune system, energy-supporting B vitamins and manganese, a mineral needed for healthy bones, wound healing and collagen production. They also contain healthy antioxidants, which may help protect against heart disease and cancer.

Mmm, chocolate

The main co-star of the fruit in this recipe is dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is not only decadent but also earns its status as a superfood. Some research suggests it may help protect the heart and reduce stress and inflammation, while improving memory, immunity and mood, and even supporting bone density. To further boost health, I chose antioxidant-rich maple syrup instead of refined sugar, protein and nutrient-rich chickpea and almond flour instead of white flour, and heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) instead of butter. The combination of banana, maple syrup and EVOO gives the muffins their moist texture. These gluten-free, 100 percent plant-based treats are just as flavorful and satisfying as a traditional version, and the cinnamon flavor is intoxicating.

Thanks to Cynthia Sass, MPH, RDN, CSSD

Divide and conquer

Instead of making four larger muffins, I opted for 12 minis, where one serving was three small muffins. Research shows that your brain perceives a greater number of items as a greater quantity, even if the total serving size is identical. This perception translates into a more satisfied feeling with three minis instead of one larger muffin. If you don’t have a mini muffin tin, you can divide the batter into four larger muffins, but here’s a trick: cut your muffin into smaller pieces before eating it so you feel like you’re eating more.

To further boost the plant-based protein content in my meal, I like to serve my minis with a latte made with a higher-protein plant-based milk. Personally, I love Ripple, made from peas, which provides 8 grams of protein per cup.

Another fun option is a parfait made with layers of three-quarter mini muffins interspersed with vegetable yogurt. My favorite is Kite Hill’s Greek-style vanilla unsweetened yogurt made with almonds, which provides 13 grams of protein per two-thirds cup serving.

If you prefer a hearty breakfast, enjoy these muffins as an afternoon snack or dessert. Just popping one can satisfy a sweet craving while providing some key nutrients. Here’s the recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Mini muffins with banana and dark chocolate

For four people

Ingredients:

¼ cup chickpea flour

¼ cup almond flour

1.5 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil with mild flavor

¼ cup pure maple syrup

1.5 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup banana slices, divided

¼ cup chopped 70% dark chocolate

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, combine chickpea and almond flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking soda, and sea salt and set aside. In a mini food processor, combine oil, maple syrup, vanilla and half of the banana. Blend until smooth, then fold the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir to blend the batter. Finely chop the remaining banana slices and stir them into the batter together with the chopped dark chocolate. Spoon batter evenly into 12 paper cup-lined mini muffin cups. Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean.

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