Pancakes, Lightened Up

by in Healthy Recipes, Meal Makeovers, September 28, 2009

I love digging into fluffy pancakes. In fact, banana-chocolate chip is the house favorite. But let’s face it — topping your pancakes with gobs of syrup and butter is not the healthiest way to start your day. Do a little swapping in your recipe, and you can lighten up your pancakes in no time.

Making Your Own
If you’re buying pancakes in box, stop! Making your own is super easy and you probably have all the ingredients on hand — flour, eggs, baking powder, sugar, milk and butter. Check out that box mix’s label; you probably can’t pronounce some of the ingredients. Some mixes even contain trans fats (from hydrogenated oils). Plus, many that are branded as “healthy” include enriched and processed flour — do it yourself and you can swap in a variety of higher-fiber flours (more below).

Nutrition Facts
A three-stack of large pancakes can run you around 500 calories, and that’s without the toppings. Drizzle on a few tablespoons of syrup, and the total is closer to 700 calories (plus, loads of sugar). Add some butter and that’s another 100 calories per tablespoon. Your breakfast is now more like 900 calories!

Simple Swaps
Luckily, you can easily modify grandma’s famous pancake recipe. First step: Trade the whole milk for 1% or fat-free. If your recipe calls for heavy cream, use whole milk instead (two tablespoon of heavy cream = 103 calories, while two tablespoon whole milk = 20 calorie.) You can also replace the eggs for egg substitutes for lower-cholesterol pancakes; go for 1/4 cup of egg substitute for each egg.

The Flour
This is main ingredient, and there are several possibilities. Add fiber by combining whole wheat flour with white flour. If you’re trying whole-wheat flour for the first time, use a one-to-one ratio of white to whole wheat — this will keep your pancakes fluffy. My favorite flour to use is buckwheat; it gives the pancakes a nutty flavor and works great with bananas. Not all grocery stores carry specialty flours, but one brand to look for is Bob’s Red Mill — they offer whole wheat, amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet and quinoa. They also offer pancake mixes such as a 10-grain, cornmeal, high fiber and even gluten-free that are worth trying.

Rather than pouring on the syrup, add sweetness (not to mention more nutrients) by mixing in berries and bananas. Blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries contain an antioxidant called anthocyanins and dd minimal calories. Bananas add potassium, fiber and vitamin C. If add ins aren’t your thing, opt for a few silver dollar pancakes or one mediumone and pair it with a fruit salad.

Of  course, some days I just want a special treat, and I grab my dark chocolate chips. I toss around ½ cup to my mix — this usually scores me some extra hugs and kisses from the kids and hubby.

Most of the cheaper syrup brands contain high-fructose corn syrup, which you should eat sparingly. I prefer using one or two tablespoons of 100% maple syrup (about 80 calories). Sure, the real stuff costs more, but the smaller portions will make it last longer.

Butter is another popular topper, but cut it down or out entirely (I don’t use any on my pancakes). Adding a small pat of butter to the griddle when you start cooking helps add buttery flavor. Using a nonstick pan or cooking spray instead of butter is another option. If you can’t live without the butter, go for a teaspoon, which is one pat.

Granola and nuts are other toppers that add healthy fats and fiber, but remember cup fulls of granola or nuts will add hundreds of unneeded calories. Stick to two-tablespoon portions so you get the benefits of the fats without overdoing it.

TELL US: What’s your favorite way to make pancakes?

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Comments (41)

  1. I love slicing bananas and microwaving them for 30 minutes to make a sort of banana-foster topper. Also, Trader Joe's makes a delicious syrup that's a blend of maple and agave, which is a little lighter than pure maple and has a lower GI

  2. Fawn says:

    I found that grating apple into the mix is another creative way to add moistness and sweet flavor without fat to pancakes. I like topping with peanut butter rather than butter for added healthy fat and a protein boost!

  3. Tiffaroo says:

    I love the bisquick heart healthy mix with cinnmon and vanilla, ff milk, mrsbuttersworth sf syrup all silverdollar sized! The dogs love it, bc they can eat some too! That is an easy way of controling portion size! ; )

  4. Tamara says:

    I am guilty of using a mix for pancakes, because I'm too drowsy and rushed in the mornings to measure things from scratch. I cut down the damage by using a buckwheat mix with plenty of fiber, and disregard the cooking directions completely (which call for eggs, oil, etc.). Instead, I just use enough light soy milk or applesauce to reach the right consistency and pour them onto the griddle–I swear they're just as tasty and fluffy as the "proper" kind!

  5. Jennie says:

    Whenever I have time to make pancakes or waffles, I often double the recipe to ensure there are lots of leftovers. When the leftovers are cooled, they freeze well–each individually wrapped in waxed paper then bagged collectively in freezer containers/bags. On school mornings, my kids can pop 1-2 in the toaster for breakfast.

  6. Tah says:

    I find that Buckwheat flour can be really fluffed up if you mix it with amaranth flour. I use about a three to one ratio of buckwheat to amaranth and that works well (you can always add more amaranth and less buckwheat). Also, almond butter is a nice treat to stick in your pancakes. I know it's high in fat, but it's the good fat, right? You can also use creamy Greek yogurt instead of milk at all (that's what I do and it tastes delicious).

  7. CookingonCapeCod says:

    I also make my own mix but use a combination of one third all-purpose flour and two thirds King Arthur white whole wheat flour. I also use non-fat or low-fat buttermilk for the liquid which gives the pancakes a flavor and use agave for the sweetener. Kids never know that they are eating healthy – my little visitors call these "Auntie's Very Special Pancakes" and say that they wish their mom's would ask for my "recipe". Enjoy!

  8. sindlero says:

    There are many combinations of flours/liquids that can be used. If I want to incorporate fruit into the batter, I use lighter flour. If you want to use fruit as a topper, try mixing 1/2 all-purpose with 1/2 oat or buckwheat flour and buttermilk as the liquid. I usually top my pancakes with plain yogurt. Enjoy

  9. Becky says:

    Instead of borign ol' milk, use fresh buttermilk in yoru homemade pancakes! Despite the name, buttermilk is a lowfat milk product and gives the pancakes wonderful flavor and even more "loft" as it works with the leavening in the recipe. A few fresh or frozen berries after pouring the pancakes on the griddle make it easy to customize pancakes., and reduce the need for as much syrup to sweeten them.

  10. Dianne B. says:

    For a lighter, fluffier pancake, folks try adding 1 tsp. of fresh lemon juice. I used to watch my Mom add it to her (made from scratch) pancake/waffle mix and it tastes delicious!! I also add freshly chopped pecans. I hope you enjoy these, they are Yummy!

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