I love muffins. They pair so well with coffee or tea, are a terrific pre- or post- workout snack, or a quick grab-and-go breakfast. But I try to keep in mind that most versions are really cleverly disguised cupcakes.
A sprinkling of oats on top and clever marketing claims create a health halo effect, and many people believe that the standard muffin is a healthy choice. But most muffins are made with refined flour, plenty of sugar, and don’t provide much nutrition. Oversized muffins and large amounts of fat also mean hefty calorie counts (some large muffins have almost 500 calories). And low-fat labelled muffins often aren’t a healthy choice either.
Making your own muffins is a good way control the ingredients. This recipe is a healthier version of “Morning Glory” muffins, attributed to Chef Pam McKinstry of the Morning Glory Cafe on Nantucket island. You can tailor the recipe to the fruit, dried fruit, and nuts that you have on hand.
Ingredient swaps for better nutrition (& flavour!)
A generous amount of fruits and grated carrots add moistness and great flavours while providing many important nutrients; the nuts add healthy fats; and whole grain flour has the minerals and fiber that have been stripped out of refined white flour (and you likely don’t need to worry about the gluten . . . ).
These ingredients also improve the fiber content, something that is lacking in most diets. I’ve cut down on the sugar, but these muffins are still sweet thanks to the fresh fruit, dried fruit, and brown sugar. You may be tempted to use a “more healthful” sweetener than sugar, but don’t be fooled: although some believe that “natural” sweeteners are better for you, sugar is sugar. The overall calorie count is lower than traditional muffins as well, which is good for those who don’t need the excess calories.
You’ll find some other good tips for adapting your favourite muffin recipes here.
Are muffins a healthy breakfast?
Traditional muffins definitely aren’t a good breakfast, since they provide few nutrients and should really be considered as dessert or a treat. Although this recipe is much more nutritious, it would be best paired with other foods for breakfast (e.g., nonfat yogurt, nuts, fresh fruit) for added protein and nutrition.
I would consider these a perfect pre or post workout snack . . . rich in carbohydrates that you need for exercise, and your body will use the sugar in the muffins for a good purpose!
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup milk (dairy or plain soymilk)
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup canola oil or melted butter
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1.5 cups grated carrots
- 1.5 cups chopped fruit (apple, pear, or canned drained pineapple are all delicious)
- ½ cup dried fruit (raisins, dried cranberries, chopped dates)
- ¼ cup walnuts or pecans
GARNISH (Optional – but highly recommended!)
- Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- Preheat oven to 400 deg F, and prepare 12-cup muffin tin with butter and flour (or line with paper muffin cup liners).
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
- In another bowl, combine egg, milk, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla. Stir in carrots, chopped fruit, dried fruit, and nuts.
- Stir wet ingredients into dry, mixing just until combined.
- Dividing batter into muffin tins and top with oats/nuts/seeds for garnish if using.
- Bake for about 20 minutes (or until tester comes out clean).
Makes 12 Muffins
Nutrition Per Muffin
- 185 calories
- 4 g protein
- 7 g fat
- 16 mg cholesterol
- 31 g carbohydrate
- 3.5 g fiber
- 215 mg sodium
- 133 mg potassium
- Iron: 3 % Daily Value
- Calcium: 6.5 % Daily Value
Other Quick Bread Recipes
- Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread
- Banana Bread with Walnuts
- Healthy Banana Bread with Chocolate Swirl
- Healthy Pumpkin Spice Bread