Friday 19 May 2017

Sugar and Grain-Free Banana Bread Recipe

It's been eighteen months now since I gave up sugar. Yeah, you heard it right; this previously cake-obsessed afternoon tea addict gave up sugar. Actually, that's slightly misleading. I gave up eating all sugar except for a couple of small bits of fruit a day. I had realised I was just eating far too much of the sweet stuff, either in cakes, biscuits or desserts, but also, more insidiously, in the supposedly healthy things I was eating: dried fruit, maple syrup, honey and even an abundance of fruit. It's shocking how many equivalent teaspoons of sugar you're eating when you tot up a few day's worth. Many of us are busting the WHO's guidelines on daily sugar consumption by the end of breakfast time without even realising it. The time came when I didn't feel happy ignoring my spiking and crashing blood-sugar levels so I just cut my sugar-eating right down.

Nowadays I'm a little less spartan. I will have a piece of cake now and then and I look forward to a dessert when I'm out to dinner with friends (although I do find many of the things I previously enjoyed far too sweet nowadays). The main thing is that on a day-to-day basis I don't really eat sweet things and my body feels a lot happier for it. I certainly haven't lost any weight in the course of the last eighteen months but I feel healthier in all sorts of ways.

Breakfast is the meal that most people tend to struggle with as for many of us cereals, jam and the like, are the norm. My previous staple of yoghurt, fresh fruit and granola (which I had always thought was supremely healthy) was dumped when I realised I was having the equivalent of a good four or five teaspoons of sugar each morning. Nowadays I still have natural yoghurt with a few berries and some nuts and seeds, or porridge with a few blueberries but some days I fancy something else, and with toast and marmalade no longer an option (slightly sad about that if I'm honest...) I decided to make a banana bread. Having a loaf around also helps if I get those (now thankfully occasional, and almost entirely cycle-related) cravings for something a bit sweet around tea time.

Now, full disclosure: bananas are pretty high in the sugar stakes. I wouldn't tend to eat a whole banana as a snack as they send my blood sugar spiking, but a loaf that uses three bananas and gives me around 12-15 slices is no problem. I made a few different loaves before I found a recipe I liked and it had the bonus of being grain free (which I also find helpful, especially in the mornings). If you look around, there are hundreds of banana bread recipes online, but I was drawn to Preheat to 350's recipe because she said she had already tried 7 different recipes and this was the best. I have modified it somewhat as I most definitely do not feel the need for any additional sweeteners (and I avoid artificial sweeteners anyway) but I think it's delicious. The way I tend to eat it is by leaving it pretty moist at the end of the baking process (although I like it very well cooked - some people might say slightly burnt - on the crust) and then I toast each slice under the grill just before spreading it with butter and eating it. Even my sugar and grain eating colleague says it's one of her favourite banana breads. Please excuse the mixture of cups and metric measurements in the recipe - this reflects how I cook!

Sugar and Grain-free Banana Bread (makes 1 loaf)

3 ripe bananas
3 eggs (medium - although I find size doesn't matter too much)
90 mls melted butter
60 mls (1/4 cup) full-fat natural yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups ground almonds
1 tbsp baking powder*
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda*

  • Preheat the oven to 170º fan/180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4
  • Line a 2 lb loaf tin with parchment paper (you could just grease the tin but I find using paper much easier)
  • In a large bowl mash your ripe banana - really black bananas work well here
  • Add the eggs, melted butter, yoghurt and vanilla extract and mix until well combined
  • Add the ground almonds, baking soda and bicarb, and stir well
  • Pour the mixture into the loaf tin
  • Bake in the middle of the oven for 55-60 minutes. The top of the loaf should be golden and an inserted skewer or knife should come out cleanly. As I said I tend to leave it slightly on the moist side, just bake it longer if you'd like it drier
  • After 5-10 minutes remove the loaf from the tin and let it cool completely on a rack
  • Once the loaf is fully cooled, store in cling film or an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week

* I recently made this loaf in Germany where bicarb and baking powder are different to the ones we have in the UK and the US, or not available at all. I used a scant 2 1/2 tbsps of Back Pulver (instead of the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda), left the mixture to sit for 20-30 minutes before pouring it into the loaf tin (I have not idea whatsoever if this was helpful or even necessary) and it turned out really well. Possibly even slightly better than my previous loaves


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