Some thoughts about dessert (and a really good “blondies” recipe)

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under the sun.

If you search Pinterest for brownie recipes, probably half of the pins that show up are for “healthier versions.” Supposedly healthy substitutions in standard recipes are really popular in the diet and fitness world right now, with swaps ranging from Splenda (for sugar) to avocados (for butter) and everything in between…like putting beans in brownies.

I am a pretty adventurous eater, and I like trying new (and wacky) things in the kitchen. However, as an intuitive eater, (and as someone who coaches people on intuitive eating,) when I bake something like bean brownies, it isn’t because I have anything against butter, flour, and sugar. Instead, I try new recipes because I like learning about different foods that I can include in my regular eating patterns. Having a healthy diet does not necessarily mean excluding, reducing, or carefully monitoring the consumption of certain ingredients.

Intuitive Eating and Brownies

Eating intuitively means eating what sounds good, eating enough, and eating in a way that respects my body and its needs. If I’m hungry, and a brownie is what truly sounds good to me, I eat a brownie. Even if it’s 8:00 in the morning, if a brownie is what I’m truly craving for breakfast, I eat the brownie. Even if it’s 8:00 in the morning, and I’ve already eaten breakfast, I eat the brownie. Denying my cravings isn’t healthy (it can lead to pervasive restriction or rebound binges) just like not honoring my fullness and satiety isn’t healthy (eating a brownie just because it’s there, even if I am not hungry or don’t really want it.) I sometimes am craving salad, and I sometimes am craving a brownie. Healthy, intuitive eating means honoring both of those cravings.

Eating behavior that is honoring to my body means asking questions such as: “Am I hungry? How hungry am I?” and “What does my body need right now to feel nourished? What would feel good, and fuel me well for the life I want to live?” This a curious conversation, not just an algorithm of “good” and “bad” foods.

Intuitive Eating and Beans

I think beans are great. They are full of protein and fiber, and fill me up when I’m hungry. They’re yummy on salads, or in hummus-form, or in salsa. I think most people would agree that beans are a healthy food, but if a person ate only beans, that person probably couldn’t be considered a healthy person. The same is true with brownies. Beans aren’t better than brownies, or vice versa, and I like them both well enough. So, I eat both — when I’m craving them, when they sound good, when I’m hungry.

Intuitive Eating and Bean Brownies

In our diet-crazed world, it’s easy to understand the concept of “healthy food substitutions” in baking. Baked goods are usually full of sugar, oils, and flour, and we’re taught that these ingredients should be limited and avoided. Intuitive eating, however, means rejecting this diet mentality, making peace with our bodies, and honoring our health. Sugar alone doesn’t make us sick, and neither do oils. In fact, we need both of these chemicals, in some form, daily. Whether the oils come from fish, chia seeds, or chocolate chips, our bodies know what to do with them. But just like our bodies need carbohydrates and fats, they also need iron, magnesium, and fiber. So, we need to make sure we eat beans along with our brownies…or kale, or blueberries. Brownies can fit into a healthy diet just fine; we don’t need to replace the sugar, flour, and oils in order to eat them and maintain our health.

The Betty Crocker Brownie recipe doesn’t need to be “fixed” because it ain’t broke.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that a bean brownie isn’t the same thing as a Betty Crocker brownie, and it also isn’t “better” or “worse” than a Betty Crocker brownie. It’s a different food altogether. [See also: beans are not brownies, and brownies are not beans.] All this being said, I made some “bean brownies” (which really should be called bean-and-chocolate-baked-goods) and they were pretty darn tasty. They did not taste like brownies, and they didn’t really taste like beans, but I liked including them in my breakfast, and eating them for a snack in the afternoon. They kind of remind me of a granola bar, actually — textured and chewy, and helped me stay energized without crashing 30 minutes later (thanks to the protein, fiber, and sugar.)

If we want beans, we should eat beans. If we want brownies, we should eat brownies. If we want “bean-and-chocolate-baked-goods,” we should eat them, too.


Chickpea Blondies [Bean and Chocolate Baked Goods]

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¾ tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tbs vanilla
1 tbs canola oil
¼ cup quick oats
1/3 cup peanut butter
½ cup chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, blend the chickpeas with the peanut butter, vanilla and maple syrup, making sure that no bean-bits remain. Mix in the oatmeal , salt, baking soda and baking powder, then stir in the chocolate chips. Spread the mixture into a greased 8×8 inch baking dish, and bake in for 38 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into bars and serving. 

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