How healthy is banana bread? Dietitian weighs in

We’re all baking – and eating – up a banana bread storm in self-isolation, but a dietitian reveals why it’s not as healthy as we all think. Plus, she shares her five favourite healthier alternatives.

Have you reached the banana bread stage of #iso yet? I have. Why wouldn’t you want to jump in the kitchen and whip up a batch of (arguably) the best snack on the planet to make your iso days better?

With good health in mind, however, I’d advise you to tread cautiously when it comes to this old favourite. Here’s why.

Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this.

How healthy is banana bread?

With a base of bananas, you’d be forgiven for thinking banana bread is a sure-fire healthy bite to eat. And while in some cases that is true, in others, banana bread can come packed with calories, added sugar and saturated fat – it all comes down to what you put in it.

Let’s start with the obvious: bananas. Sure, bananas contain some sugar, but it is natural and comes in a wholefood package of vitamins, minerals and gut-loving fibre. You’ll want to use as many bananas as you can for sweetness, so you can keep the added sugar to a minimum (FYI, that’s the ‘unhealthy’ type). In case you’re wondering, ‘added sugar’ includes plain sugar like caster or brown sugar, but also honey, maple syrup and rice malt syrup (*gasp*).

Then, there’s the flour.

Typical café-style and store-bought banana breads contain white flour, which isn’t ideal. That’s because white flour is made from refined wheat and has a high glycaemic index, meaning it’ll spike your blood sugar level and leave you feeling hungry again soon after. For a healthier loaf, opt for wholemeal flour – it contains far more hunger-busting fibre and energising b-group vitamins. If you’re on a gluten-free diet or just after something a little different, almond meal or buckwheat flour are nutritious alternatives as well.

Last but not least, you can’t forget the added extras. For obvious reasons, a heap of choc chips in your banana bread isn’t ideal – but a swirl of natural peanut butter, a handful of chopped walnuts or a sprinkle of chia seeds will add brain-boosting fats. If you’re after extra sweetness, you could also add other fruits like raspberries or blueberries.

Oh, and skip the butter when you’re serving it, too – it’s packed with unhealthy fats, and adds a tonne of extra calories.

Healthy banana bread recipes

To save you the hard work, here are five healthier banana bread recipes that get my tick of approval. Enjoy your #coronacooking!

1. Lyndi Cohen’s Healthy Banana Bread

Rolled oats and almond meal form the basis of this loaf, offering hunger-busting fibre and heart-healthy fats.

2. Rebecca Gawthorne’s ‘The Best Banana Bread’ (AKA Nourish Naturally)

The addition of hemp seeds adds some extra plant-based protein, as well as plant-based omega-3 fats to support your heart and brain.

3. The Biting Truth’s Banana & Almond Loaf

Made with wholemeal flour for fibre and eggs, almonds and olive oil for healthy fats, this one is a winner in terms of nutrition.

4. The Healthy Chef’s Banana Bread

Almond meal and flaxseed meal make this choice gluten-free. This recipe also uses macadamia nut oil for a boost of good-for-you fats.

5. Talia Cecchele’s Turmeric Blueberry Banana Bread

The addition of anti-inflammatory turmeric gives this loaf a beautiful yellow glow, while the blueberries add a punch of disease-fighting antioxidants.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. Connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.