The Healthy Banana Muffin this Nutritionist Swears By
Dietitian and plant-based diet specialist Cynthia Sass shares her personal banana dark chocolate muffin recipe, why it's healthy, and what to eat with it for a nutritious start to your day.
A muffin can be both a treat and a healthy way to kick off your morning—when made with the right ingredients, that is. As a registered dietitian, one of my favorite jobs is to fine-tune recipes to create options that are both delicious and healthful. I think I accomplished both with my Banana Dark Chocolate Mini Muffins; and they’re fun and easy to make.
A number of my tweaks significantly up the nutritional value of this healthy muffin recipe, but bananas are the star. The number one most popular fruit sold in the United States, bananas are highly nutritious. One medium banana provides 12 percent of the daily need for both fiber, which supports good digestive health, as well as potassium, which behaves as an electrolyte and supports heart rhythm, nerve, and muscle function; it also helps regulate blood pressure. Bananas also supply vitamin C for immune health, energy supporting B vitamins, and manganese, a mineral needed for healthy bones, wound healing, and collagen production. They also pack healthy antioxidants, which can help protect against heart disease and cancer.
The fruit’s chief co-star in this recipe is dark chocolate. In addition to being decadent, dark chocolate deserves its superfood status. Some research suggests it may help protect the heart and reduce stress and inflammation, while improving memory, immunity, and mood, and even support bone density. To further boost the healthiness, I opted for antioxidant-rich maple syrup in place of refined sugar, protein, and nutrient-rich chickpea and almond flours rather than white flour, and heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) instead of butter. The combo of banana, maple syrup, and EVOO give the muffins their moist texture. These gluten-free, 100 percent plant-based goodies are just as flavorful and satisfying as a traditional version, and the cinnamon aroma is intoxicating.
Courtesy Cynthia Sass, MPH, RDN, CSSD
Divide and conquer
Rather than making four larger muffins, I opted for 12 minis, with one serving being three petite muffins. Research shows that your brain observes a greater number of items as a larger quantity, even if the total portion is identical. This perception translates into feeling more satisfied with three minis rather than one larger muffin. If you don’t have a mini-muffin pan, you can divide the batter into four larger muffins, but here’s a trick: Cut your muffin into smaller pieces before you eat it, so you’ll feel like you’re eating more.
To further boost the plant protein content in my meal, I like to serve my minis with a latte made with a higher protein plant milk. I personally love Ripple, made from peas, which provides 8 grams of protein per cup.
Another fun option is a parfait made with layers of three quartered mini muffins alternated with plant-based yogurt. My favorite is Kite Hill’s vanilla unsweetened Greek-style yogurt crafted from almonds, which provides 13 grams of protein per two-thirds cup portion.
If you prefer a savory breakfast, enjoy these muffins as an afternoon snack or dessert. Just popping one can satisfy a sweet craving while delivering some key nutrients. Here’s the recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Banana Dark Chocolate Mini Muffins
¼ cup chickpea flour
¼ cup almond flour
1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup mild-flavored extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup pure maple syrup
1.5 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup banana slices, divided
¼ cup chopped 70% dark chocolate
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, combine chickpea and almond flours, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt, and set aside. In a mini food processor combine oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and half of the banana. Blend until smooth, and then fold the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir to mix the batter. Mince the remaining banana slices and stir into the batter along with the chopped dark chocolate. Evenly spoon the batter into 12 paper cup lined mini muffin cups. Bake for 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean.
- Produce Marketing Association: “Top 20 Fruits and Vegetables Sold in the U.S.”
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Potassium
- Food Chemistry: “Bioactive compounds in banana and their associated health benefits—A review”
- Heart: “Chocolate consumption and risk of myocardial infarction: a prospective study and meta-analysis”
- Appetite: "Portion size effects vary: The size of food units is a bigger problem than the number"