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Cupcakes vs muffins – is there any difference?

Tuesday 10 January, 2017 by Rebecca Cook

My beloved was looking for muffin cases last night.

"There are heaps of cupcake ones in the cupboard," I shouted distractedly from the study.

"But can you use them for muffins?" he shouted back, interrogating a pack of red gingham skirts.

"They're the same thing, aren't they?"

Aren't they?

So why does a muffin bring up images of yoga tights and good bowel function, while cupcakes seem like kilojoule-laden pink puffs of decadence? Is it just the icing? Do muffins really deserve this healthy halo they seem to have accumulated? Is a double choc-chip muffin still healthier than a plain vanilla cupcake?

I asked our resident dietitian and LiveLighter campaign manager, Alison McAleese, to help me understand what makes a muffin a muffin.

Me: What's the difference between a muffin and a cupcake?

Alison: Good question. Back in the day, muffins were often high in fibre and fruit and were much smaller than the muffins we see in cafes today, so they were a healthier choice (Dig out a recipe book from the 1970s and you'll see what we mean). But now the muffins sold in cafes are enormous and come in a variety of sugary, chocolatey, dessert-like flavours. Cupcakes, on the other hand, are smaller, but they also have icing. So in terms of kilojoules per serve, they're quite similar.

Me: So what should I do? Should I eat the muffin or the cupcake?

Alison: The best option is to make your own muffins, so you can control what goes into them and their size. Look for recipes with lots of healthy ingredients like fruit, grated vegetables, nuts and wholemeal flour and less sugar and butter. The LiveLighter website has some quick and easy muffin recipes to try – making your own is also much cheaper than paying $5-plus for a muffin in a cafe. Homemade muffins also freeze well for emergency lunches.

Me: Ok, now for the all-important question: Can I use the cupcake cases I have at home for muffins, or do I have to buy muffin cases?

Alison: You can definitely use the cupcake ones.

For more healthy tips and recipes, visit www.livelighter.com.au

Fruit muffins

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