Healthy options for Pancake Day

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Pancake Day – healthier options

On Tuesday 25th February, most of the UK will be reaching for their frying pans to celebrate Shrove Tuesday – the traditional day for cooking and eating pancakes!

The 40 days immediately before Easter (known as Lent), are observed by Christians to remind them of the time that Jesus travelled into the desert to fast fasting in the desert before starting his ministry. To mark this, in days gone by, many Christians would give up certain foods for this time including fish, eggs, meat as well as fats and milk.

The period of lent officially starts on Ash Wednesday, which is the day after Shrove Tuesday, so it was customary for people to hold festivities so they could use up their stocks of milk, fats and butter. Pancakes became the perfect food to make, not only because they did this perfectly, but who wouldn’t want to hold a feast in anticipation of leaner, fasting days to come. ‘Pancake Day’ was born!

Now I love a good pancake like the rest of you – my mum’s pancakes were legendary – and not because they stuck to the ceiling each year…but they were delicious with a simple recipe and using only lemon juice and sugar, we kids thought we’d won the lottery! Now a lot has changed since I was under 10(!) and culinary tastes have expanded almost exponentially. We never thought about putting anything else on our pancakes, but today, there are all manner of wonderful things that you can try.

Another thing that has changed since the 1970s is the advice on nutrition. So whilst piles of sugar and syrup may well have been the ‘treat’ we wanted back then, nowadays, most of us want to give our children something a little healthier.

So how can we bring our traditional Shrove Tuesday celebrations a little more up-to-date and make them a little bit healthier this year? Now I don’t claim to be a good cook by any means. In fact for years I had to phone my mother to ask her for the recipe, but I don’t think that matters. What I’ve learned to do with my own children is not worry too much about trying to be the ‘best cook’ – only to have a bit of fun and spend some quality time with my children.

So here are some of my favourite top tips to help you keep the tradition alive and give your pancakes a healthier twist too.

1. Start with a healthier pancake mix

A traditional and simple pancake batter includes:

  • 300ml (or half a pint) of milk
  • 100g flour (plain or self-raising)
  • 2 eggs
  • A tablespoon of fat (e.g. vegetable oil or butter)
  • Pinch of salt

These ingredients should all be beaten together and then lightly fried in a frying pan to make the pancake. The wonderful thing about pancakes is that the recipe amounts are not set in stone and you can vary the amount of eggs, milk and fat you use, according to your own taste and the texture you want to achieve.

If you want to make your pancakes a bit healthier, try reducing the fat content slightly. You could also change the milk to a semi-skimmed or skimmed variety, and even try taking out the butter entirely. Have fun and experience to see which combinations you prefer.

Another option is to add some protein powder to the mix to increase the protein content. Protein is needed by the body to build cells and for many, an extra bit of protein can help stave off those hunger-pangs too.

If you’re feeling particularly creative (and my children often are) then a fun alternative that they love is to use some food colouring in the batter mix to create some colourful and edible pancakes!

2. Make the toppings healthy but still delicious

So my family’s tradition of ‘sugar and lemon juice’ is a one topping which can literally pile on the calories; especially if like many people, you are not carefully watching how many Mary Poppins ‘spoonfuls of sugar’ you are using! There are other culprits here that are favouite toppings to: Maple syrup, ice-cream and full-fat cream can also have the same unwanted effect. However, you could try out some of the following option to not only increase your fruit (and vegetable) intake, but trying something completely new too:

  • Berries, bananas and honey
  • Greek yoghurt or coconut yoghurt mixed with pears and/or peaches
  • Baked apples with a dash of cinnamon
  • Raspberries, blueberries, and a sneaky drizzle of chocolate sauce (my favourite!)
  • Fresh strawberries with reduced-sugar compote or jam
  • Chocolate chips and bananas
  • Kiwi fruit and grapes
  • Rasperries with white chocolate chips

Some of the best pancakes are savoury, so why not try a couple of these different toppings too?

  • Tomato, ham, and pineapple cubes
  • Goat’s cheese, bacon and spinach
  • Chicken and rocket salad
  • Reduced fat hummus and olives
  • Carrots, spring onions and cucumber
  • Reduced fat cheese and pickle
  • Scrambled egg and grilled
  • Smoked salmon and reduced-fat cream cheese (another one I love!)

Another thing to remember is that children love to make pictures and faces with their food, and if it helps them to eat some healthy fruit and veg, then I’m all for it. So encourage them with their creative cookery and you could surprise yourself too.

3. Gluten-free and allergy-aware options

Nowadays, due to a variety of factors, many people have food intolerances (if not a full-blown food allergy), so some foods are ‘off-the-menu’ for them. Or they may simply feel better avoiding certain foods such as wheat, eggs or dairy. Traditional pancake recipes have flour as one of the 3 main ingredients, so you would be forgiven for thinking it might be difficult to replace flour in a pancake recipe. However, making nutritious, pancakes that cater for people with allergies does not have to be difficult.

You can mash up two large bananas, add a pinch of cinnamon and some baking powder, mix it with a whisked egg and you will create a batter that is gluten-free.

If you are inviting people in to share your pancake creations, ask them if they have any food allergies and make sure you avoid those ingredients in your recipes.

Another ingredient that can cause problems for some, are eggs. Again, you can get around this easily by using coconut oil or vegetable oil instead of eggs. But remember that this substitution will increase your overall fat content.

Swapping cows’ milk for soya or Almond milk is another tasty alternative.

4. Vegan and vegetarian options

Swapping cows’ milk for soya milk and using self-raising flour instead of plain flour and 1 teaspoon of soya flour instead of eggs will also give you a vegetarian option.

Finally, Pancake Day is not just about eating – a traditional pancake race can add to the fun too!

As the history books will tell you, the ‘shriving bell’ (from the Latin word ‘shrove’ meaning ‘to confess one’s sins’) would be rung in medieval times on Shrove Tuesday. The purpose then was to call the ‘faithful’ to church to not only atone for their sins but remind them or the fasting of Jesus and their own fast to come.

One surviving legend tells of a local woman who realised she was late for church when she heard the bell ringing. Fearful for her soul, she ran out of her cottage with such haste that she was still clutching her frying pan of pancakes. And so she became the first ever entrant into the local ‘pancake race’!

Across the country since, communities have held pancake races for fun. Sometimes you have to enter in fancy dress, some are run for charity, but most need a smile and a lucky ‘flick of the wrist’!

Whatever you do and however you celebrate, have a wonderful ‘Happy and Healthy Pancake Day!’


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Posted in Children, Culture, Family Life, Health.

Hi. I'm Gail and I'm a teacher, coach, writer and blogger who has been involved with self-development and the performing arts for over 30 years. I'm passionate about helping people to develop their full potential and I've studied education, the law of attraction, personal development and NLP which I write about on this site.

I love working with people of all ages and backgrounds and truly believe that we are all unique, unlimited creative beings who can do wonderful things with a positive attitude and spiritual outlook on life.

Here's to your continued success.



  1. Great recipe Gail!

    Who doesn’t love Pancake Day! I’ve been having an idea block on what to add to make my pancakes unique – I never thought of ham and smoked salmon, wow! You’re definitely right on the savory pancakes, sweet is great but having a different savory texture can also add some fun to our gatherings. 

    This is a long shot but what do you think of blue cheese pancakes? I have a feeling that with the right combinations, that might actually be pretty good, especially with salmon and croutons.

    • Hi Riaz. Glad you like the post. I love smoked salmon so I add it to lots of odd things – but it works for me! I also love blue cheese so I’m going to try that one too – cambozola is my favourite one there so I might melt a bit and see what happens – I’m sure it will be delicious too. Thanks for your comments and have a great day. Gail 

  2. Thanks Gail for these great article about healthy options for pancakes after reading your review i go know about traditional  and simple pancakes Recipes and more i will try to make one for my self And also try you recipes for the lemon juice Too happy Healthy pancake Day  enjoy good healthy pan cakes

    • Hi Smoochi. Thanks for your kind words and I’m glad you’re going to try the lemon juice! It’s actually really simple, but perfect as long as you go easy on the sugar. You could try lime juice as well. Whatever you do, have fun!

  3. I love pancakes but try not to eat them so often.  But I like your tips on a healthy pancake mix recipe. One tip I exceptionally liked was adding protein powder to the pancakes. I work out on a regular basis. This is great because I can get my protein and still eat what I enjoy.  These savory pancake topping will work really well in the pancakes. I will definitely try these.  You got me hungry just reading this post.

    • Hello Pardeap. Glad you liked the recipes in the post and I hope you find the tips and ideas useful. You seem to be following a healthy lifestyle already so I’m happy to add to your options for pancakes at least. I find that adding protein powder to smoothies and shakes really works too and it does help me at least, stave of hunger. Enjoy. Gail 

  4. Many thanks to you for sharing such an excellent article with us. I see through your article that you make this recipe awesome .I plan to travel to the UK within a few days and will definitely try to see it on Tuesday 25 February and will definitely share my new experience with you.

    • Hi Shanta. That’s great. I hope you get to taste some truly yummy pancakes on Shrove Tuesday and enjoy your stay in the UK. Hopefully, we’ll have a bit of sun by then, or at least, a few less storms! Gail

  5. Thanks Gail, these pancake photos are so good they make me hungry already. I never knew there were this many options of making pancakes. I particularly like the savoury ones with the various options that go with it. Pancake day is fast approaching, I’ll bookmark this page for it, and I will be using some lemon juice in my pancakes this year! 

    • Hi Juliet. Thanks for your comments and I’m glad they were helpful. It’s funny isn’t – I was brought up using lemon juice so to me, it’s the obvious one that I think everyone knows – just shows how wrong we can be! Have a lovely Pancake Day whatever you eat. Gail 

  6. For some time now, oatmeal pancakes, without wheat flour, and other healthy variations have been popular here where I live. I declare myself a fan for a very simple reason: they are sweet (but without sugar), easy to make and healthy. I enjoyed reading the other healthy options you also gave us in this post. I will try a couple of them.

    • Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Ann and I’m glad you like your oatmeal pancakes. I think that fruit in itself is sugar enough on pancakes nowadays so I’m with you on that one. Happy Pancake day when it gets here. 

  7. This is a great and a very enticing and engaging post. I confess I’m a little old fashion kind of guy, who love original recipe pancake with everything in it. Pancake is always my favorite breakfast food with a side dish of fried eggs. Your recipe sound delicious and I am going to give it a try. 

    On the other hand, I am very familiar with the Lent Seasons. It may be a good time to go for a healthier version of pancakes. Thanks for reminding me of the Pancake Day. The story of the first pancake contestant was so funny, I can’t help but smiling throughout reading your post. Thanks for sharing! 

    • Hi Val. Glad the article made you smile and I hope it’s given you some ideas for the future. Being English, we only really remember pancakes in February, and we rarely think to have an egg on the side, so you have taught me something too! 

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