For a few vacations during my childhood, my parents planned a family trip to Disneyland. We often drove to Anaheim from our Northern California home, leaving at the crack of dawn to beat rush hour traffic, and pulled into the parking lot of the Howard Johnson directly across the street from the theme park in the early afternoon (just in time for a swim in the hotel pool!).
As a family of morning people who naturally woke up around 6 am, if not before, we always walked over to Disneyland about a half hour before it opened to be among the first visitors in line. Once we passed through the gates and snapped a quick obligatory photo in front of the Mickey Mouse flowers at the entrance, we headed towards Fantasyland in the back of the park, directly behind Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
We hopped on Dumbo first, one of the most popular rides, followed by the Tea Cups (Dad skipped that and took pictures of us instead!), It’s A Small World (we always sang along!), and then usually walked over to Toontown to try touring Mickey’s and Minnie’s houses before the crowds came and the lines grew too long. Of course, if we spotted any of the characters walking around in between rides, we often dashed over to meet them too. We even have a photo of me with Pooh Bear, right after I kissed his nose, with a few tears on my cheeks because I loved him… Yet I was a little scared of him as a full-sized character!
To avoid wasting time standing in food lines — and paying the extremely high prices! — Mom and Dad generally brought lunch and lots of snacks in a backpack. Ritz crackers, a jar of peanut butter, some fresh juicy apples or grapes… Things that were kid-approved, easily transportable, and wouldn’t get too broken or squished when we went on rides!
For the same reasons, we also ate breakfast back in our hotel room before heading over to the park. Although we usually had cereal at home, the hotel room didn’t always have a refrigerator for milk, so Mom bought us a special treat from Costco instead…
Muffins! Specifically, jumbo-sized lemon poppy seed muffins. We hated “bits” (like blueberries!) in our food, and since Mom wisely skipped the double chocolate muffins, that left lemon poppy seed as the main flavor we’d agree to eat.
So Mom cut one of those jumbo muffins in half each morning, gave my brother and me each a piece (along with tissues to use as plates!), and had us sit at the desk in the hotel room so we wouldn’t get crumbs all over the beds. In my little kid eyes, it was the best way to start the day, and I looked forward to those super soft, sweet, and special muffins almost as much as going to Disneyland!
Funny enough… I refused to eat any other muffin flavors until I reached middle school. Apparently those Disneyland morning lemon poppy seed muffins left quite the impression on me!
When I scrolled through photos on my phone earlier this month, I came across the set of ones I had taken last year when my aunt, my cousins, my mom, my brother, and I had gone to Disneyland as a mini-reunion. Those brought back childhood memories from Disneyland… Which left me craving muffins…
So I baked a batch of these Healthy One-Bowl Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins as a result! They’re just as moist and soft as the jumbo-sized ones I grew up loving, and they’re also full of that same sunshiny sweet citrus flavor.
Yet unlike the Costco ones, these healthy lemon poppy seed muffins have no oil, refined flour or sugar… And they’re 111 calories!
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST EVER HEALTHY LEMON POPPY SEED MUFFINS
Let’s go over how to make the best ever healthy lemon poppy seed muffins! While testing this recipe, I learned a lot about the science of lemon poppy seed muffins. Therefore, before we get to the recipe, I want to share those nerdy tips and tricks with you so you end up with the perfect healthy lemon poppy seed muffins too!
Nerd Alert #1: Making the Batter
This is SO important that I’m making it the first of our Nerd Alerts today. Do NOT use a hand-held mixer or stand mixer to make these muffins!! Use a whisk where explicitly instructed, and use a fork for everything else.
Hand-held and stand mixers tend to overmix batter, which isn’t too noticeable in “traditional” recipes that have lots of oil and sugar… But it’s VERY apparent in ones that are low fat and low sugar, like these healthy lemon poppy seed muffins. Overmixing leads to a tough, dense, or gummy texture. But when you mix by hand — and only stir until the ingredients are just incorporated — you’ll end up with super moist and tender healthy lemon poppy seed muffins!
Also, pay close attention to the order of ingredient additions AND when the instructions direct you to stir. With one-bowl recipes, it’s extremely important to add the ingredients and mix them together exactly as instructed. This is because certain ingredients tend to clump, others start to react as soon as they’re mixed in, and some can create an overly gummy or chewy texture if stirred too much.
I know… That makes these muffins sound high-maintenance, but I promise they’re not! That’s mainly my overly nerdy chemist side coming out — and wanting you to end up with the perfect healthy lemon poppy seed muffins! 😉
Nerd Alert #2: Butter or Oil?
Guess what? It actually doesn’t matter! Melted butter, melted vegan butter, melted coconut oil, and just about any other oil will all work in this recipe. So just grab whatever you normally keep in your pantry or fridge!
Personally? I prefer butter, so that’s generally what I use to make these healthy lemon poppy seed muffins!
However, unlike traditional recipes that typically call for around ½ cup of oil or butter, you only need a mere ½ tablespoon in this recipe. That really helps keep your healthy lemon poppy seed muffins low calorie and low fat! Yet they’re still super moist and tender (thanks to another ingredient we’ll cover soon!).
Nerd Alert #3: Eggs
You’ll need two large egg whites to make these muffins! Yes, you need both… And here’s the nerdy reason why!
The egg whites contain the majority of the protein compared to the egg yolks. That protein helps your muffins maintain their shape while cooling. Without both egg whites, your muffins can collapse some while cooling and turn out much denser. So for the best moist and soft texture in your healthy lemon poppy seed muffins, use both egg whites!
Also, make sure your egg whites are at room temperature before you add them to your mixing bowl! Cold egg whites straight from the fridge will immediately resolidify your melted butter (or coconut oil).
Nerd Alert #4: Vanilla
This is actually one of my secrets to making the best ever healthy lemon poppy seed muffins! Vanilla extract enhances butter’s rich flavor, so when you use a bit more compared to traditional recipes, it makes your healthy lemon poppy seed muffins taste just as rich and buttery as those traditional and “indulgent” ones!
Nerd Alert #5: Sweetener
You’ll skip the refined granulated sugar and sweeten your muffins with one of my favorite ingredients: liquid stevia. Stevia is a plant-based, no-calorie sweetener that contains nothing refined or artificial (aka it’s clean eating friendly!). It’s also really concentrated. You just need 2 ½ teaspoons to sweeten all 12 of your healthy lemon poppy seed muffins. That’s the equivalent of more than 1 cup of granulated sugar!
Because many brands and stevia products have a different sweetness level, I highly recommend using the same one that I do for the best results. I buy it online here because that’s the best price I’ve found, and you’ll use it in all of these recipes of mine, too!
Nerd Alert #6: Salt + Poppy Seeds
I’m grouping these together because you’ll stir them in at the same time! You add these now, as opposed to later with the flour, to prevent clumping and make sure they’re evenly dispersed throughout the batter. I tend to like a lot of poppy seeds in my muffins, but you’re welcome to adjust the amount to suit your personal tastes!
Nerd Alert #7: Lemons
This is another extremely important Nerd Alert. The type of lemons that you use makes a HUGE difference in the texture of your healthy lemon poppy seed muffins!!
This recipe was specifically designed for Meyer lemons. They’re a special type of lemon that’s a cross between standard, regular lemons and mandarin oranges. This makes them sweeter than regular lemons with a higher pH level (aka they’re less acidic!) and a much less tart flavor (but it’s still strong and citrusy!). They also tend to be smaller, rounder, smoother, and have a deeper more golden-colored skin. (My parents have a few Meyer lemon trees in their backyard, so I always love pulling a few to take home with me whenever I visit!)
I’m still working out the science of why… But something about the lower pH of standard, regular ol’ lemon juice reacts with the liquid stevia and causes the muffins to have a really dense, gummy, almost raw-looking texture inside. Their flavor is the same; it’s just the texture that’s different. And I promise the insides aren’t raw! They just look that way.
So for the best results, use Meyer lemons! If you substitute regular lemons, your muffins will have the same flavor, but they’ll be dense, somewhat gummy, and won’t rise nearly as high.
And yes… You’re using both the zest from the lemon peel and lemon juice! The zest actually provides the majority of the bright citrus flavor, but the lemon juice still contributes to the flavor. It also reacts with the baking soda (more on that soon!), so it plays just as key of a role as the zest in how well your healthy lemon poppy seed muffins turn out!
Nerd Alert #8: Greek Yogurt
Remember how I mentioned these low calorie, low fat healthy lemon poppy seed muffins are just as moist as traditional ones, even with so little butter or oil? That’s from Greek yogurt! It’s another one of my favorite ingredients in healthy baking recipes. Here, it adds the same moisture as extra butter or oil but for a fraction of the calories. It also gives your healthy lemon poppy seed muffins a protein boost!
Nerd Alert #9: Flour
You’ll skip the refined white flour (aka all-purpose flour!) found in most traditional recipes and use white whole wheat flour instead. I know, I know… It sounds like an oxymoron. But I promise it actually exists — and it’s not just a combination of white flour and whole wheat flour!
Instead, white whole wheat flour is made by finely grinding a special type of soft white wheat (hence the name!), whereas regular whole wheat flour comes from a heartier variety of red wheat. They both have the same health benefits (like extra fiber!), but white whole wheat flour has a lighter taste and texture. That lets the moist texture and sweet citrus flavor of your healthy lemon poppy seed muffins truly shine!
Hint: It’s similar to the difference between red and green grapes! Same texture, same health benefits, just different flavors.
Tip: If you’d prefer to make your healthy lemon poppy seed muffins gluten-free, then use one of my two favorite gluten-free options that I included in the Notes section of the recipe!
Nerd Alert #10: Leavening Agents
You need both baking powder and baking soda to make these muffins! Using both gives your healthy lemon poppy seed muffins the best moist and soft texture. Here’s the nerdy reason why…
Lemon juice is an acid. Baking soda is a base. (And baking powder contains baking soda!) When you mix them together, they react, which results in air bubbles. Those air bubbles make your muffins rise, and it also creates a more tender texture.
Science can be pretty delicious, don’t you think?? 😉
However, do NOT dump the baking powder and baking soda into your bowl! Instead, sprinkle them over the flour, and stir all three in together. Sprinkling helps prevent clumps, which means your healthy lemon poppy seed muffins will rise properly and have a much better texture!
Nerd Alert #11: Muffin Cups
Regardless of whether you’re using a regular muffin pan or you place liners inside of your muffin pan’s cups, you MUST generously coat them with cooking spray. Yes, even the paper or metal liners! Low fat batters like this one tend to stick to liners like superglue. However, generously misting them with cooking spray first helps those liners peel away much more easily — and it also helps your muffins slide right out of the pan’s muffin cups, if you skip the liners!
Tip: If you don’t coat your liners very well and have a hard time peeling them off, seal your muffins inside of a zip-topped bag or airtight container, and refrigerate them for at least 24 hours. This trick helps loosen the liners!
Hint: I’ve also found that it’s easier to peel the liners away from cold muffins compared to warm or room temperature ones… And I think that these muffins taste sweeter when they’re chilled too!
Whew! You made it through all of those nerdy tips and tricks! Are you ready to make the best ever healthy lemon poppy seed muffins?? 😉 And when you make your own, remember to snap a picture and share it on Instagram using #amyshealthybaking and tagging @amyshealthybaking IN the photo itself! (That guarantees I’ll see your picture! 🙂 ) I’d love to see your healthy lemon poppy seed muffins!
Healthy One-Bowl Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
- ½ tbsp (7g) unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted
- 2 large egg whites, room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 ½ tsp liquid stevia (see Notes!)
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 ½ tbsp (13g) poppy seeds
- 3 tbsp (19g) Meyer lemon zest (about 3 large — see Notes!)
- ½ cup (120g) plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- ½ cup + 2 tbsp (150mL) freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (see Notes!)
- ¾ cup (180mL) nonfat milk
- 2 ½ cups (300g) white whole wheat flour or gluten-free* flour (measured like this)
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp baking soda
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat 12 muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray. (If using liners, then line 12 muffin cups with paper liners, and coat the liners with cooking spray.)
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter and egg whites. Whisk in the vanilla extract and liquid stevia. Whisk in the salt, poppy seeds, and lemon zest. Add in the Greek yogurt, stirring until no lumps remain. Stir in the lemon juice until just incorporated. Stir in the milk until just incorporated. Add the flour, pouring it evenly over the top of the bowl. Sprinkle the baking powder and baking soda on top of the flour (to avoid clumps and make sure the muffins bake evenly!). Stir until just incorporated.
- Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners. Bake at 350°F for 22-26 minutes or until the centers feel firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few crumbs attached. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
View Nutrition Information + Weight Watchers Points
You may also like Amy’s other recipes…
♡ Healthy One-Bowl Blueberry Muffins
♡ Healthy One-Bowl Peach Muffins
♡ Healthy One-Bowl Banana Mini Muffins
♡ Healthy Lemon Zucchini Muffins
♡ Healthy One-Bowl Lemon Poppy Seed Scones
♡ Healthy Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes
♡ Healthy Lemon Poppy Seed Protein Cookies
♡ …and the rest of Amy’s healthy muffin recipes!