It’s hard to enjoy baking when you also value healthy eating. Pictures of the final product are always tempting, but the recipe list is often full of nutritional letdowns. However, making the right alterations can mean enjoying dessert while still maintaining your waistline. Read through this list of “use-this-not-that” tips to discover baking substitutes you’ll love!
Oil, Butter and Sugar
Most recipes call for some amount of oil, butter and/or sugar. Unfortunately, these necessary ingredients are full of calories and fat. Fortunately, there are healthier alternatives!
Instead of sugar, try unsweetened applesauce. With 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce having only 100 calories, and a cup of sugar having at least 750, this swap could save you an entire meal’s worth of calories. This is also a great switch because you’ll get a fiber boost from adding applesauce, and you’ll cut saturated fats by removing butter. You can also add protein and calcium by replacing half the butter with pureed tofu. If you’re hesitant to make changes to your trusted recipes, try only replacing half of the required amount until you’re more comfortable with the idea.
The “good fat” versus “bad fat” discussion often follows the mention of the next healthy substitute: avocado. It’s true that avocados are high in fat, but it’s also true that you shouldn’t avoid them! By mashing an avocado and using it instead of butter or oil, you replace solid saturated “bad” fat with monounsaturated “good” fat. This swap will help you maintain healthy cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of serious cardiovascular disease. If your main concern is cutting calories, zero-calorie and low-calorie sweeteners like Splenda and Stevia are now sold in large packages specifically for baking! Another great tool for reducing sugar is vanilla extract; substitute half a teaspoon of vanilla extract for 2 tablespoons of sugar. This trick cuts about 400 calories from any recipe requiring a full cup.
Baking with nutritious substitutes is an easy way to sneak fruit into your dessert or snack. Another great alternative for these fatty substances is mashed bananas; providing high levels of potassium, bananas help lower your blood pressure and boost your digestive system. You’ll want to be careful with this adjustment – to cut down on the moisture in your recipe, you’ll likely want to use less milk or water than is typically called for. You can also use 1/3 cup mashed banana to replace one egg (and egg whites instead of full eggs) to save on significant amounts of fat. If you’re a fan of dried plums, substitute butter with prune puree to eliminate almost all the fat, cut calories in half and add fiber to your treat.
The same rule we’ve all been told to follow when eating also applies to baking: whole wheat trumps white. Because at least half of our daily intake should be from whole grains, replacing white flour with whole wheat flour provides a perfect opportunity for upping the health factor in any recipe. The fiber-packed grains will keep you fuller for longer, aid digestion and lower risk of diabetes and heart disease. This swap provides more nutrients and changes almost nothing about the taste, but if you’re hesitant you can always start by trying half and half.
If you’re interested in transforming a flour-heavy treat into some gluten-free goodness, a can of black beans (rinsed, drained and pureed) can also be a substitute for 1 cup of flour. Try this with brownies or chocolate cake so the color won’t shock you, and this switch will add protein and save up to 200 calories! Similarly, ditch the 200+ calories in a ½ cup of breadcrumbs by using rolled oats instead. These healthy carbs will reduce salt, add fiber and pack your dish with nutrients like B vitamins and iron.
You can sneakily improve the nutritional value of your culinary masterpieces by replacing yet another ingredient you’ve been told repeatedly to avoid: cream. Instead of sour cream or mayonnaise, rely on nonfat (or regular) Greek yogurt. Even light mayonnaise still has three times as many calories and 11 times as much fat! The final product will have the same consistency, fewer calories and much more protein. Pureed potato or sweet potato also works to replace cream. With only 130 calories per ½ cup compared to 400, you’ll decrease the fat content, add potassium and stay dairy-free.
These simple switches can dramatically improve the nutritional value of your baked goods without sacrificing taste or texture. When providing a treat for yourself and your family, tips like these mean not having to choose between good for you and good for your taste buds. Try them out and let us know what you think!