How To: Make Healthy Baking Substitutions

Image source: Better Homes and Gardens

It’s a new year, which for many people, brings along resolutions to lose weight and eat healthier. While I usually eat pretty healthy, I still make room for sweets in my diet. I can’t afford to eat high fat, high calorie treats all the time, so it helps to have some healthy substitutions on hand that will make your treats a little healthier.

When it comes to baking, you have to be somewhat careful making substitutions. Omitting high-fat ingredients or arbitrarily swapping them can yield flat, dull and downright inedible results. Here are some of the best ways to cut fat and calories from your baked goods, without sacrificing taste.

Replacing Butter:
One of the easiest ways to reduce the calorie count in your baked goods to is swap out half of the butter and replace with pureed fruit. You still need some of the fat in the recipe, so I would not suggest swapping out all of the butter. Typically when you use fruit puree instead of butter, you will find the texture is slightly spongy, but otherwise it tastes similar. Try one of these 4 substitutes for butter:

  • Unsweetened applesauce – it has a neutral flavor which works well in almost all baked goods. It also adds moisture and fiber to the recipe.
  • Pumpkin puree – add fiber, potassium and vitamin A. Stock up on canned pumpkin in the fall to have on hand to bake with.
  • Prune puree – has a rich flavor that blends well with chocolate and spices. It is bested used in chocolate baked goods, brownies, gingerbread and spice cakes. (Baby food works great for this!)
  • Bananas – adds flavor, fiber and moisture similar to oil. Bananas are best used in quick breads, coffee cakes, and pancakes.

Dairy Products:

  • Sour cream – whenever I make a recipe that calls for sour cream, I almost always use low-fat Greek yogurt. You won’t notice the taste difference, but you’ll save some calories and fat, plus get some extra protein. Greek yogurt works great in dips, salad dressings and baked goods that call for sour cream.
  • Cream cheese – I always use low-fat cream cheese, also known as Neuchâtel cheese, when baking or cooking. I do no recommend using fat-free cream cheese, as in my experience, the texture can be compromised.
  • Heavy Cream – you can use evaporated skim milk in desserts that call for heavy cream. It will give you the same creaminess as heavy cream without the calories.

Sugar Substitutes:
In pie fillings, cakes and cookies, you can usually reduce the amount of sugar in a recipe by up to half. Start by cutting back the sugar by 1/4 cup, and if the recipe tastes ok, reduce it by another 1/4 cup. I have done this frequently and very rarely notice a difference.

You can also of course, use sugar substitutes such as Splenda. I prefer to limit my artificial sweetener intake, but if that doesn’t matter to you, just follow the substitution guidelines on the back of the package. If you’d prefer something more “natural” than table sugar, natural sweeteners like molasses, honey and agave nectar can be used, typically used in a 1:1 ratio as sugar.

Whole Wheat Substitutes:
I like to use white whole wheat pastry flour when baking to add more fiber and whole grains to my desserts. To adapt a recipe from white to whole wheat, check out this super helpful blog post over at The Way the Cookie Crumbles.

Other easy ways to reduce calories:

  • Use miniature chocolate chips in your cookies and reduce the amount by half. Though mini chips and regular size chips have the same nutritional content, by reducing the amount, you’ll get more, smaller chips throughout the cookies.
  • Make smaller cookies – use a teaspoon to scoop out cookies rather than a tablespoon. This of course, only works if you don’t eat more cookies to make up for their small size. 😉
  • Use reduced fat graham crackers for pie crusts instead of cookies and you’ll cut the calories in half.
  • Two egg whites can be used in place of 1 whole egg to save on calories and cholesterol. One egg yolk holds more than half the recommended daily cholesterol for the average adult. Trading out the yolk for a second white will cut out the cholesterol while doubling the protein.

With just a few small changes you can enjoy “have your cake and eat it too,” without spending an extra hour on the treadmill. A healthy lifestyle is not about deprivation, it’s about moderation. Cheers to a healthier 2012. 🙂

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6 Responses to How To: Make Healthy Baking Substitutions

  1. Lisa says:

    Today must be the day for cake quotes. I am going to have to try these substitutions. Thanks so much for posting them!

  2. Great substitutions! Always nice to have a couple says to reduce some fat and calories in your baked goods!

  3. Great post – love the tips!

  4. Alida says:

    This is so helpful – thank you!

  5. Lara says:

    Do you get a natural sugar substitute called Stevia in the States? It’s pretty commonly used in quite a few countries (I live in New Zealand and it’s often used here for diabetic chocolate, and I know it’s been very popular in Japan for decades as well) but I remember hearing it wasn’t available in the States because FDA hadn’t done conclusive testing on it yet – that was a few years ago. Anyway it comes from the Stevia herb, but when commercially sold it’s refined into a white sugar-looking powder. Very delicious and sweet, and no calories.

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