Healthy Baking Substitutions for All of the Treats You Need to Make This Season
What would the holiday season be without your favorite tasty treats? Good news for everyone trying to make healthier choices without completely denying their sweet tooth – making a few simple swaps allows you to enjoy the treats you love with far less guilt.
As the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics notes, you can still enjoy dessert as part of a balanced eating pattern, but ingredients matter. Switching to nutrient-rich ingredients can help curb sugars and fats while adding a healthier twist. Here’s a quick guide to all the major healthy baking substitutions you need to know about now to start planning for the season ahead.
Flour is essential in nearly all seasonal treats. Luckily, there are great baking alternatives for those who need to avoid gluten, add protein to the mix, or simply increase the fiber content.
- Gluten-free: Nut flours offer a gluten-free alternative that packs a punch with protein and omega-3 fatty acids. This works well in cookies, cakes, and sweet breads. Use a ratio of 1 cup nut flour plus 1/2 teaspoon rising agent to replace every 1 cup of all-purpose flour.
- Increase Protein: Want to make power-packed brownies? Try swapping 1 cup pureed black beans for 1 cup of all-purpose flour.
- Add fiber: Swapping all-purpose white flour with whole wheat flour. Appropriate for any type of baking, this works best when you swap 7/8 cup of all-purpose for 1 cup of whole wheat. If you’re using white whole wheat, use a cup-for-cup swap.
Trying to lighten up? Swapping out all or some of the fat for healthier options can help shave calories and add nutrients without sacrificing flavor or moisture.
- Applesauce: Start by swapping half the oil for unsweetened applesauce, using a ratio of 1/2 cup applesauce and 1/2 cup fat for every 1 cup of oil or butter. This works best for muffins and sweet breads. If you like the flavor and texture, increase the amount of applesauce next time.
- Prunes: Add fiber while trimming fat by swapping 1 cup of butter for 3/4 cup prunes blended with 1/4 cup boiling water. This works best for brownies and other dark-colored treats.
- Avocado: Swap the saturated fat in butter or oil for avocado to give your cookies and brownies an infusion of monounsaturated fat, fiber, and potassium. Use it cup-for-cup.
We’ve all heard about the dangers of refined sugar. With these healthy baking swaps, you can cut back on the white stuff while still indulging your sweet tooth.
- Beets: Reduce the sugar in your recipe by 1/4 cup and replace it with 2/3 cup finely grated raw beets. You’ll still enjoy sweetness, but with the added nutrients beets provide. This works best in brownies and dark, dense treats.
- Applesauce: Surprise! Applesauce is good for more than just a fat substitute. You can also use it cup-for-cup to replace sugar in your recipe. It works well in a variety of recipes, particularly oatmeal cookies.
- Stevia: This natural sweetener is roughly 300 times sweeter than sugar. Use 2 tablespoons of powder for every 1 cup of sugar.
Glazes, icings and whipped cream, oh my! These tasty toppers, which can also often double as fillings, can add a hefty punch to the fat and calorie count of your recipe. A few alternatives to consider include:
- Whipped Cream: Who doesn’t love a slice of pie topped with the fluffy white stuff? Try whipping 1 cup of evaporated skim milk in place of 1 cup heavy cream for a lightened up topper.
- Frosting: Top off cakes, cupcakes and cookies with a sweet treat that contains a fraction of the fat when you swap your regular frosting for meringue instead.
- Glaze: sneak in a little extra nutrition by swapping your traditional glaze for one made by combining 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt with 1 1/2 teaspoons pure maple syrup and 1/4 teaspoon liquid stevia.