National Nutrition Month: Healthy Baking Substitutions

According to the calendar (though not necessarily our windows), spring and summer are almost here! This means many people are trying to shed some winter weight. But losing weight doesn’t have to mean giving up the things you like, such as baked goods.  Instead, look for ways to make them healthier.

To still enjoy baked goods (in moderation) even when trying to watch your weight, here are a few healthy baking substitutions:

Replace vegetable oil with applesauce:
Many sweet breads, such as zucchini or banana, and pre-boxed cake mixes call for vegetable oil in their recipes. Vegetable oil is high in fat – and not the good kind! Even just ½ cup can contain 940 calories and 16 grams of saturated fat. Replacing vegetable oil with applesauce is easy and – (surprise!) – there is little taste difference. Use a 1:1 ratio when substituting (if the recipe calls from 1 cup oil, use 1 cup applesauce instead.)
apple sauce

Replace butter with avocado:
For brownies or chocolate cookies (the darker baked goods), replacing butter with avocado has excellent health benefits.  Because avocados are high in fat, you can retain the fluffy, velvety texture in your recipes that butter usually provides. But while butter is high in saturated fats, which can be bad for your heart, the fats in avocado are healthy and monounsaturated.  Like vegetable oil, use an easy 1:1 ratio to substitute – your heart will appreciate it!

Replace oil or butter with mashed bananas:
Again, for brownies or cookies (even the lighter versions), you can always mash up a banana to use in recipes instead of oil or butter. This substitution is a good way to use up those bananas that might be getting a little too ripe – and an excellent way to cut the fat and add vitamins and minerals to your recipe. A 1:1 ratio works for this substitution.
mashed bananas

Replace eggs with flaxseed and water:
Using flaxseed and water is a great substitution if you are trying to cut back on cholesterol or if you are vegan/vegetarian. Most baked goods (cakes, cookies, muffins) require eggs for the recipes. But good news! You can use ground flaxseed instead. To replace 1 egg, just simply mix 1 Tbs flaxseed with 3 Tbs water (to replace 2 eggs: mix 2 Tbs flaxseed with 6 Tbs water and so on). Stir them together and let it sit for a minute before adding it to whatever recipe you are following.

Replace flour with canned black beans:
Note: This generally only works well with brownies. If you are making brownies from scratch, this substitution reduces gluten and adds fiber! Be sure to mash the black beans up a bit before mixing it in with everything. A 1:1 ratio works for this substitution.
black beans

Reducing Sugar: Experiment! Try to reduce sugar by a fourth to a third in cakes, cookies, breads and other baked goods.
• Skip frosting and top a cake with pureed fruit, fruit slices or a dusting of powdered sugar.
• Enhance the sweetness of food with extracts like vanilla or peppermint, or spices like cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg or cardamom.

Ready to put it into practice?  Here’s a recipe for Zucchini Bread from to try out a few of the new, healthy substitutions!

Mom’s Zucchini Bread

Yield: 2 loaves

3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsps cinnamon
3 Tbs flaxseed + 9 Tbs water
1 cup applesauce
2 1/4 cup sugar
3 tsps vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts

1.Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
2.Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
3.Beat applesauce, flaxseed and water, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.
4.Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.

Happy baking!

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