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Healthy You

Eating Better: Healthy Baking Recipe Swaps

Wednesday, April 24, 2019 7:00 AM

When we eat well, we feel good. But there are times we still want to eat something that may not be good for our diet – like brownies or cake. Emmaline Rasmussen, MS, RD, LDN, Clinical Research Dietitian at NorthShore, shares her go-to recipe swaps to help make our baked goods better for us.

White sugar contains little to no nutritional value. To add natural nutrition to our sweets, Emmaline recommends some easy substitutions:

  • Honey in its raw form is rich in enzymes and contains traces of vitamins and minerals that support well-being. Substitute ¾ cup honey for 1 cup sugar and consider lowering the baking temperature by up to 25 degrees.
  • Maple syrup provides several important minerals, and is a suitable option for vegans and non-vegans alike. Substitute ¾ cup maple syrup for 1 cup sugar and consider lowering the baking temperature by up to 25 degrees.
  • Agave nectar is similar to honey and will not significantly alter the flavor or color like maple syrup might. Substitute ⅔ cup for 1 cup of sugar and consider lowering the baking temperature by up to 25 degrees.
  • Stevia baking blend has no nutritional content, but will reduce the sugar content and calories significantly. Substitute ⅓ cup for 1 cup of sugar and bake as normal.
  • Fruit can add a little fiber, along with varying vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Ripe mashed banana is an easy substitute and can replace some of the fat in a recipe while allowing you to reduce the sugar in the recipe by 1 tablespoon for every 2 tablespoons of mashed ripe banana used.

It is important to note that honey, maple syrup, and agave nectar are all forms of natural added sugar, and even fruit provides some naturally occurring sugar, and these are not considered to be added sugars. Recent updates to the Dietary Guidelines recommend that we minimize our sugar intake. To best meet that, it is recommended to moderate our portion sizes, even when we’re enjoying healthier versions of baked goods.

Not all fats are created equal! Butter is rich in animal sources of saturated fat and it is important to moderate our intake or choose healthier alternatives. Emmaline suggests these fat substitutes that may help manage your cholesterol, manage weight and protect against heart disease.

  • Nut butter or sunflower seed butter: A great substitute for up to half the solid fat (like butter, margarine or coconut oil) in cookie recipes. While it adds a slightly nutty flavor, these healthy butters add protein, healthy fat and fiber to your cookies.
  • Coconut oil is a great substitute for butter or margarine in most baked good recipes. It may add a slight coconut flavor to your baked good – depending how much you add – but it is a cholesterol-free alternative and is suitable for vegans.
  • Unsweetened plain or vanilla yogurt can replace up to half the fat in a recipe and adds moisture. Use this as a cup-for-cup ration for butter or oil.
  • Applesauce or mashed banana (and possibly other pureed fruits like pureed pears) can replace up to half of the fat in baked goods recipes. Substitute cup for cup.

For those who are gluten free or want to sneak additional nutrients in, Emmaline recommends these flour substitutes:

  • Bean, nut flours or processed quick oats (processed in a food processor) are often low-carb and/or gluten free. Use this to replace ½ the flour in the recipe. Some flours – such as coconut flour – may need additional liquid as they may absorb more liquid.

Once you are comfortable with some of the substitutions, go for those extra brownie points by adding even more healthy extras! Sneak in more vegetables, omega fatty acids and fruits with these tips from Emmaline:

  • Power up! For an omega boost add in hemp seeds to your baked goods. For more crunch and healthy fat, fiber and protein, add in chopped nuts – such as walnuts or pecans – to your cookies or brownies.
  • Get sneaky. Adding in dried fruits – such as cranberries or cherries – into cookies is a great way to get in some naturally sweet extras. Brownies, pancake batter and muffins are great places to add more shredded zucchini and carrots. Beef up recipes that are already fruit-based or vegetable-based with more veggies, such as carrot muffins, banana bread or oatmeal raisin cookies.

What is your favorite way to make your sweet treat a healthy treat?