24 Healthy Ingredient Swaps For Baking
You know why you're here. You have everything set out and ready to tackle a baking recipe when it hits you: you don't have any more eggs. It happens to the best of us. Does that mean you need to throw in the towel? No! There are dozens of ingredient substitutions you can implement using everyday pantry essentials you likely do have in your house.
These ingredient swaps don't just come in handy when you're in a pinch. Many of them are actually healthier than their standard counterparts. So let's get baking. Introduce these ingredient substitutions to level up your baking game and you may just find your sweet tooth is even more satisfied! And if you're a fan of baking mixes, then we've cooked up the report that's perfect for you: 20 Best and Worst Baking Mixes.
Unsweetened applesauce for sugar
Sugar tends to be the foundation for many baked goods, but there are much savvier ways to sweeten up your goodies. Swap in one cup of unsweetened applesauce for one cup of sugar. Head to head, applesauce boasts only about 100 calories while the same amount of sugar contains nearly 800! Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD and the founder of the popular F-Factor Diet says this method works especially well for oatmeal cookies. Sounds good, right? You'll also love these 50 Healthy Overnight Oats Recipes for Weight Loss!
Greek yogurt for sour cream
"When it comes to making baked goods healthier, the goal is to lower the fat and carb content without compromising taste," says Zuckerbrot. Greek yogurt is higher in protein and lower in fat than other dairy products and it can be used in place of sour cream or oil. It's not always a one-to-one ratio, so you could try replacing half and do some experimenting with different recipes.
Honey for sugar
It's tough to avoid all forms of sugar, so switching to more nutrient-dense options like honey can help ensure that you're not stuffing your face with totally-empty calories. Honey is rich in vitamins and minerals and has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. What's more? Honey doesn't send your blood sugar levels in a tailspin the way that white sugar does, so you'll experience less wacky cravings and shifts in energy levels. Check out our report on Every Popular Added Sweetener—Ranked! for a better understanding of your best options.
Black beans for flour
Beans in brownies may sound a bit bizarre, but don't knock 'em until you try 'em. Pureed black beans add a hit of protein and fiber, and they can be used instead of white flour in brownie recipes. Go ahead and use one cup for one cup. Beyond the beans, check out these 20 Best-Ever Tips for Brownies.
Mashed bananas for sugar
No need to reach for sugar when fruit provides natural, nutrient-rich sweetness all on its own. Mashed bananas have an ideal consistency to be used in place of butter and oil, and their natural, sweet flavor makes them a good swap for sugar, too. Bananas are a good source of vitamin B6 and potassium and are best used in recipes for cookies, brownies, pancakes, and muffins.
Ground flaxseeds for eggs
Whether you sneak in a few spoonfuls of ground flaxseed into your batters or craft a flaxseed egg in place of real eggs, incorporating this superfood into your baking endeavors will turn a regular cookie into a super healthy treat. Flaxseeds promote healthy digestion, help lower cholesterol, and also cut your risk for diabetes. However, they're also one of the 11 Surprising Foods You Should Keep in the Fridge, so store them properly!
100% whole wheat flour for white flour
When in doubt, skip the white and go for the whole wheat. "White flour has been stripped of nutrients and adds empty calories and refined carbohydrates to baked goods. Using other flours can provide nutrients like fiber, protein, and make a recipe gluten-free," says Zuckerbrot. Swap in one cup of whole wheat flour for ⅞ cup of white flour for a healthy boost.
Coconut flour for flour
Coconut flour is made from dried, grounded coconut meat and is a gluten-free alternative to wheat-based flour. Adding coconut flour into the mix will not only lower the total carbohydrate count, but it will boost the fiber content as well, making your sweets a bit more satisfying.
Nut flour for flour
Options abound when it comes to baking flours, and nut flours are one of the best choices for you. They're gluten-free, lower in carbs, and higher in protein than white flour. "One cup of flour can be substituted with ¼ nut flour + ¾ cup wheat flour or 1 cup nut flour + ½ teaspoon rising agent in recipes for cookies, sweet breads, and cakes," says Zuckerbrot. Bonus: Here's a quick tutorial on How to Make Almond Flour.
"Fig puree can be used in recipes instead of margarine or butter to lower the fat content and add nutrients like fiber, vitamin B6, and copper," says Zuckerbrot. While swapping figs into your batches will boost the nutritional value of the food, do note that this puree is best when used in recipes for darker-hued baked goods like brownies, chocolate cookies, and cakes.
Along the same lines of fig puree, prune puree can kick up the fiber content of your baked goods and help to reduce fat content. One half cup of prune puree can be used in place of one cup of margarine. "Margarine is made with unnatural hydrogenated fats, which are full of omega-6 fatty acids, which have been shown to cause inflammation in the body and may be linked to diseases such as cancers, heart disease, and obesity," says Zuckerbrot. To lay it out even further, one cup margarine has 1,627 calories and 183 grams of fat, while a half cup prune puree is about 375 calories and has 0 grams of fat. For more foods to battle against inflammation, don't miss these 30 Best Ant-Inflammatory Foods!
Evaporated Skim Milk
Whole milk and heavy cream tend to rack up the fat and calories in baked goods; by swapping them out for a less fattening counterpart like evaporated skim milk, you can significantly reduce the dietary dangers. Evaporated skim milk can be substituted for heavy cream cup for cup to lighten up cakes, scones, whipped cream, and biscuits.
Powdered peanut butter for peanut butter
"The addition of peanuts or peanut butter in a recipe can add fat and calories rapidly. Powdered peanut butter like PB2 is made by removing the oil and water from peanuts and thus has 85 percent less fat calories than traditional peanut butter. The powder can be mixed with water to create a peanut butter, or used as a flavor like other powders (in smoothies, cookies)," says Zuckerbrot. For reference, two tablespoons of regular peanut butter equal 188 calories and has 16 grams of fat, while 2 tablespoons of PB2 has just 45 calories and 1.5 grams of fat. Speaking of PB2, these 20 Ways to Use PB will give you even more uses beyond your baking efforts!
Chia seeds for eggs
A superfood no matter what you do with them, chia seeds tremendously bump up the fiber content of your food. They can be used in place of an egg by mixing one tablespoon of chia seeds with three tablespoons of water and letting them thicken for 15 minutes. Zuckerbrot suggests trying this healthy hack in recipes for muffins, cakes, and cookies.
Oats for flour
Whether you're mixing them into cookies or baking them into muffins, oats are a hearty and healthy addition to your sweets. Oats are high in fiber and packed with essential nutrients, which all work together to help lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, and promote weight loss. And you really can't buy too many oats, either; use your extra oats to whip up some delicious overnight oats!
Maple syrup for sugar
Forget nutrition-less white sugar and replace it with 100% pure maple syrup to boost the health factor of your baked treats. Maple syrup provides added minerals to the mix and has a less dramatic effect on blood sugar when compared to regular, more refined sugars.
Canned pumpkin for oil
"People often underestimate how caloric oil is," Zuckerbot says. "One cup of vegetable oil has 1,927 calories and contains 218 grams of fat. The reason it is so high calorie is because fats are calorie dense. Instead of vegetable oil, you can sub in 100% pureed pumpkin." Use one cup pumpkin for one cup oil, which will only contribute 100 calories and zero (!) fat.
Melted butter for oil (or vice versa)
If you just used up the last of your canola oil to fry up your dinner, that doesn't mean you can't make brownies the next day. Butter is a 1:1 substitute for oil, so this substitution works both ways.
Avocado for butter
Butter may make your treats seriously rich and creamy, but if you're dairy sensitive or fresh out of the cow product, you can always use avocado instead. By swapping in half of a tablespoon of avocado for one tablespoon of butter, you can cut the fat and calorie content significantly and increase the satisfaction factor.
Unsweetened cocoa powder for chocolate chunks
The power of chocolate prevails! Cocoa in its raw form has been found to help reduce stress, fight belly fat, and fight off free radical damage. Cocoa powder can easily be added to cookies, cakes, and pancake recipes for an antioxidant-dense boost if you're fresh out of chocolate pieces. For every ounce of semisweet chocolate, use 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder plus 2 teaspoons sugar and 2 teaspoons of unsalted butter or a neutral oil.
Skim milk for whole milk
Yes, full-fat can help you feel fuller and even absorb certain nutrients. But we're talking about what you pour into your coffee cup, not cups of it for a cake! Although there are some debates around skim milk and its effects right now—some say it can cause acne—there's zero debate that it's far less fatty. "Whole milk has much more fat and calories than its fat-free counterparts. One cup of fat-free milk has 0-3 grams fat versus 8 grams fat in whole milk (and an additional 60 calories). Full-fat dairy products can be swapped out for their non-fat counterparts in equal parts and without compromising chemistry or taste," says Zuckerbrot. Still not sure what you want to do about your dairy intake? Start with these 22 Expert Tips for Cutting Back on Dairy to make the move a bit easier.
Berries are an incredibly rich source of antioxidants, which stand up to free radical damage and support healthy skin and a strong immune system. Rather than reaching for chocolate chips to sweeten up your batters, mix in a healthy dose of berries. Raspberries, in particular, are a good source of gut-busting fiber and can help make you treats much more filling.
Baking powder for baking soda
Yes, it's easy to confuse these two. Typically, many recipes will call for both, but if you're fresh out of baking soda, there is a simple baking soda substitute. Oftentimes, people have extra baking powder lying around because it's also a great deodorizer. For every teaspoon of baking soda that's needed for the recipe, use 4 teaspoons of baking powder.
Milk and lemon juice for buttermilk
Want to make your own buttermilk pancakes instead of using a boxed pancake mix? There's a way to make buttermilk at home with just two ingredients: milk and freshly squeezed lemon juice (or white vinegar). Simply mix the two together, let sit for 10 minutes, and then use as you would with regular buttermilk.
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