6 Swaps for Health-Conscious Baking

Updated on June 18, 2018
Sara Stietz profile image

Sara rose through the kitchen ranks from dishwasher to Executive Chef in 4 years.

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Satisfying the Sweet Tooth

Anyone with a "sweet tooth" knows that the cravings can be a little intense. A life without desserts can feel like torture. You want to live a healthy lifestyle, but you also want to enjoy mealtime. As the old saying goes, you want to have your cake and to eat it too.

I have comprised six swaps that will make you feel better about dessert. These foods have less fat and fewer calories but more nutritional value. Use them instead of less healthy ingredients in baked goods without sacrificing sweetness, texture, and flavor.

Cookies, cakes, muffins, and sweet breads are ideal items to implement these changes, without your family being any the wiser. Play with the adjustments to find the ratios you can be satisfied with.

1. Plain Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is the most versatile ingredient available for the health conscious baker. It can replace half of the butter in any recipe. This means for every cup of butter one would then use 1/2 cup of butter and 1/4 cup of greek yogurt instead.

This method cuts calories and saturated fat while increasing protein to the finished product. Greek yogurt can be used in recipes calling for several other high calorie items. Oil, sour cream, buttermilk, mayonnaise, cream cheese, heavy cream, milk, and creme fraiche can all be replaced or reduced with plain greek yogurt. Blended greek yogurt such as vanilla or strawberry can be used to reinforce those flavors in a recipe. I reduce the sugar/sweetener by a small amount when using the sweetened yogurt but it isn't necessary.

Chobani brand released a conversion chart that removes any guess work during the swapping.

Chobani Conversion Chart

Official Chobani Conversion Chart
Official Chobani Conversion Chart | Source
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2. Honey

Honey can be used in place of sugar. This swap is a relatively lateral move in terms of calories but honey is shown to offer more nutritional value and is easier to digest than sugar.

The general rules for swapping honey:
Use about half as much honey as sugar.
Reduce liquid from recipe. For every cup of honey reduce liquid by 1/4 cup.
Reduce cooking temperature by 25 degrees.


3. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

All purpose flour can be substituted with whole wheat pastry flour. The caloric value will not be affected by this swap but the nutritional value increases. Using whole wheat all purpose flour can result in a more dense product with a crumbly texture. If whole wheat pastry flour is unavailable a 50/50 mixture of whole wheat and white all purpose flour will add nutrition without sacrificing texture.

4. Evaporated Skim Milk

Evaporated milk, simply put, is milk with 60% of the water removed through a heating process. Gently heating milk results in the evaporation of water for a concentrated product that offers a richer flavor than regular milk in baked goods. Using the skim version lends the flavor without all of the fat and calories. This swap can also be used for heavy cream in recipes.

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5. Chia Seed

Chia seeds can be used to replace eggs in a recipe. For each egg combine 1 tablespoon of seeds, ground into meal, with 3 tablespoons of water. Let the mixture set for 10 minutes or until they achieve the consistency of egg yolks.

This swap is particularly useful for vegans or those with egg allergies. For the rest of us, they add an additional source of nutrition in the form of magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids. The seeds can also be added to any recipe, rather than a substitute, for the nutritional value.

Flax seeds can also be used in the same way. In lighter items the dark color of chia seeds can be avoided with the flax seed.

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6. Pumpkin Puree

Pumpkin puree can replace the oil in baked goods. The ratio is 1:1, simply replace the amount of oil with the same amount of pumpkin puree. This swap greatly reduces calories and fat in the product and adds vegetables. If that doesn't make you feel better about eating your brownies, I don't know what will.

Pro tip: Buy pumpkin puree in the fall, while it is on sale, and use throughout the year to lighten up recipes.

How Do You Make Baking Healthier?

We can all use a little help when it comes to healthy living. What are your favorite swaps for, all natural, healthier baking? Let us know in the comments!

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