6 Nutritious Baking Swaps for Healthier Sweets and Treats

There is nothing better than enjoying gooey brownies, moist muffins, or warm cookies that are fresh from the oven. Unfortunately, if you’re dieting, eating a scrumptious sweet can often cause you to feel guilty shortly after indulging in it. Luckily, there’s a way to treat yourself without having to worry about your waistline.

By swapping in healthier ingredients, you can easily create baked goods that you won’t feel remorseful about eating. Just a few simple baking swaps can transform a recipe from a calorie counter’s worst nightmare to a dieter’s dream come true. Here are six must-try baking swaps that will reduce the calories, fat, and sugar found in your sweets and treats.

1. Avocado for butter

Avocados contain nearly 20 vitamins and minerals in every serving, including potassium, lutein, vitamins B, C, and E, and folate, according to WebMD. They are also low in sugar and high in fiber and monounsaturated fat, a good fat that helps lower bad cholesterol. Avocados are often used for dips, spreads, and smoothies, but they also work wonderfully as an ingredient in baked goods. Health reports that you can trade each tablespoon of butter in a recipe for half a tablespoon of avocado.

Making this swap will cut calories, add heart healthy monounsaturated fats, and boost the vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant levels in your sweets. If you don’t want your desserts to have a green tint, Health recommends using avocados in recipes that call for cocoa — it masks the color.

2. Applesauce for oil or sugar

If you’re looking for a way to boost your dessert’s vitamin C levels while cutting fat, Better Homes and Gardens suggests using unsweetened applesauce to replace half or more of the margarine, shortening, or oil in your baked goods. Additionally, BodyBuilding.com notes that applesauce works well for sweeter recipes, such as brownies and fruit-filled muffins. It offers the same consistency as butter and oil but has zero fat, fewer calories, and natural sweetness. When baking, you can replace the recipe’s called-for sugar by using an equal amount of applesauce, writes Global Post.

You should then decrease the amount of liquid in the recipe by one-fourth cup for every cup of applesauce used. This substitution works best with cookies, sweet quick breads, and cakes. If you’re using applesauce instead of oil when baking, Livestrong recommends using three-fourths the amount of oil called for in your recipe. For example, if a recipe calls for one cup of oil, use three-fourths of a cup instead. Livestrong also suggests reducing your oven temperature by 25 degrees and shortening your cooking time by 5 to 10 minutes, since baked goods made with applesauce seem to cook faster than those containing oil.

3. Bananas for sugar, butter, and fats

Bananas are bursting with nutritional benefits. SFGate notes that bananas are great for weight loss, provide nutrients that regulate your heart rhythm, and contain vitamins that promote eye health. In addition, about half of the fiber content in bananas is soluble, meaning it slows digestion and makes you feel full longer. This fruit is a perfect addition to cereals and oatmeal, and is certainly a satisfying snack. But if those are the only ways you’re enjoying bananas, it’s time to start using them when you’re baking.

Time states that bananas can be used as a sugar, butter, and fat substitute. Livestrong writes that when you’re replacing mashed bananas with butter, they aren’t usually used as a measure-for-measure replacement. Instead, begin by using half as much mashed banana. If you mix up the batter but it’s still too dry, add more mashed banana in small amounts until you’ve reached your desired consistency. If you’re using bananas to replace oil in cakes and breads that are rich and dense, Livestrong notes that you should use three-fourths the amount of pureed fruit for the required amount of oil.

For lighter cakes and baked goods, substitute half the amount of oil with pureed bananas. Time reports that if you’re using mashed bananas as a sugar substitute, you must cut down on the moisture in your recipe by using less milk or water. This will ensure your baked goods end up with the right texture and firmness.

4. Greek yogurt for fats

Greek yogurt has a thick and creamy texture, making it the perfect ingredient to use when baking. In addition, U.S. News & World Report writes that Greek yogurt is great for your digestive health, blood pressure, weight management, and bone health. Pop Sugar explains that you can use this nutrient-rich, calcium- and protein-packed food in store-bought cake or muffin mixes by using one cup of yogurt and one cup of water in place of eggs and oil.

Taste of Home says that yogurt can also be used to reduce or replace your recipe’s shortening and butter. If you’re using it in place of butter, Taste of Home suggests replacing half the butter with half as much yogurt. For example, rather than using one cup of butter, use one-half cup of butter and one-fourth cup of yogurt. If a recipe calls for shortening or oil, replace half the oil with three-fourths the amount of sugar. That is, instead of using one cup of oil, use one half-cup of oil and one-fourth of a cup, plus two tablespoons of yogurt.

5. Cream cheese for butter

Contrary to popular belief, butter doesn’t need to make its way into your baked goods. A Demand Media article via Modern Mom explains that while butter’s structure and fat gives cookies their flavor and texture, cream cheese is a healthier alternative that works just as well. Cream cheese contains less fat than butter but can still imitate butter’s texture, particularly in cookie recipes. When baking, you can typically use the same amount of cream cheese that you would butter.

“In regards to the reduced fat cream cheese, it is a 1-1 swap for butter. But I suggest you replace ½-⅔ of the butter not 100%, so you could cut a ½ cup of butter down to a ¼ cup,” Marisa Churchill, author of the cookbook Sweet & Skinny, told Diets in Review.

6. Pumpkin puree for butter or oil

Pumpkin puree contains vitamins E and K, iron, potassium, fiber, and carotenoids, which break down into vitamin A, according to a Demand Media article via AZCentral.com. One of the best (and easiest) ways to reap these benefits is by incorporating pumpkin puree into your baked goods in place of fats.

“Try swapping an equal amount of pumpkin puree for butter or oil in muffin, cake, or bread recipes,” Joy Bauer, RD, told Diets in Review. If you don’t want to get rid of all of the recipe’s called-for oil and butter, start by replacing half of it instead. For the best results, Diets in Review suggests using pumpkin in chocolate desserts or spiced batters. It will increase your treat’s fiber and flavor while cutting some of its unwanted fat.

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