By Alexandra Dati, Master of Science Dietetic Internship program, Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, University of Florida
Reviewed by Karla Shelnutt, PhD, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida, and Gail Kauwell, PhD, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Florida
Do you and your family love to make and snack on yummy baked goods? You’re not alone! But maybe you worry about the high fat and sugar content of these treats. Fortunately, there’s a way to bake your cakes, cookies, and brownies while eating some of them too! How? By making smart substitutions. Believe it or not, simple substitutions can make that delightful dessert a little bit leaner and better for you.
One of the best tricks I use to lower the fat and calories in certain desserts is to replace part or all of the oil with unsweetened applesauce. From experience, I can say that this works well when making quick breads, muffins, and brownies. Try this tasty recipe and see for yourself! Another way to reduce the fat and boost the nutrient content of baked goods is to use Greek yogurt in recipes that call for sour cream. There are many other possible substitutions you can make to reduce fat, sugar, and calorie content in baked goods; some also improve their nutritional value. I’ve compiled a table at the end of this blog with lots of substitutions you can try.
When adjusting a recipe for the first time, it’s best to make only one change. It’s even okay to start by replacing just half the amount of an ingredient with a healthier option. But keep in mind that baking is an art, and sometimes art fails. Figuring out the best substitutions for certain recipes can be a bit of guessing game, but I find that it’s fun to experiment and come up with healthier versions of my favorite recipes. Don’t be discouraged if the product doesn’t turn out perfectly the first time you try a substitution. The more you practice, the better you’ll get, and you’ll be pleased when you come up with creations that are so good no one even notices that you’ve skimped on the calories and fat.
While making substitutions is a good alternative to preparing traditional baked goods, it’s still important to limit your family’s intake of them. The major ingredients in most baked goods are fat and sugar, neither of which has much to offer in terms of nutrition aside from calories. For this reason, keeping portions small and using baked goods as “once in a while foods” is your best bet. This is also a good approach for those of you who just can’t fathom the idea of eating anything but the “real deal.”
SUBSTITUTIONS TO TRY
|Recipe calls for:||Replace it with:||What you need to know:|
|Oil||Unsweetened applesauce||Oil can be replaced, cup for cup, with unsweetened applesauce.|
|One egg||Two egg whites||As a cohesive element, two egg whites have the same effect as one whole egg in baking.|
|Sour cream||Greek yogurt||Greek yogurt and sour cream have very similar flavors and textures. Plus, you’ll get a lot more nutrients from the yogurt.|
|Butter||Avocado puree or mashed bananas||These substitutions can be made cup for cup. Because of the subtle flavors these ingredients impart, try using them in a rich dessert, such as brownies.|
|Cookie crust||Low fat graham cracker crust||Graham cracker crust provides the same consistency and sweetness without as much sugar and calories.|
|Whole milk||Skim milk + vegetable oil||Replace each cup of whole milk with one cup of skim milk + one tablespoon vegetable oil. The oil will add thickness without compromising flavor.|
|White flour||Whole wheat flour||This is a great substitution for beginners. Keep the flavor, but gain some nutrition benefits.|
|Buttermilk||Almond milk + Greek yogurt + lemon juice||When a recipe calls for one cup of buttermilk, replace it with ¾ cup almond milk + ¼ cup yogurt + ¼ tsp lemon juice.|