Healthy Substitutes when Baking

1. Black beans for flour

Swapping out flour for a can of back beans (drained and rinsed, of course) in brownies is a great way to cut out the gluten and fit in an extra dose of protein, Plus, they taste great. When baking, swap out 1 cup flour for 1 cup black bean puree (about a 15oz can).

2. Whole wheat flour for white flour

In virtually any baked good, replacing white flour with whole wheat can add a whole new dimension of nutrients, flavor, and texture. Because whole wheat includes the outer shell of the grain, it also provides an extra punch of fiber, which aids in digestion and can even lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease. For every cup of white flour, substitute 7/8 cup of whole-wheat.

3. Unsweetened applesauce for sugar

Using applesauce in place of sugar can give the necessary sweetness without the extra calories and, well, sugar. While one cup of unsweetened applesauce contains only about 100 calories, a cup of sugar can pack in more than 770 calories! This swap is  perfect for oatmeal raisin cookies. Pro tip: You can sub sugar for apple sauce in a 1:1 ratio, but for every cup of applesauce you use, reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup.

4. Unsweetened applesauce for oil or butter

Don’t knock this one till you’ve tried it. The applesauce gives the right consistency and a hint of sweetness without all the fat of oil or butter. This works well in any sweet bread, like banana or zucchini, or in muffins (like in these low-fat blueberry muffins) — and even with pre-boxed mixes! On your first try, only try swapping out half the fat (so a recipe using 1 cup of oil would use 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup applesauce). If you can’t tell the difference with that swap, try swapping a bit more of the fat next time around.

5. Almond flour for wheat flour

This gluten-free switch gives any baked good a dose of protein, omega-3s, and a delicious nutty flavor. Check out these classic butter cookies for a simple example. A word of advice: almond flour is much heavier than other baking flours, so when subbing go 1/4 cup at a time (so 1 cup wheat flour would become 3/4 cup wheat flour and 1/4 cup almond flour). Or, if it’s all or nothing for your recipe, remember to increase the amount of rising agent (by about 1/2 teaspoon per cup of almond flour added) to account for the extra weight.

6. Avocado puree for butter

They’re both fats (albeit very different fats) and have nearly the same consistency at room temperature. The creaminess and subtle flavor of the avocado lends itself well to the texture of fudge brownies and dark chocolate flavorings. It can take some experimenting to get this swap perfect, but generally, using 1 cup of avocado puree per cup of butter works.

7. Brown rice cereal with flax meal for Rice Crispies

Brown puffed rice has the same texture as conventional white rice, but with half the calories. The flax adds extra fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and phytochemicals to the mix without compromising flavor!

8. Marshmallow Fluff for frosting

Replacing the fat and sugar in frosting with marshmallow achieves the perfect consistency with many fewer calories. While two tablespoons of marshmallow has just 40 calories and 6 grams of sugar (and no fat!), the same amount of conventional frosting can pack up to 100 calories, 14 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of fat. Need we go on?

9. Natural peanut butter for reduced-fat peanut butter

While they may appear better than traditional Skippy or Jiff, reduced fat versions of peanut butter can actually have more sugar — and an extra-long list of artificial additives— than the classics. Natural peanut butter (preferably unsalted) provides the same sweetness without call the extra junk.

10. Vanilla for sugar

Cutting sugar in half and adding a teaspoon of vanilla as a replacement can give just as much flavor with significantly fewer calories. Assuming the recipe originally calls for one cup of sugar, that’s already almost 400 calories cut out! You can’t sub this one in equal ratios, but next time you’re whipping up some cookies, try cutting 2 tablespoons of sugar and adding an extra 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

11. Mashed bananas for fats

The creamy, thickening-power of mashed (ripe!) banana acts the same as avocado in terms of replacing fat in baking recipes. The consistency is ideal, and the bananas add nutrients like potassium, fiber, and vitamin B6. One cup of mashed banana works perfectly in place of 1 cup or butter or oil!

12. Nut flours for flour

A word of caution: Nut flours don’t rise the same way as wheat flour so an additional rising agent might be needed when replacing more than ¼ cup of wheat. Many gluten-free blogs detail how to streamline nut flour-based baking. And while these flours are typically higher in calories and fat, they also have more fiber and protein. Nut flours do tend to be heavier than classic wheat, so make sure to up the amount of baking powder and baking soda in the recipe so the dough can rise as normal. Another option is to replace only part of the flour in a recipe with nut flour!

13. Coconut flour for flour

High in fiber and low in carbohydrates, coconut flour is a great partial substitute for wheat flour in baking recipes.  Be careful, though — using more than half a cup at a time could allow the flour’s bitterness to take over. Substitutes can be tricky in baking, so when using coconut flour, be sure to add an equal amount of extra liquid! In baked goods, you generally want to substitute only 1/4 to 1/3 cup of coconut flour for 1 cup of wheat flour. (Take a look at this easy-to-understandchart for more specific substitution instructions!)

14. Meringue for frosting

Made from just egg whites and sugar, meringue can be a great fat-free substitution for traditional frosting. Feel like going a step further? Take a torch to it. Lightly charring the edges of the meringue can add a nice caramelized flavor. (Not to mention a cool visual effect!)

15. Graham crackers for cookies (in pie crusts)

Who doesn’t love a fresh baked cookie-crust pie? Next time, refrain from the traditional sugar or Oreo cookie crust and grab the graham crackers. Reduced-fat graham crackers offer the same consistency and flavor with about half the calories of the conventional options.

16. Evaporated skim milk for cream

It’s the same consistency with a fraction of the fat. Evaporated milk tends to have a bit more sugar (only about 2 grams), but the major drop in fat content is well worth the switch. This substitute is an even swap, too (1 cup cream = 1 cup evaporated milk)!

17. Stevia for sugar

The natural sweetener stevia is lower in calories and up to 300 times sweeter than sugar. But watch the grocery bill — this fashionable sweetener can also cost up to 5 times as much as granulated sugar. Since it’s so much sweeter, swap with caution: A recipe calling for 1 cup of sugar should be swapped for 1 teaspoon liquid stevia (or about 2 tablespoons stevia powder).

18. Prunes for butter

In brownies and other dark baked goods, prune puree makes for a perfect butter substitute while cutting more than half the calories and fat. Combine 3/4 cup prunes with 1/4 cup boiling water, and puree to combine. Sub in equal amounts in most dark baked good recipes!

19. Cacao nibs for chocolate chips

News flash: Those chocolate chips actually start out as cacao nibs — the roasted bits of cocoa beans that then get ground down and turned in to chocolate. Opting for these unprocessed (or at least less processed) morsels cuts out the additives and added sugar in chocolate, while also delving out a healthy dose of antioxidants.

20. Chia seeds for butter

These funny lookin’ little seeds are good for more than just growing countertop pets. Combine 1 tablespoon chia seeds with 9 tablespoons water, let sit for 15 minutes, and you get a gel that’s the perfect consistency to stand in for fat in baking recipes. One word of caution: don’t try to cut out all the fat with this substitute — it works best when subbing an equal amount of this mixture for half of the fat in a recipe.

21. Chia seeds for eggs

Surprise! Combining 1 tablespoon chia seeds with 1 cup of water left to sit for 15 minutes yields a perfect 1-to-1 egg substitute for baking. (But we probably wouldn’t suggest subbing chia for butter and eggs in the same recipe!)

22. Flax meal for eggs

This one’s an old vegan trick. Mix 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds (aka flax meal) with 3 tablespoons of warm water and whisk with a fork to combine. Now let it sit in the fridge for 5-10 minutes before subbing for 1 egg in any baked recipe. Voila!

How to Buy Healthy Bread!










1] Choose 100 percent whole grain.
An intact kernel of wheat is made up of three parts: an outer coat of bran, an inner layer of germ, and starchy endosperm in between. When wheat is refined to make white flour, the bran and germ are stripped away, along with the lion’s share of the grain’s fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. The simplest rule of thumb is to look for whole-grain bread.

2] Believe what you see.
Rachel Beller, MS, RD, founder of Beller Nutritional Institute in Beverly Hills, Calif., tells her patients to trust their eyes when choosing bread: “Check to see that you can spot actual grains or pieces of grain—and not just on top. They make your body work harder to digest and prevent blood sugar from spiking.” Vegetarian and vegan nutritionist Dina Aronson, MS, RD, agrees: “Even whole-grain bread made from whole-grain flour is not as healthful as intact whole grains,” she says.

3] Know how to spot refined white flour in disguise.
“Wheat flour is just a code name for white flour,” says Peter Reinhart, Johnson & Wales baking instructor, founder of Brother Juniper’s Bakery, and author of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. For that matter, so is unbleached flour and enriched wheat flour. Any time you see “enriched,” you know that you’re getting white flour incognito. Flour that has been refined (stripped of its bran and germ) has some B vitamins and iron replaced via chemical enrichment, leaving the newly refined flour deficient in other important vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.

4] Watch out for partial promises.
Breads that are “made with whole grains” contain some whole grain but are usually made with refined white flour as well. Similarly, a “multigrain” label only tells you that the bread contains different kinds of grains. “But it doesn’t mean they haven’t been pulverized and refined,” Beller explains. And breads that say they are “whole wheat” may or may not be made with whole-grain wheat. “It just means they used some whole wheat in the bread,” she adds. “Check to see if whole wheat is the first ingredient.”

5] Give it a squeeze.
Give a loaf of bread a gentle squeeze before buying. If it compresses way too easily, keep moving. The denser the bread, the closer you’re getting to the whole grains you want. Truth is manufacturers have a tough time making nourishing bread that’s also soft and fluffy. So sometimes they rely on chemicals, which you also don’t want.