When it comes to being healthy, it can be hard to make meals when it seems like everything has an excessive amount of fats and sugars. Fortunately, there are many simple substitutions to make a fat and sugary meal healthy.
Chef Jenn stopped by to teach us how to lighten up our meals, without taking away the flavor.
When you want to cut back on fat:
Typical baked items will usually call for butter or oil, but if you’re looking to lighten up the fat and calories, try the following options:
- Plain Greek Yogurt
- Mashed Bananas
- Pureed Prunes
- Pureed Pumpkin
- Pureed Avocado
All of these items work for most recipes but the key is to only substitute up to half of the fat in the recipe. Fat has the role of tenderizing baked goods making them soft and fat also helps to carry the flavor, therefore we have to keep just a little in there. The exception to this rule is plain Greek yogurt, you can choose to substitute half or all of the fat.
Think about it this way, if a recipe calls for ½ cup of butter, substituting ¼ cup for applesauce will save 400 calories and 44 grams of fat!
Mashed and pureed fruits with high pectin, like bananas, prunes, and pumpkin, also help to tenderize the fat. Since the mashed and pureed fruits naturally have a lot of flavors, they could alter your baked good’s final flavor, choose wisely! Pureed fruit substitutions work best with muffins, quick bread, or spiced cakes (like a carrot).
If a recipe calls for whole milk, you can just use the same amount of a skim, 1%, or 2% milk for the same results with fewer calories and fat.
Lighter Blueberry Muffins
- ¼ cup butter, at room temperature
- 1 mashed banana
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- ½ cup skim milk
- 2 ½ cups blueberries
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Line a muffin tin with paper liners, lightly grease the inside of the liners with nonstick spray.
- In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, banana, and sugar until well combined.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg is added. Add in the baking powder, salt, and vanilla. Add the milk to the bowl and stir. Add the flour and still gently until just incorporated into the mixture, do not overmix.
- Mash 1/2 cup of the blueberries. Add the mashed and whole berries to the batter, stirring just to combine and distribute.
- Distribute the muffin batter into each muffin cup.
- Bake the muffins for about 30 minutes, until they're light golden brown on top, and a toothpick inserted into the middle of one of the center muffins comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the pan slightly (about 5 minutes) before removing them and placing on a cooling rack.
When you want to cut back on plain flour:
If your goal is to cut back on refined flours, you’re not alone! There are many ways to incorporate more fiber and nutrient dense substitutions into our favorite baked goods. Try the following ideas for substituting one cup of regular flour:
- 1 cup of pureed beans
- ¾ cup whole wheat flour + ¼ cup nut flour
- 1/3 oat flour + 2/3 whole wheat flour
All-purpose flour is known for providing an even rise in your baked product, structure, and tenderness. The above substitutions will give you the closest results to the real deal. If you are choosing to use beans, I like either pureed black beans or chickpeas. Black beans should only be used when doing a chocolate dessert of course. Nut flours make for a substitution high in vitamins and minerals but they need to be paired with whole wheat flour to achieve the same rise and structure.
- 1 can chickpeas (15oz), rinsed and drained
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
- ½ cup peanut butter
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ cup white chocolate chips, additional to top
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper and lightly grease with nonstick spray.
- Combine the chickpeas, peanut butter, maple syrup, vanilla extract, baking powder, and baking soda in a food processor and mix until well incorporated.
- Fold white chocolate chips and walnuts into the batter then spread evenly in an 8x8 pan.
- Press additional white chocolate chips into the top.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes.
- Cool slightly before cutting into squares.
When you want to cut back on table sugar:
Refined sugars are becoming less popular and natural sugars like maple syrup and honey are in high demand. Alternatives to table sugar also contain some vitamins and minerals, making them more desirable from a nutrition perspective.
Here are some suggestions for substituting 1 cup of sugar:
- ¾ cup of honey, decrease other liquids by 3 Tablespoons
- ¾ cup of maple syrup, decrease other liquids by 3 Tablespoons
- 2/3 cup of agave, decrease other liquids by ¼ cup
- 1 cup of coconut sugar
When substituting table sugar for a liquid sugar, decrease your oven temperature by 25 degrees because browning accelerates with liquid sugars.
Chef Jenn always recommends trying one substitution at a time and taking notes on how it compares to the original. If you try to change more than one thing at a time, it will be tough to determine what works and what does not. Baking is absolutely a science that takes time to perfect. But the end results are always worth it!
Cinnamon Apple Quick Bread
- ¼ cup butter, melted
- ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten, room temperature
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup apple, peeled and small dice
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Spray a 9x5 loaf pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.
- Mix together melted butter, applesauce, maple syrup, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla extract in a medium bowl until well combined.
- In a separate large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt. Combine the wet ingredients into the dry until just incorporated. Fold in the small diced apple pieces.
- Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool slightly in the loaf pan before removing and placing on a cooling rack.