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Seven Ingredients for Healthier Baking

Seven Ingredients for Healthier Baking

Baking is fun and tasty, but almost all baked goods are high in fat, sugar and simple carbohydrates. While cake might never be “healthy” (yes, we’re onto you, carrot cake!), you can reduce its impact by using some simple ingredient substitutes. When done correctly, substitutions can make your baked goods lighter and healthier—but be careful, the wrong replacements can result in food that is bland or just plain bad.


Baking substitutions can be made to address quite a few different health needs, and the recipe change can vary from simply reducing the quantity of an ingredient to using an entirely different one.

For example, people concerned about processed foods like sugar substitutes can use raw or whole food versions. If you are avoiding high quantities of fat or sugar, applesauce can be a great option in some recipes. Here are seven healthy replacement options to cut back on the ingredients you are avoiding, so you can enjoy baking again.

Instead of: Greasing with butter or oil
Use: A nonstick cooking spray

Instead of: Butter or oil
Use: Use half the amount of butter or oil called for and replace the other half with natural, no-sugar-added applesauce

Instead of: All-purpose flour
Use: Half all-purpose flour, half whole-wheat flour. You can also try whole-wheat pastry flour for cakes and muffins. Whole-wheat flour has more fiber and protein than white flour. It’s also lower on the glycemic index, which means it takes the body longer to break down and absorb. If you have a gluten allergy, try gluten-free baking using like quinoa, rice or almond flour. These flours can be more expensive than the wheat-based variety and may require a different recipe than one meant for wheat flour.

Instead of: Cream
Use: Evaporated skim milk when making whipped cream and baked goods. Simply replace cup-for-cup.

Instead of: Sour cream
Use: Plain yogurt, whether low-fat, fat-free or Greek. You can also try this substitution with sauces or in place of sour cream as a condiment.

Instead of: Chocolate chips
Use: Cacao nibs (sometimes labeled cocoa nibs), which are less processed and in raw form have 0 grams of sugar.

Instead of: Sugar
Use: Sucralose (Splenda) designed for baking, either to substitute all the sugar or just half. This can also be used to replace half of the brown sugar called for in a recipe. However, sucralose won’t work as a replacement when the sugar needs to caramelize, like in crème brûlée. You can also replace sugar with applesauce cup-for-cup in recipes like oatmeal cookies.

Regarding Salt: Salt usually only needs to be eliminated when baking if you are on a very low-sodium diet. Processed foods tend to be the bigger culprits when it comes to watching your salt intake. Use unsalted butter and the full amount of salt called for in the recipe, which is usually quite low but very important for flavor. Avoid “savory and sweet” recipes like recipes with bacon or salted caramel, which call for much more salt.

What substitutes did we miss? We’d like to hear your most reliable substitutions for baking and cooking. Let’s learn from each other!