Baking healthy might sound like an oxymoron, and it's true that baked sweets may never be an essential part of a diet, but there are ways to lighten up your desserts (and the guilt) and still enjoy a delicious treat. We've already covered a few simple substitutions for healthier baking in the past, and here are a few more tricks to add to your arsenal.
Whole Wheat Applesauce Loaf Cake from Eat, Live, Run
Replacing butter with oils (and fruit purées)
Oils such as canola, sunflower, or coconut on average contain much less saturated fat than butter. In some cases, particularly with cookies, you may not be able to replace all of the butter with oil, but you should be pretty safe with a swap of up to 50%. For cakes and quick breads, you can even swap out up to 50% of the oil and butter for applesauce, puréed bananas, pumpkin, or even avocados! The best swaps for butter are avocados and coconut oil, and the best swaps for oil are applesauce and other purées.
Switching from refined white flour to whole wheat
We've emphasized this point a few times on the blog, but switching from white flour to whole wheat flour is a simple, but great change to make to your diet. For most recipes, you should be able to swap up to 50% of the flour for whole wheat (and potentially more once you become more familiar with these substitutions). For more tips on working with whole grains, check out these baking tips from the New York Times (or see some of these other baking substitutions for flour!)
Reduce the sugar content by using honey, molasses, or agave nectar
Moving from refined sugars to more natural liquid sweeteners such as honey, molasses, or agave nectar is a good way to reduce the overall sugar content of your baked sweets. This is one of the harder swaps, however, because some sweets don't work with the additional moisture the liquid sugars add. You'll have to compensate for that in other aspects of your baked goods, which requires more practice and experience. Also, a kitchen scale is a must, because in order to make the switch, you need to weigh your sugar and replace the same amount of liquid sweetener by weight, not volume.
Reduce sugar content by adding fruit
One of the additional benefits of adding unsweetened applesauce (or other puréed fruits) to your baked goods instead of some oil is that the natural sugars found in those allow you to reduce some of the sugar you add! Additionally, by adding dried berries, raisins, or other flavorful additions (like toasted nuts), you can cut down on the white sugar and increase the overall flavor of your sweets!
Switch to lower-fat dairy
Replacing your whole milks and heavy creams with lower fat options is a simple way to bake healthier. Cottage cheese, nonfat yogurt, greek yogurt, and part-skim ricotta are all viable alternatives to your traditional dairy ingredients. With these, it's best to experiment and find out what works best for you.