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5 Easy Baking Swaps to Slash Calories and Sugar

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Katherine Brooking, RD - Blogs
By Katherine Brooking, MS, RDRegistered dietitianSeptember 25, 2017

There’s nothing better on a brisk fall day than fresh-from-the-oven muffins, cookies, or quick breads.  If you love baked goods but don’t love all the sugar and calories (and potential pounds) associated with sweet treats, here’s some great news. A few simple swaps can boost the fiber and other essential nutrients in your favorite recipes while slashing calories, sugar, and saturated fat.

The best part? You won’t taste the difference. Consider the following swaps next time you put on your baking apron:

PUREED FRUIT FOR BUTTER OR OIL
If you’re looking for a tasty way to amp up the color, texture, and moisture of your favorite desserts — without all the saturated fat – consider fruit!

Fruit purees provide fiber, antioxidants, and other essential nutrients. Banana or prune purees have 15 and 45 calories, respectively, per tablespoon and are fat-free and rich in potassium, an important bone-building nutrient. In comparison, a tablespoon of oil packs in 120 calories and 13.5 grams of fat.

How to use: Replace every 1cup of oil with ¾ cup fruit puree.
Best for: Prune puree works perfectly to make rich brownies and chocolate cakes. Pureed bananas are a great option for coffee cakes, quick breads, spice cakes and most cookies. 

VANILLA EXTRACT FOR SUGAR
According to national data, Americans consume about 20 teaspoons of sugar every day! One cup of sugar has about 774 calories, so it’s a good idea to cut down on the sweet stuff. While most baked goods require some sugar, you can cut back the amount you use by replacing some of the sugar with vanilla extract.

How to use: Replace ¼ cup sugar with 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. You can replace up to a quarter of the sugar your recipe calls for with vanilla.
Best for: Scones, muffins, and chocolate dessert recipes.

STEVIA BLENDS FOR SUGAR
Another easy way to slash calories and added sugar is to use the natural sweetener stevia in lieu of some of the sugar in your recipes. Stevia is made from the extract of leaves of the stevia plant, which is native to South America. Baked goods do require some real sugar to get the right taste and texture, so you need to use a combination of stevia with sugar. An easy way to do this is with a cane sugar blend, which combines stevia with regular sugar. It has 75 percent fewer calories per serving than table sugar.

How to use: Use ½ cup of cane sugar blend for every 1 cup of table sugar in your recipe.
Best for: Stevia sugar blends are ideal for any type of cooking or baking including pie, cookies, cake, and quick breads.

OAT BRAN FOR REGULAR FLOUR
Making bread or muffins? Boost the nutrition, taste, texture, and moisture of your baked goods by swapping out some regular flour for oat bran. Oat bran is rich in fiber (nearly 4 grams per quarter-cup) and protein (four grams per quarter-cup). The protein and fiber will help you feel more satisfied and the oat bran is an effective way to lower harmful total and LDL cholesterol levels.

How to use: Oat bran can replace up to a quarter of the all-purpose flour. For example, if a recipe has 3 cups all-purpose flour, use ¾ cup oat bran and 2¼ cups all-purpose flour.
Best for: Muffins, carrot cake, scones, and bread

CACAO NIBS FOR CHOCOLATE CHIPS
Whether you’re baking chocolate chip cookies or a fiber-rich breakfast cookie, you can lighten your recipe by swapping cacao nibs for chocolate chips. A cup of regular semi-sweet chocolate chips packs in about 850 calories and 25 teaspoons of sugar. A cup of cacao nibs, on the other hand, have about 700 calories and no sugar. Minimally processed cacao nibs are referred to as nature’s chocolate and they provide antioxidants, fiber, magnesium and iron.

How to use: Cacao nibs can be used as a 1:1 replacement for all of the chocolate chips in any baked good.
Best for: Cookies, cakes, quick breads, or muffins. 

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About the Author
Katherine Brooking, MS, RD

Katherine Brooking is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition education from Columbia University. She is dedicated to helping people have better health and live richer lives through sound nutrition and good lifestyle choices.

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