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Nutrition Articles  ›  Meals and Food

Light Baking Done Right

14 Clever Ideas for Healthier Baked Goods

-- By Stepfanie Romine, Staff Writer
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Sweet as Sugar
Sugar plays an important role in baked goods because it weakens and softens the strong, stretchy proteins found in flour. Without sugar, a flour-based recipe would yield tough, chewy cookies and cakes. When baked, sugar also caramelizes, which adds color and a rich flavor to cookies, and helps cookies become crispy. However, sugar contains 775 calories per cup, and it quickly adds up as you make your rounds to the dessert table.

In pie fillings, cakes and cookies, you can usually reduce the amount of sugar in a recipe by up to half. Start by reducing sugar by 1/4 cup. If the recipe works, try reducing another 1/4 cup. Your family won't notice, and the cookies will turn out about the same.

If sugar substitutes are your thing, then check the package directions for information on swapping artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes in place of sugar in baked goods.

And if you'd prefer something more "natural" than table sugar, natural sweeteners like molasses and honey abound. When cooking and baking, refer to these guidelines for using natural sweeteners in place of sugar.

2 More Easy Ways to Lighten Your Baked Goods
We saved the best for last! If you're still unsure about changing your recipe, you can do these two things:
  1. Use miniature chocolate chips in your cookies and reduce the amount by half. Though mini chips and regular size chips have the same nutritional content, by reducing the amount, you'll get more, smaller chips throughout the cookies. Calorie swap Save 1,050 calories per cup of chips you eliminate, or about 22 calories per cookie.
     
  2. Make smaller cookies. A standard batch of chocolate chip cookies is supposed to yield 5 dozen cookies (each made with a tablespoon of dough) that each contain 110 calories and 6 grams of fat. Does your cookie dough yield 60 cookies? Use teaspoons instead of tablespoons to scoop cookie dough.
Altering recipes can feel like mad science at times, but a bit of patience and perseverance are helpful. Experiment with just one substitution at a time. Eliminating or reducing sugar, butter and eggs in the same recipe could yield tough or rubbery baked goods. Try these substitution ideas with your favorite recipes and soon you'll have lighter, healthier versions! (Shh! We won't tell anyone if you don't!)
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About The Author

Stepfanie Romine Stepfanie Romine
A former newspaper reporter, Stepfanie now writes about nutrition, health, fitness and cooking. She is a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher who enjoys running, international travel and all kinds of vegetables. See all of Stepfanie's articles.

Member Comments

  • Wonderful article. Are there recipes on SP using these subs? - 1/21/2014 4:49:31 PM
  • I knew about applesauce but not the pumpkin nor prunes. Thanks. - 12/23/2013 5:40:17 AM
  • This is great info, but it should be noted that baked goods that are made with fresh bananas cannot last long. They go bad, or get mouldy. - 12/15/2013 8:06:08 PM
  • Thanks for this article. I have tried some of these methods, but this article shares a few more tips and options.

    I've used banana, applesauce and yogurt . . . most with good results.

    - 12/15/2013 11:26:07 AM
  • MIDDLEC56
    very helpful, have to try the applesauce one. - 11/21/2013 5:36:56 PM
  • KATHYPITT
    you can also use shredded zucchni to replace eggs butter and oil.remember how moist zucchni- bread is. - 11/20/2013 6:19:15 PM
  • Interesting article. Just wish there was a way to print the complete article to save for further review. - 10/26/2013 12:32:11 PM
  • ELLEN4WALLS
    Sorry to be a contrarian, but I'd rather have a smaller helping of the real thing. Further, I wonder what the research says about low fat sweets....while you save calories, all of these recipes substitute carbs for fats which leads to a higher glycemic index which in my case inspires me to overeat more than something that has a some fat and makes me feel satisfied.

    I do recommend pumpkin cookies which are basically a lower fat variation of chocolate cookies, but generally what works for me is eating whole foods sensibly prepared and leaving a couple extra calories for a splurge. - 6/24/2013 10:50:38 PM
  • i would disagree that you cant substitute all of the eggs or oil - my favorite easy treats to make for family & friends just involve boxed cake mix, and subbing in something in place of all the oil and eggs called for. chocolate cake mix + 2 cups pumpkin puree is incredible, and tastes SO rich. its dense, but i dont necessarily see how thats a bad thing. or vanilla cake mix with a cup of diet orange soda - bam, orange cupcakes. i add in a little orange extract, too - theyre sticky, but delicious. - 6/24/2013 10:10:47 PM
  • I like the idea of using mini chocolate chips and making smaller cookies, but I don't think I'd make the other substitutions just to save calories. I'd rather use the butter and eggs and limit myself to a couple smaller, richer, full-blown cookies. I can completely understand doing otherwise, but I'd probably just eat a dozen of them to compensate! - 6/24/2013 6:06:59 PM
  • Glad the article came 'round again. I'd saved it some time ago, but never baked. Baking has been on my mind lately and this will be a great reference. - 6/24/2013 5:49:59 PM
  • Thanks for the article. - 6/24/2013 3:29:52 PM
  • I was so hoping to get the recipe from the picture! haha. I"ll look it up. Great information though. - 6/24/2013 2:18:12 PM
  • I use a few of these tricks but there are others I haven't heard of and some like tofu I wouldn't use on a bet. but have printed out the blog. - 6/24/2013 2:13:05 PM
  • Thank you! this is very usefull. - 6/24/2013 2:03:00 PM