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Healthy Swaps: How to Make Baking Healthier!
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Healthy Swaps: How to Make Baking Healthier!

General Health


Charlotte Pearse

You shouldn’t have to compromise on flavor in order to eat healthy. Here’s how to make baked goods that taste amazing but are still good for you.

If you’re looking for a new hobby, baking is a great one to get into, because the end result is a tasty treat you can enjoy! However, baking regularly can add a lot of calories to your normal diet, so you’ll want to do it in a healthy way!

Despite baked goods often being associated with a lot of unnecessary sugar, that doesn’t have to be the case! Baking things yourself is far healthier than buying store bought goods, at any rate. 

There are a lot of easy swaps you can make in ingredients to ensure that you’re baking healthy. Here are some healthy baking swaps and innovative recipes for you to try if you want to treat your sweet tooth without throwing off your healthy eating regimen!

Baking Can Be Healthy

Eating healthy is not all about including more fruits and vegetables into your diet, though that of course can’t hurt. It’s important to pay a lot of attention to the way you cook as well as what you’re cooking with.

Baking is a much healthier process than frying, for example, so instead of reaching for fried desserts, consider making them yourself! And it’s not just for bread and desserts either— seafood, poultry, meat, and vegetables can all also be cooked through baking.

You also have more freedom with what ingredients to include when you choose to make baked goods yourself rather than go for a boxed mix. This means that you can cut down on the number of calories and fats included in the recipe by making your own changes, and have less added sugars and preservatives in your food.

In addition, baking foods helps them retain their nutrients without you having to add extra salt or fat that can make the food more unhealthy.

Baking as a process for cooking food also helps drain fats out rather than trapping them in. Many foods cook better when baked, too— and taste better! Baked goods do a better job of retaining the original flavors of all of the ingredients, so they’re very tasty.

An image of a cake with graham cracker crumbs as the border and berries on the top. The cake is on a ceramic plate on a wooden table beside a half-full glass and an open book.
There’s nothing quite like baked goods to brighten your day at home. Curl up with a good book and whatever you baked and enjoy a day indoors!

By baking yourself, you also lessen the risk of anyone having an adverse reaction to the food, and the food itself won’t go through a reaction process either since you don’t necessarily need to add oil when baking. You can avoid oxidation this way.

There is typically a small amount of oil in baked goods, which means consuming it doesn’t increase risk of heart disease or other physical health problems like fried foods might. The lower fat content in baked foods makes them a great choice from those who are very concerned about these types of issues.

Baking isn’t just better for your physical wellbeing, however! It’s also been found to help relieve stress and improve upon mental health

One of the reasons why baking is such a popular hobby these days is that a lot of people took it up during quarantine when they were cooped up in their house. Quarantine was also a mental health low point for many people, and it turns out baking is actually a fairly good way to combat those feelings.

Baking is a great activity to focus on when you’re bored or even just in need of a break, and the end reward is almost always worth the effort you put in. Even if you end up burning your muffins, though, the process of mixing up ingredients can be very therapeutic and relaxing. After all, art therapy exists and works, and baking is very much its own art form!

In addition, specific scents have been found to decrease stress levels by the National Library of Medicine. If you’re having a bad day, a delicious smell filling up your house might be just the thing to turn your mood around. It certainly can’t hurt, at least, and neither can the baked goods themselves.

In addition, you can multitask while you’re baking… or at least, while what you’re baking is actually in the oven. But when you have to be more hands-on, maybe listen to music as a pick-me up or a podcast, whichever you prefer, in order to help your brain relax and get your mind off of whatever’s causing you stress.

Healthy Baking Swaps

If you’re doing a whole lot of baking, though, it definitely makes sense to be a bit more health conscious about what it is exactly that you’re making and eating. Never fear, because with a few simple ingredient swaps you can make delicious desserts that won’t ruin your healthy lifestyle.

High-quality and fresh ingredients are always the way to go, especially if you want to pack your baked goods with great taste. In doing so, you’ll make food that’s more filling and flavorful as well! For example? Use vanilla bean, not vanilla extract.

There are plenty of other healthy baking swaps where that one came from, however. Butter, though delicious to add to any dish, is also notorious for making said dish less healthy by nature. Luckily, there are plenty of great butter substitutes out there.

Mashed or pureed avocados are full of both nutrients and flavors. A lot of people put avocados on their toast instead of butter, and you can do the same while baking, though it may take some finagling with your recipe.

If you’re not much of an avocado fan, you can also use mashed bananas, which are naturally very sweet and also very available at any grocery store. For a spicier twist on your recipe try canned pumpkin, and you can even puree tofu to use instead of butter in brownies!

An image of a segments of a stick of butter sitting on top of a pile of flour on a wooden surface.
Things that might seem like staples in most recipes are actually more easily replaced than you might think. A little butter can go a long way in making something less healthy, so you might want to find a healthy baking swap.

Even prunes can act as a butter substitute, but if you’re worried about altering the flavor of your baked goods too much, go for a heart-healthy oil such as canola oil, though this doesn’t work as a 1:1 swap since the textures are very different.

On the subject of butter, peanut butter is a big crowd favorite, but you should go for natural peanut butter as opposed to reduced fat ones. Just because labels boast that a certain product is healthier doesn’t mean it’s the truth, and it’s always in your best interest to go with the most natural option available.

And speaking of natural, natural sweeteners are a great way for you to make a delicious dish that isn’t full of too much added sugar. 

Cutting down the amount of sugar you use in a recipe by about 25% won’t change the taste too much, so it’s a good way to make your baked goods just a bit healthier if you don’t have any substitutes on hand, but by all means use them if you do!

A great, natural substitute for sugar is honey. If you do choose to use 3 tablespoons of sugar instead of 4, maybe add a tablespoon of honey for that extra sweetness you might be missing out on, but honey is also a great source of sweetness all on its own.

Eggs are a great source of protein, but they’re also very high in cholesterol. For a healthy baking swap, use chia seeds instead! They’re good for your digestive tract, and also happen to be gluten and grain free, so they’re good for those with dietary restrictions.

Milk is often required in many recipes, so it’s good to know that low fat and fat free dairy products are a better alternative. For example, you can make frosting from Greek yogurt instead of cream cheese if you want to go the healthy route.

Flour is also an essential baking ingredient, and so swapping to a healthy version could go a long way in making the entire recipe much healthier. Refined or white flours aren’t very good for you, so go for a whole-grain flour! It works pretty well with most recipes that call for your usual, all-purpose flour.

You should also not be afraid to experiment with less common flour swaps! Chickpea flour, almond flour, and even black beans can be used to replace flour in certain recipes, so definitely look into all of the options available to you. You might be surprised at what you find. 

When baking savory foods, marinades, citrus juice, fresh hot peppers and fresh or dried herbs add a lot of flavor. You don’t want to have to rely on adding fat to make your meal taste good. 

Recipes to Try

We’re going to stick with the sweet for now, however. There are plenty of healthy baking recipes available to you, you just have to know where to look!

When in doubt, fruit is usually a pretty good base for a healthy baked good— the fresher the better! Fruit is also very naturally sweet, so if added sugars are a big concern of yours, you won’t have to worry about it as much if you go this route.

Bananas and apples are healthy favorites to use when baking— banana bread, banana muffins, baked apples, apple crisps, you name it! All of these are very sweet and still pretty good for you.

You can choose any fruit you like, however! Pies and tarts are a great way to bake healthy, rather than going for a cake. Look up recipes with flavors that you like and experiment with new things!

An image of a tart made with oranges arranged in a beautiful circle on top. The tart sits on one plate and a large slice sits on another beside it, all on a grey tablecloth.
Baking, true baking, is all about being innovative, not just doing what the instructions on the box say. If you want to make healthier baked goods, experiment with what ingredients you use and what recipes you try! Chances are you’ll stumble upon something you really like.

And speaking of experimenting, you don’t even need to stick to things that you make in an oven. Cold desserts can be just as satisfying, and sometimes even more so. Fruit popsicles that use yogurt or coconut milk as a base are a great choice, and the same is true for ice cream!

If you’re a big fan of chocolate, there are also plenty of healthy options available to you. It may surprise you to know that chocolate is not inherently unhealthy, and it’s all about the quantity of it you use and how exactly you use it. Chocolate and fruit pair together very naturally, after all.

You can make dark chocolate bites using fruits and nuts, or dip specific fruits in chocolate as a very easy and not too unhealthy treat. The classic strawberries, of course, but pomegranates, figs, and watermelon also pair nicely with chocolate.

Consider making yourself a homemade, healthy chocolate shake as well, or even baking your own peanut butter cups! Peanut butter is a fairly healthy ingredient to use in desserts after all, so peanut butter cookies are a great idea— or even cookies made from another nut butter, such as almond butter.

There are plenty of other healthy ways to make cookies, too! Pumpkin spice cookies, for example. Rice Krispie treats, though not quite a cookie, are also a baked good that’s fairly easy to make on your own and healthy.

Sticking to healthy foods when baking is most likely more simple than you originally think, and chances are if you choose to look into recipes and healthy baking swaps like the ones detailed here, you’ll be able to see that. Best of luck with your healthy baking habit!

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