You’ve probably seen lists of baking substitutions suggesting that you replace butter with coconut oil or an egg with ground flax. Though many of these healthy swaps make your cookies better for you, they may also end up wrecking the taste of your favorite recipes.
If you want to make your baked goods a little healthier without sacrificing the deliciousness of family recipes, try these sneaky swaps.
1. Get rid of a quarter of the sugar.
In most recipes for baked goods such as cookies, cakes and brownies, you can actually leave out about 25 percent of the sugar without noticing a large difference in sweetness. So if your chocolate chip cookies call for 1 cup of white sugar, try ¾ cup of white sugar instead. While baked goods still contain too much sugar to be considered healthy, eating a little less sugar is always a good idea.
Please keep in mind that not all recipes can lose sugar and still taste good. For instance, some recipes require sugar for structure (like candies) while others rely on just sugar for flavor (meringues). You’ll need to use all the sugar in these types of recipes.
2. Replace 1/4 cup butter and up to two eggs with applesauce.
You may have tried an applesauce swap with little success before. Maybe you replaced the butter with applesauce, but then used the eggs, too. These can result in cookies and bars with a strange, chewy texture that are frankly unpleasant to eat.
Because applesauce can be used to replace both butter and eggs, it’s best that you leave at least some of the eggs out, too, to keep as close to the same texture as possible. This swap helps your baked goods have less fat and cholesterol while still giving you a soft, delicious texture. You can also reduce the sugar in your recipe if you use applesauce since applesauce is a natural sweetener.
3. Replace up to half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour.
Whole-wheat flour is higher in fiber and protein than all-purpose flour, but can leave your baked goods seeming dry and bland. Instead of replacing all of your all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour, only replace half. This helps increase the nutritional benefits of your cookies without killing your taste buds. You can also try whole-wheat pastry flour, which is lighter than standard whole-wheat flour.
Whole-wheat flour also goes better with certain recipes than others. Since it has a nuttier, earthier taste, it often tastes more delicious with flavors like cinnamon, peanut butter, walnut, maple or pecan. Try out this swap with these recipes for the best tasting results.
4. Sneak in dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.
If chocolate is in a supporting role, but not the star player (like in chocolate chip cookies), switch out your milk chocolate chips for dark chocolate chips. Dark chocolate has more heart health benefits and less sugar than milk chocolate.
But be careful when switching out types of chocolate in chocolate cakes or brownies. Always check your batter before baking. If the dark chocolate makes the batter taste bitter, you’ll have to add more sugar to lighten it up.
5. For small amounts of milk, use skim milk instead.
In recipes that call for small amounts of milk (1/2 cup or less), switch out two percent or whole milk for skim milk. This swap lowers the amount of fat in your recipe.
However, some recipes use the fat in milk to give baked goods structure. If your recipe calls for more than a half cup of milk, use whatever type of milk the recipe suggests. No amount of heavy cream can be replaced by lower fat milks.
For your best chance at success with healthy baking swaps, only try one at a time. If that swap works, the next time you bake you can add a second swap. Making your recipes healthier can take a little bit of experimenting, but leads to food you can feel better about enjoying.