Healthy Baking Substitutions
Dessert: a sweet course eaten at the end of a meal.
I take the definition of dessert very seriously and follow this rule after each and every meal. This may sound a bit glutinous, but there are a number of modifications you can make while baking. This can up the nutritional value and provide positive nutrients for your body while satisfying that sweet tooth.
As I can no longer eat dairy products due to the negative effects it has on my body, it has forced me to make changes to my eating habits and get creative, especially when it comes to baking dessert. As I started to experiment with dairy-free baking, I realized that by making a few minor modifications here and there, you can end up with quite a nutritious, healthy and satisfying treat!
Transitioning ingredients slowly is a great place to start. By only subbing one or two ingredients per recipe at a time, you can learn about the flavours, textures, how it reacts in the recipe and whether or not you enjoy it as a substitute. An example would be to start by using a plant-based milk. You may even want to experiment with different types of plant-based milks as well as different brands since they all have a slightly different taste and consistency. A next step might be to substitute half of the regular flour for an alternative flour, such as oat flour. A few other healthy modification ideas could be to try a flax egg and substitute half of the regular sugar for coconut sugar. Play around with it and have fun. It can be empowering to know that you are elevating your dessert to new and nutritious heights!
Not every alternative on the list below is necessarily “healthy” but in many ways, can be a healthier and cleaner alternative than the typical ingredient used. Although I’m sure someone could argue a reason why these are not healthier as there are always two sides to the coin, I will focus on the positive benefits of these alternatives. I am in no way an expert on nutrition and continue learning about food and the body everyday. I am sharing these options with you because I enjoy working with these ingredients while baking and feel they provide higher nutritional benefits. If you feel the need to do so, I would encourage you to do further research to make sure these alternatives are right for you in every way before using them.
Below is a list of common baking ingredients used in most recipes with baking substitute options for you to explore and try in your favourite recipes.
There are many different types of flours on the market to try that all bring their unique texture, flavour and added health benefits over traditional all-purpose flour.
a. Chickpea Flour:
Gluten-free, fewer calories than regular flour, high in fibre and protein!
b. Oat Flour:
Packed with antioxidants, high protein, low-carb, adds a chewy and crumblier texture.
c. Green Banana Flour:
Grain-free, gluten-free, high in zinc, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium and can help lower cholesterol. Provides a dense, moist and chewy texture without a banana flavour.
d. Quinoa Flour:
Gluten-free, provides protein, fibre, iron and unsaturated fats. Adds a nutty and earthy flavour. I would recommend subbing 1/4 cup-1/2 cup of regular flour for quinoa flour in a recipe.
e. Almond Flour:
Gluten-free, high in monounsaturated fat (good for reducing cholesterol), low glycemic index, adds nutty flavour.
f. Rice Flour:
Gluten-free, high source of fibre, may help improve digestive health as well as enhancing liver function.
g. Coconut Flour:
Gluten-free, rich in fibre, protein, MCTs and may promote good digestion and heart health. Coconut flour has a strong coconut flavour so it isn’t a flour I would use with every recipe.
h. Spelt Flour:
Whole-grain, good source of fibre and has more minerals and less phytic acid than regular flour. This is an easy switch as it is very similar to regular flour and adds no new textures or flavours.
i. Cassava Flour:
Can help improve gut health, lower calories, and high in vitamin C.
j. Tiger Nut Flour:
Nut free (really!), gluten-free and it is said to even act as an aphrodisiac. It has a slightly sweet and nutty flavour which works perfectly in baking.
This is only the beginning of a long list of delicious and nutritious flour alternatives to explore and enjoy in your baking.
2. NATURAL SWEETENERS
There are many other ways to sweeten a dessert without using white sugar. Using natural sweeteners provide a number of health benefits that refined sugars do not.
a. Maple Syrup:
High in antioxidants, fights inflammation, contains zinc, manganese, potassium and calcium.
High source of iron, magnesium, selenium and copper and may help with inflammation.
High in antioxidants, may improve digestive health, many variations for a variety of flavour profiles.
d. Agave Syrup:
Low glycemic index, healthy fibre like fructans and contains small amounts of vitamins C and B.
e. Coconut Sugar:
Contains potassium, magnesium and sodium. Has a low-glycemix index, minerals such as iron, zinc and calcium, nitrogen, vitamin C, raw antioxidants as well as short-chain fatty acids.
f. Date Sugar:
High in fibre, antioxidants, lower calories then regular sugar and low glycemic index.
Who would have thought that beans could play such an amazing role in baked goods. From the liquid in a chickpea can comes meringue and from a can of black beans, comes brownies! Beans not only add a ton of fibre and protein to a dessert, but also a dense, moist and chewy texture, whether that be in a brownie, blondie, cookie or muffin!
Packed with protein, fibre, folic acid and manganese.
b. Black Beans:
A great flour replacement in brownies as they provide a fudgy texture and are naturally gluten-free while providing fibre and protein.
c. White Beans:
Other than being packed with fibre and protein, white beans are a good source of folate, magnesium and vitamin B6.
Low in calories, rich in iron, folate and a high source of protein and polyphenols.
Icing can be a difficult thing to make healthier because it requires powdered sugar. Below are a few ways to up the nutritional value in your icing or glaze.
a. PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter:
Cut some of the icing sugar and add powdered peanut butter instead! This works best if making a glaze versus a icing used for piping.
b. Latte Powders:
There are a lot of great superfood latte powders on the market. Not only do they add a beautiful natural colour, but they add a lovely flavour along with some great health benefits.
5. FOOD COLOURING
Need to colour your icing but don’t want to use yucky tasting and artificial food dyes? Try these natural ways to add colour to your icing while adding health benefits:
a. Red: beetroot powder
b. Yellow: turmeric
c. Blue: butterfly pea flower powder
d. Green: spinach powder (or any green superfood powder)
e. Orange: carrot powder
f. Purple: black goji berry powder
g. Pink: pink pitaya powder
6. BUTTER AND OIL REPLACEMENTS
Regular baking typically contains a lot of butter, which I cannot eat. Luckily, there are some easy, economical and tasty ways to replace the butter in your recipe.
Applesauce is a great replacement for liquid fats, such as oil. Replace the oil with an equal amount of applesauce! It also provides a nice sweetness, naturally!
b. Coconut Oil:
Coconut oil is higher in saturated fat than butter, but as someone who can’t have butter, it is a great replacement with other added health benefits.
This is another great way to substitute butter or oil in a recipe
Typically a 1:1 ratio works perfectly. Did you know avocados contain more potassium than bananas?!
7. EGG REPLACEMENT
I can eat eggs and often do, but if you are midway through baking your recipe only to realize you’ve run out of eggs, no need to worry because these natural egg replacements have you covered! I enjoy the flax egg so much that I often use it over a real egg.
a. Flax Egg:
Want to make that recipe vegan? Use ground flax and water to replace an egg in your recipe! One flax egg is 1 tablespoon of ground flax + 3 tablespoons of water. Mix in a separate bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes.
Yes, it can replace an egg too! 1/4 cup of applesauce replaces one egg.
Whip 1/4 cup of tofu in a blender adding water until smooth and you’ve got yourself an egg!
d. Vinegar and Baking Soda:
1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of vinegar.
A 1/4 cup of mashed banana is equivalent to one egg.
3 tablespoons of aquafaba is the equivalent of one whole egg.
Many of us have family recipes we have enjoyed for many years and want to continue to enjoy for years to come, but no longer can due to food sensitivities. My hope is that from the list of ingredients above, you will be able to find a few substitutions that will work in your favourite recipes to make them safe and nutritious. Although it might not taste exactly how grandma made them, it will taste pretty darn close!
Did I miss an item that you love to use as a substitute? Comment below and share!