It’s happened to all of us- you’re in the midst of making your famous muffins to take to brunch in 2 hours, and you’re missing one crucial ingredient essential to the recipe. What’s a cook to do? Running to the market and picking up the missing ingredient is certainly one option, but if you’re tight on time, that’s not always possible. Isn’t there something you can do to make your favorite dessert healthier?
Luckily, the answer is yes! Baking substitutions are becoming more and more popular among cooks, especially among those who have chronic diseases, like diabetes or high blood pressure, or just want to make a positive change to their diet. The best part is — many of these substitutions are already in your pantry or refrigerator!
It’s always handy to have a quick reference guide available to help you make substitutions (intentional or not) in your delicious homemade goodies. This particular guide breaks down baking ingredients by categories and lists healthier swaps. You’ll also find additional health benefits that can be gained by making the change.
Although eggs are protein packed, the yolks also contain cholesterol and saturated fat. While the current dietary recommendations de-emphasize cholesterol as a concern, saturated fat is still linked to chronic disease. Talk to your dietitian or doctor to see how much saturated fat you should be eating. If egg intake is a concern, egg whites and substitutes are an excellent way to keep the protein high. A bonus- almost all of the egg’s protein can be found in the whites, which functions as a structure builder in the batter and adds moisture to the mixture.
Though one or the other is generally needed to act as a tenderizer and add flavor, which one is better for your health? Let’s look at the facts:
Sugar and chocolate are the reason that most of us love baked goods and this tends to draw us to the cookie jar. These ingredients are essential to baking, as they provide flavor and act as a tenderizer. However, sugar can pack a punch, adding 16 calories per teaspoon. That may not sound too bad, but considering most recipes call for a cup (or more!) of sugar, and with 48 teaspoons per cup, you’re looking at an extra 768 calories in the entire recipe! In most recipes, you can cut the sugar by at least ¼ and not even miss it.
Chocolate substitutions can be made by either using less chocolate in the recipe or by changing the formula. When compared to chocolate, cocoa has many of the health benefits, including improving cardiovascular health and blood pressure, with less of the fat — cocoa has 22% fat, versus 48-50% in chocolate.
Still taste too sweet for your liking? Try gradually decreasing the amount of sugar or sugar substitute called for in a recipe by halving the measurement.
Example: For 1.5 cup brown sugar, use ¾ cup brown sugar instead
Spice substitution is different than other baking substitutions, as there aren’t as many health implications involved. It’s a simple matter of knowing what you have in your spice rack that you can interchange to complete your recipe. In addition to contributing a specific flavor to the batter, spices can also add a different texture.
Flour is another ingredient that contributes to structure. Flour is classified by the way it is processed, which denotes the type. All flours have a different protein content, which is why all-purpose (AP) flour is used in pie crusts, waffles, and cookies, and why cake flour is primarily good for muffins and quick bread.
Look in the flour section at your local health food store for other non-wheat flour options- some even have special flour combinations!
Most recipes that require liquids necessitate the use of a milk product in baked goods, which is a great way to incorporate calcium, vitamins D and B12, and protein. There are many forms the milk can take, which affects the nutritional properties and its function in the recipe.
To slash calories and fat from the final product without sacrificing on moisture or taste, consider using a lower fat version of the product in your recipe. If you’re looking to swap out milk altogether, you can also try a milk alternative.
Baking powder and baking soda have similar names and purposes. Both ingredients function as leavening agents when used in baking, but react differently depending on the other ingredients they are combined with. For example, baking soda has no substitute because of its lack of acidity, while you can create a substitute for baking powder. Both baking soda and baking powder contribute to the shape, size, and volume of the baked good.
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