Healthy Baking Hacks

October 27, 2020
| Created by Genevieve Daly, RDN, CD

Is it even possible to think of fall without dreaming up images of delicious, home baked goods? Fall is all about cozy sweaters, pumpkin, and the beginning of baking season.  Plus, with the addition of COVID stress, baking can be a great form of comfort and stress relief. Although many baking recipes provoke thoughts of sugar and butter, altering a few simple ingredients can really change the overall nutrition. Try a few hacks next time you’re baking to give your dish a serious nutrition boost. 

A quick note on balance:

An important thing to keep in mind when enjoying your tasty baked goods is balance. Balance out dessert portions by reducing starchy foods in other parts of your day. When the time comes to enjoy your sweets, pay attention to mindfulness—remember to savor your dessert and honor your fullness cues to get maximum satisfaction out of your treats! 

Now, back to the baking hacks. 

Hack 1: Think Fruity

What’s the easiest way to increase nutrition in your baked goods while still preserving sweetness? Add fruit! Not only is fruit naturally sweet, but it comes with nutritious benefits like fiber, vitamins and minerals. Here are ways to use fruit in your baking: 

  • Replace 1/2 to 3/4 of fat in a recipe with applesauce or pumpkin puree.
  • Use ground freeze-dried fruit in place of sugar. Think of how gorgeous ground strawberries will look in a frosting or whipped cream. 
  • Add dried or freeze-dried fruit as an inclusion in your recipe. Adding fresh fruit to recipes can increase the moisture content and throw off the delicate balance of moisture, sugar, and starch. Adding dried or freeze-dried fruit keeps the recipe balanced and adds a layer of complexity to the dish. 

Hack 2: Adjust the Recipe

Do you ever find a baking recipe online and think you can’t possibly have enough sugar in your pantry to make it? Most baking recipes can withstand a reduction of sugar by 1/3 and still turn out delicious! Here’s a few tips to successfully pull off half-sugar recipes: 

  • Use sweet fruits to compensate for the lack of sugar. Bananas, dates, and applesauce are all great options. 
  • Consider the type of dish you’re baking. Sugar not only adds sweetness, but contributes to moisture, color and caramelization. Some cake recipes may be a bit drier than their full-sugar counterparts, and their shelf-life may decrease due to the lower moisture content. Cookies made with less sugar may be a lighter color than the full sugar cookies, however there’s generally not a noticeable difference in taste. 
  • My favorite hack of all is using extracts in my baking. Whenever I reduce sugar in a recipe, I add a bit of vanilla bean paste or almond or vanilla extract. Why? Because much of what we taste is through our nose. An extract or paste will add a sweet aroma to the dish, making it seem sweeter than it really is. 

Hack 3: Switch Up Your Flour

White whole-wheat flour, anyone? A delicious whole grain flour with taste and properties pretty similar to all-purpose flour, white whole-wheat flour is one of the easiest swaps you can make. Depending on the dish, you can replace anywhere from 25%-100% of the all-purpose flour with white whole wheat flour. Here’s a quick guide: 

  • 25% replacement—Use this in light-colored recipes like cakes or breads. You’ll get normal rise in your product without seeing a change in color. 
  • 50% replacement—You can still use this in light-colored recipes, however they’ll appear darker than the all-purpose version. 
  • 100% replacement—Use this in recipes that don’t have much rise, like crepes, cookies, scones, or biscuits.  

Have any other favorite baking hacks? We’d love to hear them! Email