10 ingredients to swap for healthier baking dishes

Thanksgiving is getting closer and the beginning of autumn calls for cosy afternoons with a hot cup of tea and your favourite pie.

I'm all about small changes with effective and big results. If you want to make your baked goods a little bit healthier, you have to focus on lowering the fat and carb (especially refined sugar) content, without compromising the taste.

Here are my favourite hacks, to make your dishes a little bit more diet and calorie friendly.

1. Fig puree (or banana puree) for butter

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Fruit puree is the perfect substitute for margarine or butter. It lowers the fat content and therefore calories and adds valuable nutrients like fibre, vitamin B6 and copper to your dish. You don't like figs? Use banana puree instead.

It's perfect for all kinds of baked goods, like brownies, cookies, muffins or cakes.

To make the puree, simply combine 2 cups (~300g) of fresh figs and 1/4-1/3 cups (50-80mL) of water in a blender and blend until smooth. For a banana puree mash 2-3 bananas with a fork. Simple as that.

Substitute every cup of butter with one cup of fruit puree.

2. Stevia or extract for sugar

Most people consume way too much refined sugar every day! So it's a good idea to cut down the refined sugar in your recipes.

Another easy way to slash some calories is to use either the natural sweetener stevia, some vanilla extract or a combination of both.

Use 1/2 cup of stevia to replace 1 cup of table sugar. And replace 1/4 cup of sugar with 1 tsp of vanilla extract. Stevia blends are ideal for any type of cooking or baking, while vanilla extract is perfect for scones, muffins, and chocolate desserts.

However, there are some people for whom stevia will taste bitter (it’s a genetic thing, impacting roughly 25% of the world’s population). Try it before you buy it.

3. Oat bran for regular flour

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Making some bread or muffins? Then you have to try substituting oat bran for regular flour.

Swapping out flour will not only improve the texture of your dish, but also the nutritional value. Oat bran is rich in fibre and protein, which will keep you satiated for much longer.

Replace every cup of flour with one cup of oat bran.

4. Unsweetened applesauce for sugar

Do you want to cut out calories without losing flavour in your sweet treats? Consider using applesauce instead of sugar and thank me later.

This is a more natural way to sweeten your dishes. Plus, the fructose won't spike your blood sugar as much as table sugar does.

You can substitute every cup of sugar with one cup of unsweetened applesauce. By doing so you will save about 700 calories! And your dessert has a fruity sweetness. What's not to love about that?!

Applesauce as a substitute works perfectly for oatmeal cookies, brownies, and oatmeal bars.

5. Greek yogurt for oil

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While fat isn't evil, too much trans fats and unsaturated fats might lead to health problems. Swapping oil for Greek yogurt is the perfect way to cut down on "unhealthy" fats, while improving the taste! Yep, you read right - improving! Your dessert will get a much smoother, creamier texture and an enhanced taste. Plus, 1 cup of Greek yogurt provides you with about 24g of protein - the equivalent of 4 eggs.

Substituting fat with yogurt works especially well for cookies, muffins, brownies, baked potatoes, dips, and cakes. You can also use yogurt as a substitute when your recipe calls for butter, milk or sour cream.

Substitute every cup of oil with one cup of Greek yogurt.

6. Milk and lemon for buttermilk

If you're like me, buttermilk is one of those ingredients you rarely have at home. No problem! You can easily substitute it by using milk and lemon, you'll save money, time and calories. Win-win, if you ask me.

Combine 1 cup of milk and 1 tbsp of lemon juice in a small bowl and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes. You're welcome.

7. Black beans for flour

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This is for the people who suffer from celiac disease and badly crave something sweet that is safe to eat: swap black beans for flour.

Just swap a can of rinsed, drained and pureed black beans for 1 cup of flour. This saves you up to 200 calories and adds some protein and fibre to your sweet treat.

However, this won't work for every baking dish, such as shortbread. But it works perfectly fine for brownies and cakes.

8. Powdered peanut butter for peanut butter

Even though nut butter contains mostly good fat, the addition of nuts or nut butter can add tons of calories with only one tablespoon.

To save some calories and fat, you can use powdered peanut butter like PB2. PB2 is made by removing the oil and water from peanuts. Hence, it has 85% fewer calories from dietary fat than the traditional peanut butter.

Mix the powder with water to create peanut butter until you have to the desired amount and texture.

9. Avocado for butter

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It's not my favourite, but maybe you like it. When you puree an avocado you have a similar texture to butter, but with much fewer calories and more nutrients. Keep in mind, it will not melt or coat dry ingredients the same way butter does. Hence, you have to increase the amount of the wet ingredients you're using to compensate a bit.

I would recommend to only use avocado for darker-hued treats, such as chocolate pudding, brownies or chocolate cakes.

10. Chia seeds for eggs

Want to make your treat vegan-friendly without making it too dry? Simply swap the eggs for chia seeds. Simple as that.

Mix one tbsp of chia seeds with three tbsp of water and let it sit for approximately 15 minutes until it becomes somewhat jelly-like. This substitutes one egg.

That switch is perfect for bread and muffins. By the way, you can do the same with flax seeds.

See, you don't have to give up on your favourite treat when dieting. It's super easy to change your treats from high calorie to highly healthy.

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