I think we all need a little refresher on this, especially as the holiday season is approaching rapidly. I shamelessly copied this article from SparkPeople, a free website that helps you lose weight and keep it off.
Baking without butter:
Unsweetened applesauce has a neutral flavor that works well in almost every baked good. It adds moisture and fiber to recipes while cutting fat.
How much: Replace half the butter, oil or shortening called for with an equal amount of applesauce
Best used in: Any baked goods, especially cakes
Calorie swap: Save at least 1,550 calories and 184g fat per cup
Pumpkin purée is not just for pies. Keep unsweetened pumpkin purée on hand year round to cut fat and add flavor to most baked goods. As with all low-fat baked goods made with fruit, expect moist, spongy treats.
How much: Replace half the butter, oil or shortening called for with an equal amount of purée
Best used in: Spiced breads, cakes or muffins; quick breads, pancakes and brownies
Calorie swap: Save at least 1,500 calories and 184g fat per cup
Prune purée has a rich flavor that blends well with chocolate and spices.
How much: Replace half the butter, oil or shortening called for with an equal amount of purée (buy jarred prunes in the baby food aisle or make your own purée by mixing 6 Tbsp of hot water with 8 oz of prunes in a blender)
Best used in: Chocolate baked goods, brownies, gingerbread and spice cakes
Calorie swap: Save at least 1,365 calories and 184g fat per cup
Bananas add flavor, fiber and moisture, much like oil does. Use bananas in any recipe where their strong flavor won't overpower more delicate ingredients such as citrus or berries.
How much: 1/2 mashed or puréed banana for every cup of oil (if your banana isn't very ripe, try peeling it and microwaving it for a few seconds to soften it for easier mixing)
Best used in: Quick breads, coffee cakes and pancakes (bananas are dense, so they are not ideal in recipes for light and fluffy baked goods)
Calorie swap: Save at least 1,575 calories and 184g fat per cup
|Unsweetened applesauce can serve as a binder in recipes and, like eggs, keep baked goods moist. |
How much: 1/4 cup applesauce equals one egg
Best used in: Brownies, cakes and quick breads
Calorie swap: Save 50 calories and 5g fat per egg
|Vinegar and baking soda Ever make a volcano in science class? The acid in vinegar combines with the basic (alkaline) baking soda and creates a fizzy, bubbly mess. In small doses, that bubbling (created by the carbon dioxide formed by the baking soda when it comes in contact with acid) can be used to help cakes rise and stay light. |
How much: 1 tsp baking soda and 1 Tbsp vinegar (apple cider vinegar works best) per egg
Best used in: Quick breads, cakes and cupcakes
Calorie swap: Save 70 calories and 5g fat per egg (vinegar and baking soda have negligible calories)
|Ground flaxseeds are packed full of healthful Omega-3 fatty acids. They're also a great source of fiber, which is why they are a good substitute for eggs. When flaxseeds are ground and mixed with water, their insoluble fiber becomes sticky and gummy. Mixing ground flaxseed and water in a blender whips up a thick, creamy substance that adds fiber and Omega-3's to baked treats. |
How much: 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed and 3 Tbsp water per egg (for best results, grind flaxseed in a clean coffee grinder, then mix with water in a blender until thick and creamy)
Best used in: Baked goods that can handle flaxseed's nutty taste, such as pancakes, waffles, muffins, carrot cake and
Calorie swap: Save 10 calories and 1g fat per egg, but also add fiber and Omega-3's
|Bananas, when mashed, add sweetness and help bind baked goods. |
How much: 1/2 mashed or puréed banana for every egg (if your banana isn't very ripe, try peeling it and microwaving it for a few seconds to soften it for easier mixing)
Best used in: Banana bread, other quick breads, muffins, cakes, waffles and pancakes (don't use bananas in a recipe where they would overpower a subtler flavor, such as apple or citrus)
Calorie swap: Save 20 calories and 5g fat per egg
|Silken tofu Yes, tofu seems like a strange and foreign ingredient, especially in cakes and cookies. However, one particular kind of tofu, silken tofu, has a creamy texture that, when whipped or pureed, is ideal for baked goods. Silken tofu is often sold in shelf stable boxes with the Asian foods or in the produce section.|
How much: 1/4 cup of silken tofu (whip it in the blender or with a hand mixer until it's smooth) equals one egg
Best used in: Cakes, brownies, and custards
Calorie swap: Save 37 calories and 2g fat per egg
Sugarcane is a tropical grass that has been cultivated by humans for thousands of years. Making what we know as table sugar from sugarcane can range from a relatively simple to a multistep process, and the final result varies depending on the specific steps in the process. Light and dark brown, powdered, and granulated white sugars are all highly refined, while others, like those listed below, are made with fewer steps on the processing chain. Fewer steps benefit the environment, because less processing means less environmental impact. It also means that more of the vitamins and minerals that naturally occur in sugarcane remain in the end product. All of these sugarcane sweeteners can be found in the baking aisle and/or bulk bins of natural foods stores.
Blackstrap molasses, unlike other sugarcane sweeteners, contains significant amounts of vitamins and minerals. “First” molasses is left over when sugarcane juice is boiled, cooled, and removed of its crystals. If this product is boiled again, the result is called second molasses. Blackstrap molasses is made from the third boiling of the sugar syrup and is the most nutritious molasses, containing substantial amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron. When buying, consider choosing organic blackstrap molasses, as pesticides are more likely to be concentrated due to the production of molasses. Cooking notes: Blackstrap molasses has a very strong flavor, so it is best to just replace a small portion of sugar with molasses.
Rapadura is the Portuguese name for unrefined dried sugarcane juice. Probably the least refined of all sugarcane products, rapadura is made simply by cooking juice that has been pressed from sugarcane until it is very concentrated, and then drying and granulating it or, traditionally, pouring it into a mold to dry in brick form, which is then shaved. Because the only thing that has been removed from the original sugarcane juice is the water, rapadura contains all of the vitamins and minerals that are normally found in sugarcane juice, namely iron. A German company called Rapunzel is the main company that markets pure, organic rapadura in the U.S. Cooking notes: Rapadura replaces sugar 1:1 and adds a molasses flavor and dark color, so it’s great in baked goods like brownies, coffee and black tea, but it may not be desirable in something like lemonade.
Sucanat stands for sugar-cane-natural, and is very similar to rapadura. It is made by mechanically extracting sugarcane juice, which is then heated and cooled until tiny brown (thanks to the molasses content) crystals form. It contains less sucrose than table sugar (88 percent and 99 percent, respectively). Cooking notes: Sucanat replaces sugar 1:1 and is also an accepted substitute for traditional brown sugar. Use it as you would rapadura (see above).
Turbinado sugar is often confused with sucanat, but the two are different. After the sugarcane is pressed to extract the juice, the juice is then boiled, cooled, and allowed to crystallize into granules (like sucanat, above). Next, these granules are refined to a light tan color by washing them in a centrifuge to remove impurities and surface molasses. Turbinado is lighter in color and contains less molasses than both rapadura and sucanat. A popular brand-name of turbinado sugar is Sugar in the Raw, which can be found in most natural food stores, and even in single-serve packets at coffee shops. Cooking notes: Replaces sugar 1:1. Turbinado is a great substitute for brown sugar, too.
Evaporated cane juice is essentially a finer, lighter-colored version of turbinado sugar. Still less refined than table sugar, it also contains some trace nutrients (that regular sugar does not), including vitamin B2. In Europe, it’s known as “unrefined sugar.” Cooking notes: Replaces sugar 1:1. Can be used in a wide variety of foods and without adversely affecting color or flavor.
Natural sweeteners are flooding the market these days. Here’s a rundown of some of the most common ones that are not made from sugarcane.
Agave nectar is produced from the juice of the core of the agave, a succulent plant native to Mexico. Far from a whole food, agave juice is extracted, filtered, heated and hydrolyzed into agave syrup. Vegans often use agave as a honey substitute, although it’s even sweeter and a little thinner than honey. It contains trace amounts of iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Agave nectar syrup is available in the baking aisle at most natural foods stores. The fructose content of agave syrup is much higher than that of high fructose corn syrup, which is of concern since some research has linked high fructose intake to weight gain (especially around the abdominal area), high triglycerides, heart disease and insulin resistance. High fructose corn syrup contains 55% fructose while agave nectar syrup contains 90%. Despite this, it has a low glycemic index because of its low glucose content. Cooking notes: To replace 1 cup of sugar, use 2/3 cup of agave nectar, reduce the quantity of liquids slightly, and reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit. It also makes a good sweetener in cold liquids, such as iced tea.
PLEASE NOTE: I personally definitely will not EVER under ANY circumstances use high fructose corn syrup! There are too many studies of its adverse effect on the liver and overall health. I have also stopped using Agave nectar because I'm not sure it's that much better for us! Until I find out, I've eliminated it from our diet
Brown rice syrup is made when cooked rice is cultured with enzymes, which break down the starch in the rice. The resulting liquid is cooked down to a thick syrup, which is about half as sweet as white sugar and has a mild butterscotch flavor. It is composed of about 50% complex carbohydrates, which break down more slowly in the bloodstream than simple carbohydrates, resulting in a less dramatic spike in blood glucose levels. It’s worth noting that the name “brown rice syrup” describes the color of the syrup, not the rice it’s made from, which is white. Cooking notes: To replace one cup of sugar, use 1-1/3 cups brown rice syrup, and for each cup of rice syrup added, reduce liquid by 1/4 cup and add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Brown rice syrup has the tendency to make food harder and crispier, so it’s great in crisps, granola, and cookies. You may want to combine it with another sweetener for cakes and sweet breads.
Honey, made by bees from the nectar of flowers, is a ready-made sweetener that contains traces of nutrients. Cooking notes: To replace 1 cup sugar in baked goods, use about 3/4 cup of honey and lower the oven temperature 25 degrees Fahrenheit and reduce liquids by about 2 Tablespoons for each cup of honey.
Maple syrup comes from the sap of maple trees, which is collected, filtered, and boiled down to an extremely sweet syrup with a distinctive flavor. It contains fewer calories and a higher concentration of minerals (like manganese and zinc) than honey. You can find it in bulk in some natural foods stores, but don’t be fooled by fake maple syrups, which are cheaper and more readily available at the grocery store. "Maple-flavored syrups" are imitations of real maple syrup. To easily tell the difference, read the ingredients list on the nutrition label. True maple syrup contains nothing but “maple syrup.” Imitation syrups are primarily made of high fructose corn syrup, sugar, and/or artificial sweeteners, and contain 3 percent maple syrup (or less). Cooking notes: To replace 1 cup sugar in baking, use about 3/4 cup of maple syrup and lower the oven temperature 25 degrees Fahrenheit. For each cup of maple syrup, reduce liquids by about 2 tablespoons. Here’s a chart of how these sweeteners compare with one another and with regular table sugar:
|Sweetener||Serving size||Calories||Carbs||Other nutrients of note|
|White (table) sugar||2 tsp||33||8 g||None*|
|Blackstrap molasses||2 tsp||32||8 g||Manganese (18% DV), copper (14% DV), iron (13% DV), calcium (12% DV), potassium (10% DV), magnesium (7%DV), vitamin B6 (5% DV), selenium (4% DV)|
|Rapadura||2 tsp||30||8 g||None*|
|Sucanat||2 tsp||30||8 g||None*|
|Turbinado sugar||2 tsp||30||8 g||None*|
|Evaporated cane juice||2 tsp||30||8 g||Riboflavin (3% DV), potassium (1% DV), manganese (1% DV), copper (1% DV), iron (1% DV)|
|Agave nectar syrup||2 tsp||40||8 g||None*|
|Brown rice syrup||2 tsp||40||10 g||None*|
|Honey||2 tsp||43||11 g||None*|
|Maple syrup||2 tsp||45||9 g||Manganese (22% DV), zinc (4% DV)|
*Less than 0.5% DV of any vitamins or minerals
SparkPeople's Licensed and Registered Dietitian, Becky Hand, notes that published recommendations say to limit added sugars from all sources to no more than 10%-15% of total calorie intake, which is 120 calories (7.5 tsp) of sugar for a 1,200-calorie diet.
The bottom line is that sugar is sugar. Too much sugar—whether it’s marketed as “natural” or not—can harm your health. Even sweeteners touted as natural or nutritious, like the ones discussed here, don’t typically add a significant source of vitamins or minerals to your diet. But in moderation, there’s nothing wrong with the sweetness that a little sugar adds to life. So if you’re going to eat it, eat the good stuff...just not too much of it.
2 More Easy Ways to Lighten Your Baked Goods
We saved the best for last! If you're still unsure about changing your recipe, you can do these two things:
Use miniature chocolate chips in your cookies and reduce the amount by half. Though mini chips and regular size chips have the same nutritional content, by reducing the amount, you'll get more, smaller chips throughout the cookies. Calorie swap Save 1,050 calories per cup of chips you eliminate, or about 22 calories per cookie.
Make smaller cookies. A standard batch of chocolate chip cookies is supposed to yield 5 dozen cookies (each made with a tablespoon of dough) that each contain 110 calories and 6 grams of fat. Does your cookie dough yield 60 cookies? Use teaspoons instead of tablespoons to scoop cookie dough.