Diet Swaps: Healthy Substitutions

Have your cake and eat it too with these substitutes to make your treats healthier.
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QUESTION: I love all the holiday sweets and treats — but they contain so much oil, butter and sugar that I am loathe to eat them. How can I make them healthier?

ANSWER: I am all about finding simple ways to enjoy the treats you love using a few healthier twists along the way. But sometimes a recipe is so swapped out that it no longer looks or tastes like the real deal. These healthy trades are perfect to maintain the integrity of your recipe while allowing you to enjoy your favorites guilt-free!

Use the Rule of Three

With baking, there is a fine line when it comes to swaps, so I like to use the rule of three, which was imparted to me by culinary dietician Wendy Jo Peterson: Don’t change more than three ingredients in a recipe or you’ll risk it looking and tasting completely different from the original. For instance, if you’re subbing yogurt for oil in a cake, then leave the fat in the buttercream frosting.

Fake the Fat

One of the things that makes treats so decadent is the amount of fat they have per serving, but if you’re health conscious, swap avocado for butter — it has the same creamy, smooth consistency but is filled with heart-healthy fats. Unsweetened applesauce and yogurt are great trades for oil, supplying plenty of moisture to hold the treat together, and in the case of yogurt, adding in a solid dose of protein.

Sugar: Keep Some, Cut Some

Though it’s tempting to trade the refined sugar in a recipe for something naturally sweet like bananas or dates, cutting out sugar altogether often results in a flat, tough treat. But truthfully, you can easily cut one-third cup of sugar from any recipe without changing the taste or texture of a treat — no need to add in anything else.

Peanut Pow(d)er

For peanut-buttery treats like cookies or brownies, sideline the actual peanut butter and use powdered peanut butter in place of 25 percent of the flour called for in the recipe. You’ll keep that delectable peanut flavor and protein content while reducing the fat. Because powdered peanut butter is dense and dry, be sure to add back some moisture. I suggest a cup of shredded zucchini and a tablespoon or two of full-fat plain Greek yogurt.

Baked Beanies

Black beans make a great alternative to flour in brownies, especially if you like them super moist, adding fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals to your treat. But make sure you leave in the sugar and the fat so your brownie still tastes like a brownie.