Late February! Time for half-price Valentine’s candy! Right? Well, for many of us, this cold and dreary time of year can make us want to curl up with some decadent desserts and a good book. Which is totally cool, but maybe let’s find a way to make those desserts just a little better for you.
There are SO many ways to substitute healthier ingredients into your baking and sweet treats – let’s get swapping!
Butter and Oils for Tofu and Applesauce
No joke! Silken or soft tofu is a good switch for saturated fats in recipes (like butter or oil. It’s also fairly neutral in taste and high in protein. You can use a 1:1 ratio for your swaps. Not ready to make the leap to tofu, no worries! You can also substitute coconut oil at a 1:1 ratio for butter. If your recipe calls for vegetable or canola oil, you could also switch it with applesauce. This substitution works best in baked goods like bread and muffins and calls for ¾ of a cup of applesauce per every cup of oil.
Refined Sugar for Coconut Sugar, Honey or Maple Syrup
We all know that refined sugar isn’t the greatest, so why not try a healthier option like maple syrup or honey, which contain healthy vitamins and minerals. These options, as well as coconut sugar, also rank lower on the glycemic index so you won’t experience the same kind of blood sugar spikes and crashes. Coconut sugar can replace white sugar at a 1:1 ratio – couldn’t be simpler!
White and Wheat Flour for All Kinds of Other Flours
Flour is another super easy swap. An easy start is switching white or wheat flour with spelt flour, which behaves exactly the same way as the other flours, but is a better source of dietary fiber and protein. Once you’re feeling confident with spelt, you can try flours with slightly different textures and properties, like rice flour and almond flour.
Here’s a recipe that incorporates a few of these different ideas into a super yummy Gluten-Free Banana Bread !
Wet Ingredients: 3 overripe bananas, mashed, 2 eggs, 1/4 C melted coconut oil, 1/4 C applesauce, 1/4 C almond milk, 1/3 C honey, 1 tsp vanilla extract
Dry Ingredients: 3/4 C brown rice flour, 1/4 C coconut flour, 1/2 C chopped walnuts, 1/2 C Gluten Free rolled oats, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp baking powder
Instructions: Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9’’ x 5’’ loaf pan and set aside. Combine the wet ingredients and mix well. Fold in the mixed dry ingredients and stir until smooth. Pour the batter in the pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until golden brown – you can top with some oats or some additional coconut sugar if desired. Let cool before serving.
Ice Cream for Greek Yogurt or Mashed Bananas
If, like me, you like a good bowl of ice cream – never fear! You can still have tasty frozen treats! You can either forgo the freezing and have a bowl of Greek Yogurt instead (add fruit, nuts, honey and seeds for extra noms). If you prefer it cold, break out the bananas! Freeze bananas overnight and then blend them in a blender, mixing in some cocoa powder, vanilla extract, or fruit for flavour. Top any way you’d like.
Add In Flavour, Take Out Empty Calories
Even though you may not think of them right away as dessert ingredients, herbs and spices can offer a lot by way of flavour to your desserts without adding extra calories to the mix. We all know about using cinnamon or nutmeg to punch up a recipe, but how about trying some rosemary in your cookies and breads? It’s a good source iron and calcium. Nuts and seeds can also boost the nutritional content of your desserts, providing healthy fats, protein and fiber.
Milk Chocolate for Dark Chocolate or Cocoa Powder
No dessert post would be complete without mentioning chocolate. There’s no need to cut chocolate out completely, just look for a higher quality of chocolate to add to your confections. Dark chocolate with 70% cocoa or higher provides you with antioxidants, iron, zinc and other nutrients. It’s great when used in moderation in your recipes or even on its own.
When you substitute out the refined sugar and milk chocolate, you can even have tasty (healthy) Black Bean Brownies!
Ingredients: 1 (15-ounce) can black beans or 1 3/4 C cooked, cooled black beans, 3 large eggs, 3 tbsp canola oil (or coconut oil), 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/2 C packed brown sugar (or coconut sugar), 1/3 C cocoa powder, (optional) nuts to top
Instructions: Preheat oven to 350°F. Oil and flour a 9-inch baking pan. In a colander, drain and rinse beans. Beat eggs, oil and vanilla with a fork. Add beans and mash with fork until beans are completely smooth (you can also do this in a blender). Stir sugar and cocoa, and blend with a rubber spatula until mixed. Stir in nuts if using. 4. Pour the batter into the baking pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Let cool completely before cutting into squares.
What are some of your favourite healthy dessert recipes? We’d love to hear them!