Nutrient-dense baking swaps to try today.
Love baking but hate the empty calories? Believe it or not, having your cake and not having to call it a cheat meal is possible. Home bakers can pack their favorite treats with nutrients, protein, and fiber with a few simple ingredient swaps and additions. Here are eight tips for creating healthier, nutrient-rich baked goods that, more often than not, are also better at filling you up.
- Use whole grain flours: Switch out some of the all-purpose flour for whole grain options like whole wheat, spelt, or oat flour. These flours have more fiber and nutrients, making your baked goods better for you without significantly altering the taste.
- Add nuts and seeds: Incorporate nutrient-dense nuts and seeds into your recipes. Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds are excellent choices, providing healthy fats, protein, and fiber. Enjoy them added to batters, sprinkled on top, or ground into flour for an extra nutritious boost. Depending on the recipe, you can also replace some butter with almond, peanut, or sunflower butter.
- Sneak in fruits and veggies: Pureed fruits and vegetables can add moisture and nutrients to your baked goods. Unsweetened applesauce, mashed bananas, pumpkin puree, and grated zucchini are fantastic options. They also provide natural sweetness, allowing you to cut back on the added sugars.
- Boost with protein powder: Increase the protein content of your treats by adding protein powder. Use unflavored or vanilla-flavored options for a versatile ingredient that pairs well with most recipes. Depending on the type of protein powder, you may need to adjust the liquid content to achieve the desired consistency.
- Upgrade your sweeteners: Swap out white sugar for natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar. These options have a lower glycemic index and contain more nutrients and minerals, making them healthier alternatives. Be mindful of the ratio when substituting, as you may need to adjust the liquid content or baking time. If you’re trying to reduce sugar or calories, try monk fruit extract or stevia powder.
Substituting Monk Fruit for Sugar: 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of monk fruit extract for one cup of sugar.
Substituting Stevia for Sugar: 1 teaspoon of liquid stevia or 1/2 teaspoon of stevia powder for one cup of sugar.
These are general ranges. The actual amount will vary depending on your brand.
- Experiment with legume flours: Flours made from legumes, like chickpea or black bean flour, add an extra dose of protein and fiber to your baked goods. They also give a unique flavor and texture to your treats. Legume flours add density and work best with savory flavors, so try them for dinner breads and biscuits instead of cupcakes.
- Incorporate Greek yogurt or cottage cheese: Swap out some or all of the butter or oil in your recipes with Greek yogurt or cottage cheese. This not only lowers the fat content but also adds protein and calcium. Keep in mind that this substitution might affect the texture and moistness of your baked goods, so experiment with different ratios.
- Maximize fiber with bran and oats: Increase the fiber content in your recipes by adding bran or oats. Wheat or oat bran is an easy addition to muffins, quick breads, and cookies, while rolled oats can be incorporated into many batters and doughs. These ingredients will improve the nutritional profile of your treats and add a delightful chewiness.
Satisfying your sweet tooth and your urge to create in the kitchen doesn’t mean chucking your nutrition goals out the window. Experiment with these swaps to make a favorite recipe more nutrient-dense, or try our summery Lemon Zucchini Cake recipe.
Summery Zucchini-Lemon Cake with Fresh Berries
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup almond flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup grated zucchini, excess moisture squeezed out
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
2 large eggs
Zest of 2 lemons
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups mixed fresh berries (e.g., strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan or line it with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then mix in the grated zucchini, Greek yogurt, honey, melted coconut oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla extract until well combined.
- Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined. Be careful not to overmix.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
- Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Once the cake is cooled, arrange the mixed fresh berries on top, either in a single layer or piled high for a more dramatic presentation.
- Optional: Dust the cake lightly with powdered sugar or drizzle with a simple lemon glaze (made from powdered sugar and lemon juice) before serving.
Serving: 1/12th of cake
Calories: 210 kcal
Total Fat: 9 g
Saturated Fat: 5 g
Trans Fat: 0 g
Total Carbohydrate: 27 g
Dietary Fiber: 3 g
Sugars: 14 g (mostly from honey and natural sugars in fruits)
Protein: 6 g
Vitamins and minerals:
Vitamin A: 2% DV
Vitamin C: 10% DV (from lemon juice and fresh berries)
Calcium: 6% DV
Iron: 6% DV