Baking Substitutions to Lower Fat & Calories without Impacting Taste

Debbie Hatch | Family & F.I.T.



In my blog Getting Healthy is SimpleI mentioned that I frequently make substitutions when I bake.  I’m always looking for creative ways to lower fat and calories without impacting taste. Here are some of the things I do.



Sugar performs many important roles in baking. It provides moisture and tenderness, liquefies as it bakes, increases the shelf-life of finished products, caramelizes at high temperatures, and, of course, adds sweetness. Refined sugar helps cookies spread during baking, allowing their crisp texture. Because of these critical functions, bakers can’t simply replace sugar with a different sweetener.

Honestly, many of the sugar substitutes out there are worse than using regular sugar! There is a ton of debate about which one is better, what their health concerns are, etc. Stevia seems to be the best artificial option because it’s like 200 times sweeter than sugar so you only need a tiny bit. It doesn’t impact insulin and doesn’t have a lot of the concerns of Splenda. Who knows.

For these reasons, many times, rather than substituting sugar, I merely decrease the amount of sugar being used. I’ve found that I can use 2/3 or 1/2 the sugar in most recipes and still end up with plenty of sweetness without affecting the quality of the product.

Brown sugar is not healthier either – it’s just white sugar with molasses added!

You can substitute honey or fresh maple syrup. Don’t try to do it by volume though: 1 cup of honey does not equal 1 cup of sugar. Instead, weigh it. 100 grams of honey does equal 100 grams of sugar.

Coconut sugar and sucanat are good substitutes.


Oil and/or Butter

For stovetop cooking, using 1 tbsp olive, coconut, or safflower oil mixed with broth works perfectly.

When baking, I typically substitute fruit.

¾ cup unsweetened applesauce and ¼ cup fruit puree (pumpkin, carrot, or banana typically) replaces 1 cup of oil.

If you are using applesauce in a recipe that requires all-purpose flour you will often get better results if you use whole wheat pastry flour instead.

Mashed avocado (use half of the amount of butter called for). This does make baked goods softer and chewier.

Canola or coconut oil

Greek yogurt (use half of the butter called for, replace half with plain yogurt)

Be aware that fat increases flavor so when you’re cooking with less fat, be sure to add some spices (1 tsp is normally sufficient) for enhancement. Cinnamon (and derivatives) and extracts (less is more with those!) work well for almost everything I’m making.


White Flour

Almond, barley, or oat flour is great for sweet items, like cookies, muffins, and cake. If you are using these gluten free flours, it’s a good idea to add 2 ½ tsp baking powder per cup of flour to keep a good consistency.Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 7.25.49 AM

Brown rice flour for pie crust, breads, crackers, pizza crust. It’s more grainy and allows things to get crispy.

Quinoa flour is gluten free, too, and works well in pancakes, muffins, cookies, cakes, etc. It also adds protein.

Buckwheat flour works well in pancakes, waffles, and pasta as does corn meal.

Garbanzo flour makes an ideal substitute for crepes, flat bread, muffins and breads. It also adds protein.

Speaking of protein, many times I will substitute ½, or more, of the flour with protein powder. Egg protein is my favorite with a blend being a close second. Whey can make things a little waxy and casein has a weird consistency.

When experimenting with whole-grain and bean flours, do so in stages. If a recipe calls for a cup of white flour, try a quarter-cup of a whole-grain flour and three-quarters cup white. Next time, increase the amount of whole-grain flour by a bit, ensuring it still suits your palate.



No eggs no problem


I love eggs and they are a great source of protein, as well as healthy fat. If I don’t want/need the fat, 2 eggs whites is substituted for 1 whole egg.

Unfortunately, many people are allergic to them. Here are some options for substitution.

¼ cup silken tofu. Process in a blender until completely smooth and creamy.

1/3 cup applesauce OR ¼ cup applesauce + 1 tsp baking powder

¼ cup yogurt

1 tbsp ground flax seeds +3 tbsp water

3 tbsp pureed fruit


Above all, have fun with it!!!

I have been known to want to substitute something in a recipe; just open my refrigerator or cupboard and ask, “What is the right consistency? What would work without changing the flavor?” Some of my experiments work. Some of them definitely don’t.



  1. That’s really interesting. Using half the quantity of mashed avocado to replace butter is incredible. I wish I’d known that last week when I had two avocados ripening quickly.

    1. I wish avocados lasted longer!! If you try it Francene, let me know. 🙂

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