There are few things that I love more than food – I enjoy preparing it, experimenting with it, and most importantly, eating it. I’ve heard that applesauce and bananas can be used as substitutes in baking, but can mushed fruits really compare to oil, eggs, sugar, and good ole’ buttah? Thus, my experiment began – finding a few healthy substitutes in baking that can turn beloved baked goods into goods that aren’t so gut-busting. Here’s a rundown of my experiment, scientific method style.
If some of the unhealthy aspects of baked goods can be substituted with healthier alternatives such as applesauce and bananas without sacrificing flavor, then we should switch up the way we are preparing baked treats to decrease consumed calories.
Applesauce Pancakes: Applesauce for oil and sugar Banana Brown Sugar Cinnamon Muffins: Banana for oil and one egg Applesauce Brownies: Applesauce for oil
Follow each recipe, substituting ingredients where necessary, and bring in the treats that turn out well for The Whole U team to taste test.
Applesauce Pancakes I found that with the applesauce substituted in, the pancakes were too mushy. I could definitely taste the applesauce in the pancake as well, which I did not mind, but is worth mentioning. Looking at the photo, you can see how the pancake turned out moist and dense.
Banana Brown Sugar Cinnamon Muffins I substituted the oil and egg in the recipe with a banana since one recipe commenter mentioned it turned out well for her. That was not the case for me. The muffin baked up much quicker than what was originally called for and the texture was definitely changed. The closest thing I could describe the muffin texture as would be that of French bread. The muffin was very chewy and dense and peeling the muffin off its paper liner was difficult. Overall, this muffin was not my cup of tea.
Applesauce Brownies Now these sound weird, I know, but they turned out great! I just followed the recipe on a regular boxed brownie mix and switched half the oil with applesauce. There was no change in taste or texture and all the staff at The Whole U loved it. I will definitely be doing this in the future.
Overall, I wouldn’t say this whole experiment was a bust. Healthy foods can be substituted for fats and sugars and still taste good, as seen with the brownies. You just have to be careful how much you are substituting and what you are substituting for. In hindsight, I should have decreased the amount of applesauce I used in the pancakes and used the banana to replace only the oil in the muffins. I spoke with Registered Dietician and Clinical Director of the UW Medical Center’s Department of Food and Nutrition Charlotte Furman, who gave me a rundown of why these fruits are substitutable. Furman said:
Fats have many functions in baked goods. Fats tenderize, provide moisture and flavor, and add lightness by trapping in air. Pureed or mashed fruits will provide moisture and also contain pectin which helps to tenderize products. If 100% of the fat is replaced it can change the texture and taste of the product so a good rule of thumb is to substitute ½ of the fat. Which fruit you use as a substitute will depend on what you are baking – try to choose one that will complement the flavor (for example bananas may work well in a muffin, applesauce in a spice cake, pumpkin or sweet potato puree in a gingerbread) . Unsweetened applesauce is often used because it is mild and will have a minimal effect on the flavor profile. For eggs, you can substitute two egg whites for one whole egg, which will decrease the fat content by ~ 5 grams and also lessens the calories.
Healthy substitutions in baking are really worth a try if we consider that one cup of vegetable oil contains 1927 calories and 218 grams of fat and one cup of unsweetened applesauce has 50 calories and 0 grams of fat. Even decreasing the fat by 1/4 will significantly decrease the calories. Furman noted that:
Fruits also have the benefit of containing no saturated fat and no cholesterol. In addition to lightening the calories and decreasing the fat content, you will gain fiber and vitamins that are present in the fruits that you would not get from the butter or oil.
Using fruits and veggies for fats can offer so many benefits and all it takes is a little experimenting. These swaps can also be a great way to sneak in extra nutrients to the little ones! Have you heard of other ways to bake healthier? Comment below if you’ve had a healthy alternative success story.
Jessica Mar is a marketing and communications assistant for the Marketing, Communications, and Engagement team in UW Human Resources. She is a senior at the University of Washington Bothell campus studying Managerial Information Systems and Marketing. Beyond academics and work, Jessica loves all things food, fashion, and photography related.