While mouth-watering, foodporn-y desserts may taste great, it is no surprise that they are not the healthiest foods to cook or eat. Loaded with flour and sugar, baked goods can be high in both calories, carbohydrates and fat. Of course it’s okay to indulge in these occasionally, but if you’re trying to eat healthy, you may feel like baking is out of the question.

Luckily for you, that’s not always the case. Food scientists have found tons of healthy substitutions to use for baking ingredients that cut down the sugar, fat, and calories in your treat. Making just a few swaps to a recipe can go a long way toward reducing calorie counts. With these substitutions, you can bake away, but with less guilt.



Photo by Kendra Valkema

For every cup of sugar mentioned in the recipe, replace it with one cup of unsweetened applesauce. You will get the naturally sweet flavors from the apple rather than the processed sweetness from white sugar. Try this recipe for applesauce brownies and you’ll be a convert.

Black Beans


Photo by Sydney Segal

This one may seem random, but pureed black beans can replace flour when baking, and it works especially well in black bean brownies. This will cut calories, add protein and can often make a recipe gluten free. Baking with black beans may sound like a scary task, but it’s actually surprisingly tasty.



GIF by Thomas Sireci

Another natural sweetener, dates are a great baking substitute. It can replace the sugar in a recipe or if you use date paste, you can skip the butter or oil. Consider using dates in this smoothie recipe for creamy, sweet goodness.

Brown Rice Syrup


Photo by Katie Walsh

If a recipe calls for refined white sugar or any no-calorie artificial sweetener, replace it with a healthier, natural sweetener like brown rice syrup. It comes from brown rice, a complex carbohydrate, meaning that all of its original nutrients remain intact including fiber.

Plus, it has a lower glycemic index so it won’t cause your blood sugar levels to spike. Replace 1 cup of white granulated sugar with 1¼ cup of brown rice syrup like in this crunchy granola recipe.

Mashed Banana


Photo by Becky Hughes

Bananas are a great addition to muffins, breads and even cookies and go perfectly with nuts or chocolate chips. Extra ripe bananas are especially sweet and can be used in lieu of sugar. If you puree the bananas, they can replace the butter or eggs too, helping to minimize both calories and fat.

Try replacing the vegetable oil and sugar in these Nutella-stuffed muffins with mashed banana for the same moist, tender taste.

Greek Yogurt


Photo by Krysten Dorfman

If the recipe calls for one cup of sour cream, use 1 cup of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt instead. Not only are they the same color, but you will get the same tanginess, texture, and consistency from the Greek yogurt.

Unlike sour cream, the yogurt is loaded with protein. This chocolate raspberry banana bread and these savory jalapeño cheddar muffins both have hidden Greek yogurt to make them that much healthier.