How to … use healthy baking substitutes

We’ve all heard about avocado brownies and the mysterious powers of chia seeds, but when a majority of people talking about these baking substitutes all seem to have whitened teeth and abs, they tend to sound more like health food fantasies.

However, using healthy foods you may already have in your pantry as substitutes in your favourite desserts is far easier than you may think. Plus, they could save you a run down to the shops the next time you run out of eggs or butter.

Dates substitute sugar
Dates are high in fibre, nutrients and antioxidants. Along with their natural sweetness, they just so happen to help control blood sugar and promote brain and bone health.

Pit one cup of dates and puree them with three-quarters of a cup of boiling water. You can replace half the sugar in a recipe with this thick paste.

Cocoa craving
If your recipe calls for chocolate buttons, try swapping in cocoa nibs. These are chipped pieces of fermented, dried and roasted cocoa beans that are full of antioxidants. Packed with flavonoids, they’ll satisfy the sugar craving, well, without the sugar.

Avocado over butter
Avocado puree is an easy and healthy alternative to butter. As you’ve probably heard a hundred times before, it’s full of ‘good’ fats and vitamins, but also helps to bind ingredients, making for less crumbly desserts.

To make the butter substitute, simply remove the pit from a ripe avocado and mash the flesh in a bowl. Swap avocado with the fat in your recipe in equal parts. You may want to reduce the temperature of your oven and increase cooking time as avocado has more water in it than butter.

Seeds can sub for eggs
Flaxseed meal of chia seeds can be used in the place of eggs in recipes. To replace one egg in a recipe, let two teaspoons of chia seeds sit in one-quarter of a cup of water for five minutes. Or, use one tablespoon of golden or brown flaxseed meal that has soaked in three tablespoons of water for five minutes. Unfortunately, these seedy substitutes won’t give your desserts the volume that eggs do, but you can fix this by adding one-quarter or a half teaspoon of soda or baking powder to the recipe.

Figs trump fat
Containing calcium, iron and potassium, figs have more minerals and fibre that any other domesticated fruit, according to WebMD.

They can be used as a healthy substitute when baking sweets. First, soak 225g of fresh figs in water until they soften. Puree them with one-third of a cup of water. Use this smooth mix as a substitute for half of the fat in a recipe. Its natural sweetness can also help to reduce or replace the amount of sugar you use.

Black bean brownies
You’ll find this substitute in a lot of popular vegan brownie and chocolate cake recipes. Pureed black beans can be swapped in as a healthy butter substitute full of potassium, protein and fibre. They make for a richer, denser brownie.

Gluten-free friendly
If you are gluten free, or are baking for someone who is, oat flour is an easy and healthy alternative to wheat flour. If you’re using it to make your recipe a little more flavourful and healthier, you can experiment with substituting equal parts of the flour in your recipe with oat flour until you get the ratio right.

Do you have another healthy baking substitute? Have you tried any of the suggestions above? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

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