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My Favorite Healthy Baking Hack for Better-for-You Sweets

By Samantha Schwab
August 30, 2021
Photo Credit: Kate Ames

As someone who is obsessed with both baking and healthy eating, I have my fair share of healthy tricks up my sleeve. But my favorite healthy baking hack is to sub in fruits (or vegetables) for sugar. Besides offering more flavor than white sugar, fruits are considered natural sugars. In other words, they’re whole foods that come along with plenty of nutrients and fiber. That white sugar? It’s not really adding a whole lot of flavor, but it is adding plenty of added sugars to your sweets. 

Sometimes you’ll get lucky with a 1:1 sugar ratio; other times you’ll have to tinker to get the texture just right. That’s why I’ve rounded up my favorites to mash, blitz, or process and add to your next baking project. Next time you get a hankering for something sweet, push the cane sugar aside and try baking with one of these fruits (and vegetable). 

banana bread cookies

Photo Credit: The Big Man’s World

1. Bananas

Mashed banana isn’t just for banana bread. The fruit works wonders in baked goods; it adds sweetness, can act as a binder, and yields a deliciously moist crumb. When using bananas as a sugar substitute, just make sure the bananas are overripe otherwise they won’t be as soft or sweet!

Get a recipe: 3-Ingredient Flourless Banana Bread Cookies from The Big Man’s World

no bake apple cake

Photo Credit: Kirbie’s Cravings

2. Apples

Another favorite healthy sweetener of ours is applesauce – either homemade or store bought. Just make sure you use plain applesauce (instead of flavored), so it doesn’t interfere with the baked good’s profile. Fun fact: applesauce can also be used as an oil substitute!

Get a recipe: 2-Ingredient Healthy No-Bake Apple Cake from Kirbie’s Cravings

caramel bliss balls

Photo Credit: Sam Schwab

3. Dates

We can’t get enough of medjool dates, but theoretically you can use any type of date. To make this sugar substitute, remove the pits from the dates and whizz in a food processor until a smooth paste forms. Some recipes may recommend soaking the dates in hot water for 15 minutes to make them easier to blitz, but it’ll really depend. Use any extra date paste to slather on toast or on a sandwich. You can thank us later!

Get a recipe: Salted Caramel Bliss Balls from Sam Schwab

low sugar cookies

Photo Credit: Rachael Hartley Nutrition

4. Dried Fruit

Just like dates and figs, you can make a delicious sugar paste out of almost any dried fruit. Raisins, apple rings, mission figs, and cranberries are some of our favorite healthy sugar substitutes when making something sweet.

Get a recipe: Low Sugar Cinnamon Raisin-Spice Cookies from Rachael Hartley Nutrition

chocolate pudding

Photo Credit: One Ingredient Chef

5. Sweet Potato

Technically a vegetable, but sweet potato is another whole food we enjoy baking with. For baking, we like garnet sweet potatoes because they are extra moist and sweet. You can spot them by their dark orangey red skin and elongated shape. If you can’t find them, you can use almost any other sweet potato. Make sure to cook them until they’re super soft and easy to mash.

Get a recipe: Chocolate Pudding from One Ingredient Chef

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