Satisfy that sweet tooth a healthier way

Mary Hanson
University of Wisconsin-Stout graduate student

Have a sweet tooth, but trying to be conscious about what you eat?

Good news: Now you can enjoy your dessert — without all the guilt — with simple ingredient substitutions suggested by the Mayo Clinic and The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The following tips can help not only cut calories and fat, but also add nutrients.

Less-fatty alternatives

The purpose of oil and butter is to add flavor and texture, and hold the baked good together. However, it is one of the main calorie and fat contributors in any baked good.

Applesauce can replace half of the butter, oil, or shortening. So, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of vegetable oil, use 1/2 cup of oil and 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce. 

By substituting only half the oil in the recipe, you will still get the texture and flavor, but without all of the fat and calories. The substitution will cut out about 900 calories and 100 grams of fat.

Some recipes call for sour cream to add a creamy texture and flavor. However, sour cream can add unwanted fat and calories.

Next time, try plain fat-free Greek yogurt instead of the sour cream. This will cut out fat and calories, and add about 7 grams of protein per 1/2 cup of yogurt.

Healthier flour

Flour is essential in most baked goods. It provides structure. 

Cakes, brownies, and dessert breads usually call for all-purpose flour. By substituting half the amount of all-purpose flour with whole-wheat flour, you can add fiber and extra protein to your dessert, without sacrificing taste.

If you are feeling brave, next time you make a batch of brownies, substitute black-bean puree for flour. This substitution will make the dessert gluten-free and pack it full of protein and fiber.


Some simple swaps to top your desserts can help make them a bit healthier, too.

Rather than frosting your cake or cupcakes with store-bought frosting, try using marshmallow fluff instead. This simple swap can save you 60 calories, 8 grams of sugar and 5 grams of fat per two tablespoons.

Try topping your dessert with a little whipped cream and fresh fruit to add even more nutrients.

Still not convinced? Try this tested — and sweet-tooth approved — muffin recipe to persuade you.

Servings: 20

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cups unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons hot water
3 bananas, mashed
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Optional: 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Grease the muffin pan or line with baking cups. Beat the shortening, applesauce, sugar and eggs, until well blended. Dissolve the baking soda in water and add to the sugar mixture.

Mix the flours and salt in a separate bowl. Add 1 cup of the flour mixture to the sugar mixture. Then add the bananas and then the remainder of the flour mixture, and blend well. Optional: Stir in the nuts.

Fill the cups about 2/3 full with the batter. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the muffin comes out clean. Enjoy!

(Recipe adapted from Grandma Hanson’s cook book)

Hanson, a 2008 South St. Paul High School graduate with a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science, is attending graduate school for a degree in human nutritional science. Her dad and grandma instilled in her a love for baking. She now intertwines that passion with her education to bake her favorite desserts with a healthy twist.

With a few simple ingredient substitutions, you can make a delicious dessert into a lighter, leaner — and maybe even more nutritious — dessert. So, go whip up a batch of your grandma’s famous banana bread or aunt Ruth’s decadent brownies with a few of the following substitutions to indulge a little with a clear conscience.
• 1 cup of oil, butter, or shortening with 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce plus 1/2 cup
of butter, oil, or shortening
• Sour cream with an equal amount of plain non-fat Greek yogurt
• 1 cup of all purpose flour with 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• Canned frosting with marshmallow fluff

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