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3 Easy Substitutions to Make Your Baking Healthier (and Just as Delicious!)

A sweet treat doesn't have to be a guilty pleasure.
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Trying to live a healthy lifestyle is hard work – you go to the gym, eat lots of dark, leafy greens, and opt for lean protein. But even for the most dedicated of fitness buffs, there are times after watching a particularly tasty-looking show on The Food Network, and the unused bag of chocolate chips seems to keep finding its way to the front of the fridge, where all you want to do is bake.

Baking is more than whipping up cupcakes just because you’ve got a craving. It’s an activity that can bring people together. It’s fun to do with friends, and being armed with a box of cookies can make you feel comfortable at any first day of work or new book club meeting. Who doesn't love a little something sweet?

So instead of giving up the mixer all together, try one of these substitutions in your baked goods to make them a little less guilty of a pleasure.

Substitute applesauce for oil.
Oil is not a superfluous ingredient in baking: it actually binds to flour molecules, protecting them from water to prevent the over-production of gluten, so that your cookies are light and fluffy instead of tough and chewy. Applesauce works differently by competing with water for the flour, and leads to a softer texture and somewhat sweeter taste. If a recipe calls for 1 cup of oil, try using 1 tbsp of oil and 1 cup of applesauce. Applesauce also has thickening and moisturizing effects, so if you want your baked goods more fluffy, also add ½–1 teaspoon of baking soda or baking powder.

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Cut cholesterol by substituting ½ of a banana for an egg.
Depending on the recipe, eggs are used as a either a binding or leavening agent. This substitute is best used for recipes that only call for one or two eggs (e.g. pancakes, cookies and muffins) where the banana is used to "bind" all the ingredients together. Banana will add natural sweetness and the added potassium will help stabilize your blood pressure. Just remember to use ingredients that go well with banana like chocolate, vanilla, honey and peanut butter.

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Substitute Greek yogurt for cream cheese.
Making cheesecake? Use plain 1% or 2% fat Greek yogurt instead of high-calorie cream cheese for a protein-packed dessert. The ratio is 1:1, so if your recipe calls for 1 cup of cream cheese, throw in 1 cup of yogurt. Believe it or not, the taste and texture of the cheesecake comes out the same; the main difference is you feel light, not heavy, after eating it!

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Other substitutes you can try include using whole-wheat flour instead of white or halving the amount of sugar used. Next time you’re tying on your apron, try one of these changes so that chocolate chip cookie will be nothing more than a pleasant ending to a perfect day.

Photograph via on Flickr.

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Claire Courchane

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Claire studies journalism, public relations and politics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her goals in life include baking the perfect cupcake and helping women achieve their full potential in their daily lives. You can follow her on twitter