Just like a lot of you, I really love to have something sweet at the end of a meal. Now, imagine if you can have your favourite desserts but without packing on the high calories, fat or sugar content. That would be a wish come true. It is very possible with these few really simple food swaps to make desserts just that little bit more nutritious and guilt-free.
1) SWAP Heavy Cream FOR Greek Yoghurt
Did you know that heavy cream is often used in a lot of recipes including soups, sauces, ice creams and cakes? They are very high in fat, between 36% - 40% hence making them extremely calorie dense. If you’re looking for ways to cut down on fat in your recipe but still keep that creamy texture, swap heavy cream for Greek Yoghurt.
It will still give you the thickness to your soups, sauces and dessert, plus it is high in protein, calcium and probiotics. 1 cup of Greek Yoghurt has about 20g Protein and 220 Calories in comparison to heavy cream at 821 Calories, only 5g Protein and 88g Fat
2) SWAP Cocoa FOR Carob
If you’re looking for a Chocolate alternative that’s caffeine free, SWAP cocoa for Carob. Carob tree pods are native to the Mediterranean. I first discovered carob during my visit to Greece.
Carob powder looks very similar to cocoa powder and it tastes rather similar too. Carob is less bitter, naturally sweeter and has a slight roast taste. So this alternative does help reduce the amount of sugar. It is also high in fiber and much lower in fat compared to cocoa. 2 tbsps. of Carob Powder provides you with 5g Fiber and 0g Fat. When replacing Carob for Cocoa, simply use the same amount. Just like cocoa, you can also use it in baking, stir into oatmeal or smoothies and even make carob drink.
So if you want the “chocolatey” taste without the side effect of caffeine, give carob a try. And the best part is, you can even make it for your dog to indulge in.
3) SWAP White Sugar FOR Stevia
We all know that white refined sugar is just BAD and provides no nutrients what so ever. But it is what makes a treat sweet and addictive. Recipes often call for ½ cup to 1 cup of sugar! If your diet is high in sugar, this can lead to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The general recommendation is to only consume between 100 - 150Cals a day from added sugar, but most of us consume more than that! Reduce on sugar and SWAP it for STEVIA. Stevia is a natural sweetener extracted from the leaf of the stevia plant, native to South America.
Here’s a comparison chart between Sugar and Stevia.
1 tbsp. of Table Sugar has 48 Calories with most of it coming from refined carbs, whereas 1 tbsp. of stevia contains almost zero calories but it’s 300x sweeter than sugar. So you’ll use less of it in your recipe as well. For every cup of sugar, replace with either 2 tsps. liquid stevia or 2 tbsps. stevia powder.
But try it out and experiment until you get the right sweetness and consistency. Stevia is a great way to reduce drastically on your calories but still enjoy the sweetness and this will save your waistline and health in the long run.
4) SWAP Butter FOR Mashed Bananas
Yes, we all know that butter makes everything better, it also adds a whopping 1,600 Calories and 177g Fat for every cup you use while baking. That’s almost your entire calorie allowance in a day! Fats such as butter is used to add moisture and creaminess to breads, muffins, cakes and cookies. But you can easily lighten up your recipes by substituting all or most of it with MASHED BANANAS.
This swap will greatly reduce the calories, fat and cholesterol, plus it will make your recipe vegan-friendly. Bananas are also high in potassium, which will aid your digestive system. You want to choose extremely ripe spotted bananas, which will provide your recipe with natural sweetness, creaminess and moisture.
A guideline to start off with is to replace 1 cup butter in recipe with ½ to ¾ cup mashed bananas. If you feel that your batter is too dry, then add more until you get the right consistency. To begin with, you can substitute only part of the butter with banana. If you are happy with the results, slowly replace more butter with mashed bananas. Don’t be afraid to keep experimenting until you find the right ratio.
5) SWAP Oil FOR Unsweetened Applesauce
Just like butter, oil is another staple ingredient used in baking goods. (picture of coconut oil) While less healthy oil can often be swapped for healthier oil such as coconut oil, it’s important to know that you’re not reducing the fat or calories content! A really easy way to lower the fat and calories is to SWAP oil FOR unsweetened applesauce.
Now let’s compare ½ cup of unsweetened applesauce with ½ a cup of vegetable oil: Unsweetened applesauce contains 50 Calories, 0 Fat and packed with Vitamin C. Vegetable oil contains a whopping 964 Calories, 109g Fat, No Vitamins or Fibre.
Well, I guess that’s a good enough reason to ditch the oil and replace it with applesauce instead. Use the exact same amount of applesauce as you would with oil in your recipe. It’s really simple to make applesauce. Add 2 chopped apples, a ¼ cup water and about a ¼ tsp. lemon juice into a pot and bring to a boil. Allow the apple to simmer until very tender. Then puree either with a blender or a fork.
Unsweetened applesauce gives cakes or muffins a softer, chewier and sweeter taste, but don’t worry you won’t taste the apples. If you’re concerned about the applesauce changing the texture of your recipe, , you can substitute a portion of the oil rather than the whole amount to begin with.
6) SWAP White Flour FOR Oat or Almond Flour
One of my favourite substitutes in baking is to SWAP refined white flour with Oat Flour. White flour does not much nutrients and eating it on a regular basis can cause your blood sugar levels to spike. On the other hand, oat flour is packed with fibre and it will keep you fuller for longer and it is also gluten-free. You can simply make it by grinding whole rolled oats.
Oat flour also gives your baked goods a more nutty flavor and also a chewier and crumblier texture. Simply replace it with a 1:1 ratio. I love it because it gives my muffins or cakes a boost of fiber and that also means that I can have “cakes or muffins” for breakfast without feeling bad. I have lots of oat recipes including muffins, pancakes, which you can watch on my channel. Another alternative is to use almond or chickpea flour.
7) SWAP Egg FOR Chia or Flax Seeds
Next, egg is an important ingredient in both cooking and baking for its binding properties. But if you’re a vegan, simply swap egg for chia or flax seeds. Chia and flax seeds are naturally low in carbs and high in fibre! 2 tbsps. provide you with the 11g of fibre, which is almost half of the daily recommendation. They are also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.
When the seeds are combined with water, they become gel-like similar to a beaten egg, which also helps to bind the ingredients together. 1 egg can be replaced with 1 tbsp. of chia or flax seeds mixed with 3 tbsps. of water.
Simply mix the seeds and water together in a small bowl and allow it to sit for 10 – 15 minutes until the mixture becomes gel-like.
8) SWAP Dairy Milk FOR Soy, Coconut Almond or Rice Milk
Most of us are in fact lactose intolerant. Unfortunately, most of the desserts call for dairy milk. You can in fact SWAP this for Non-Dairy Milk such as soy, almond or rice milk and still have your recipes taste as good.
These alternatives for milks tend to be lower in calories and contain low or no saturated fats. But just be aware of it, for instance soy-milk can cause bloating and indigestion to some people. And when you buy, always go for the unsweetened version.
9) SWAP Cream FOR Silken Tofu
The next swap has to be a Vegan’s favourite – swapping cream for silken tofu. Some of you must be thinking, ewwww… Trust me, it doesn’t taste gross; in fact you can barely taste the tofu. That’s because tofu is rather tasteless on its own and it’s super versatile. Just think of it like a sponge, it takes on the flavor of whatever you cook or blend it with. So if you were to mix it with chocolate, it will take on the flavor of chocolate.
Tofu can be a replacement in most cream-based desserts such as cheese cakes, pudding, mousse and even soups. It will seriously slash the calories too. 1 cup of silken tofu has about 150 Calories whereas 1 cup of heavy cream has over 800 Calories!
If you have no idea where to start, checkout my tofu recipe on my channel, where I shared everything you need to know about tofu.
10) Sugar with Maple Syrup
The final SWAP is to replace refined sugar with MAPLE SYRUP or HONEY. This is considered a healthy option because maple syrup and honey has many properties that are good for our body, whereas refined sugar has zero nutrients.
Maple syrup and honey are also sweeter than refined sugar, which means you’ll be using less in a recipe. However it is very important to note that maple syrup and honey is STILL sugar, which means they should be added in small quantity. Replacing them your recipe, does not give you the allowance to go crazy and fool yourself into thinking that it’s “healthy” and therefore I can consume more. We all should reduce our sugar intake overall.
These are few really simple food swaps to make your desserts and meals much healthier. If this is your first time using a new ingredient, rather than changing the recipe completely, start by swapping a small portion. You might not get it at the right taste or consistency to begin with. But that’s the fun part, keep experimenting until you find the right balance.