Baking Ingredient Swaps (Your Complete Guide To Healthy Swaps)

Cooking Advice, Expert Advice, Food, Kitchen Tips, Nutrition

By: // December 3, 2021

We’ve all been there; you want to do some baking and look up a recipe only to see that the ingredients are less than healthy or don’t fit into your dietary restrictions. If your diet is gluten-free, egg-free, or dairy-free baking can feel impossible. Disappointed, you walk away thinking you’ll never be able to make that delicious treat.

But we pride ourselves on taking typically not-so-good-for-you food and making a healthier version so we can still indulge in our favorites without cheating on clean eating. And luckily, we’ve compiled some of our favorite swaps to get you on a path to a healthier lifestyle and still able to enjoy your favorite treat.

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Swap Out The All-Purpose Flour

Bleached white flour has been stripped of its nutrients and it has been treated with chemicals like benzoyl peroxide, and chlorine. Here’s what I recommend you swap all-purpose flour with:

  • Whole Wheat Flour –(sub ¾ cup whole wheat flour per 1 cup all-purpose flour)

Whole wheat flour has way more nutritional value than its white counterpart. We use this substitute when we don’t mind a little denser, nuttier flavor such as in carrot cake or gingerbread!

  • White Whole Wheat Flour (1 for 1)

White whole wheat flour is milled from whole white wheat rather than “red” wheat, which makes it lighter in color and less dense/bitter in flavor. Yet it’s got the same nutritional value as regular whole wheat flour, which we love! We use white whole wheat flour when we don’t want to sacrifice nutrition but still want the lightness of regular flour for more delicate cakes.

  • Gluten-Free Flour (1 for 1)

Bobs 1 to 1  and King Arthurs Measure for Measure are my go-to for gluten-free baking. Both are equivalent to all-purpose flour. So you can take any recipe and easily make it gluten-free. This blend contains xanthan gum – a critical ingredient you need for successful gluten-free baking!

Why use one over the other- check the ingredients label if you have any food allergies along with your gluten allergy. They each have a unique blend of gluten-free flours.

Related: 9 Surprising Uses For Pickle Juice 

Swap Out The Vegetable Oil

bottles of cooking oils

Oil is an ingredient marked with much controversy. Is it okay to use? Is it bad to use? Well, we definitely believe that oil can add heart-healthy fats to your diet, but we do have certain preferences for which ones to use. In general, avoid vegetable oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil. These are very inflammatory and if you have any food sensitivities or allergies, consuming these oils can aggravate your symptoms.

  • Olive Oil (1 for 1)

Olive oil is definitely our go-to oil for cooking. It’s a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids and lends a very neutral flavor.

  • Coconut Oil (1 for 1 – don’t forget to measure it as a liquid)

Coconut oil can act as a great substitute for other oils as long as you don’t mind the flavor. Make sure you’re using it as a substitute when your bake sweet treats that could use a coconut flavor as a benefit. Keep in mind coconut oil naturally firms up when it’s room temperature and cold. Make sure you watch out for clumps if your other ingredients are cold.  But you can use this to your advantage when you have a baking recipe that you want to firm up.

  • Avocado Oil (1 for 1)

Avocado oil is a healthy monounsaturated fat and a good source of antioxidants.  The taste is much more neutral  (compared to coconut oil) and it has a high heat point making it easier to work with than coconut oil.

  • Applesauce (1 for 1)

Did you know you can actually substitute applesauce for oil when baking? Applesauce keeps everything moist and is usually subtle enough to go undetected! We like to make sure we get applesauce without extra sugar to keep the sugar content down.

Swap Out The Sugar

pile of different types of sugar

The American diet is filled with sugar – WAY more than our bodies were ever designed to ingest. So, we try to limit our sugar intake at Get Health U to ward off sugar crashes, inflammation, and disease.

  • Quantity

Okay, so this isn’t a substitution, but one of the most common things we do when making a recipe that calls for sugar is just to reduce the amount! Most recipes have more sugar than they need and when you’re reducing your sugar intake in general, you won’t crave things to be as sweet!

  • Raw Organic Honey (replace ½ to 1 [i.e. ¼ cup honey for ½ cup sugar]; but be careful of texture differences when baking & reducing other liquids)

Not just the honey bear from the grocery store, raw organic honey is unprocessed and high in antioxidants. Raw honey is the concentrated nectar of flowers that comes straight from the extractor; it is the only unheated, pure, unpasteurized, unprocessed honey. An alkaline-forming food, this type of honey contains ingredients similar to those found in fruits, which become alkaline in the digestive system. It doesn’t ferment in the stomach and it can be used to counteract acid indigestion. Honey is still sugar, so this isn’t an excuse to go overboard, though honey is made of 30 percent glucose, 40 percent fructose and 20 other sugars (as compared to table sugar’s 50/50 ratio) so your body has to expend a bit more energy when breaking it down. Plus, it also contains certain minerals not found in table sugar and can help with seasonal allergies and sore throats.

  • Stevia (depends on form; sub 1 tablespoon liquid stevia for 1 cup sugar)

Stevia is a plant-contrived sweetener that is WAY sweeter than sugar and contains no calories. Due to its recent popularity, you can find stevia at most grocery stores in a variety of forms: powdered, liquid, leaves, etc.)

  • Munk Fruit

We LOVE Monk fruit as a sugar substitute. It’s not sugar and it’s sweet than sugar. It is zero calories, zero carbs, and won’t raise your blood glucose levels. And unlike other sugar alternatives, you won’t experience bloat or tummy issues when you eat munk fruit.  The only downside is there is a bit of an aftertaste if you’re not used to it. Still, it doesn’t bother everyone and it is less bitter than other artificial sweeteners.

Swap Out The Butter

picture of butter on brown paper

It’s important to understand what role butter is serving in your baking so that you can choose the best swap for butter. Typically butter is the leavening agent, meaning it introduces air into baked goods and makes them light and fluffy. But butter can also be the ingredient that makes gives your dish its flaky texture. There are lots of pleasing butter choices that can fill the same shoes as butter!

  • Coconut Oil (1 for 1)

In solid form, coconut oil works well in recipes that require butter or shortening to be cut into dry ingredients. Because coconut oil is solid at room temperature, it makes baked goods nice and flaky. Try this vegan pie crust recipe! 

  • Ghee (1 for 1)

Ghee is clarified butter. It’s dairy-free, gluten-free, and delicious. It’s my go-to as butter swap in baking (and everything, honestly). It is solid when cold, soft at room temperature, and takes a long time to melt.

Baking Swap for Eggs

woman holding eggs with both hands

Eggs are a baking ingredient that shows up in almost all recipes but if you have an egg allergy or sensitivity you might be feeling worried that baked goods simply won’t be available to you anymore.  But don’t worry, there are great egg alternatives you can use!

  • Flax Egg

This is the most universal egg alternative and works for almost any baking recipe.  You just mix one tablespoon ground flaxseed with three tablespoons of water and let it sit for 10 minutes to thicken.
One consideration when your use a flax egg is that flax is very full of fiber (which is a good thing!) but if your recipe calls for 3 eggs, please don’t make 3 flax eggs. In that situation, I’d use one flax egg and then choose another from the list below.
  • “Fake Eggs”

Products like JUSTegg and Bob’s Red Mill Egg Substitute are very easy swaps as long as you aren’t also sensitive to the ingredients in these products. Soy and corn to name the top offenders.

  • Banana (1/2 mashed for 1 egg) and Pumpkin (1/4 cup for 1 egg) and Applesauce (1/4 cup for 1 egg)

These are great to use in things like muffins, bread, and some cookies. Obviously, there is a flavor factor to consider but these can definitely do the trick AND add a lot of moisture and additional nutrients to your baked goods.

  • Skip The Egg

Sounds like a wild idea, but a lot of recipes don’t actually need the egg to work! It’s experimental but one place I know this to be true is when you’re making pancakes and waffles. My go-to mix to use is King Arthur Gluten-Free Classic Pancake Mix.

Swap Out The Sour Cream

bowl of white sour cream on blue cloth

We would not consider ourselves anti-dairy at Get Healthy U, unless of course, you have an allergy, but we’ve often found there are healthier alternatives as in the case of sour cream.

  • Greek Yogurt (sub 1 for 1)

Greek yogurt has more protein than sour cream and less calories while still offering the tang that you’re looking for.

Swap Out The Milk Chocolate In Your Baking

table filled with different types of chocolate

Milk chocolate is mostly made up of milk and sugar with as low as 10 percent cacao. Cacao powder is where the health benefits actually come in and if you’re sensitive to dairy you have to find something else to use.

  • Cocoa Powder

To replace one ounce of unsweetened chocolate, mix 3 tablespoons cocoa powder with 1 tablespoon butter or oil and add to your recipe. Keep in mind that cocoa powder is not sweet so you’ll want to make sure you add in additional sweeter (see sugar swaps in this article above.)

  • Dark Chocolate (sub 1 for 1)

Dark chocolate containing at least 70% cacao is more bitter than milk chocolate however, most of us at Get Healthy U actually prefer it! Plus, it contains much greater amounts of cocoa, and therefore more flavonoids, than other forms of chocolate. It is also a part of the MUFA’s (monounsaturated fatty acids) which are the plant-based fats found in some of your many of your favorite foods–avocado, nuts and seeds, oils, olives, and dark chocolate! Studies show that these good-for-you fats enhance heart health and protect against chronic disease. And now the latest research shows that these nutrient-dense superstars may even target fat where it’s hardest to lose–in your belly! Plus, the antioxidant-rich superfood is actually a healthy treat in small amounts!

  • Enjoy Life Baking Chocolate Chocolate Chips (1 for 1)

These are my go-to dairy-free chocolate chips. They are allergy-friendly, real chocolate made with only 3 ingredients. 

Swap Out The Cows Milk

table with different jars of milk on top.

We do drink regular milk here and there (nothing wrong with it!), but we often like to substitute nut milks as a baking ingredient. If you have a sensitivity or just looking to add different nutrients into your dish, try one of these milks below.

  • Almond Milk (sub 1 for 1)

Almond milk, made from ground almonds, and is a great source of protein and heart-healthy fats. It’s also packed with vitamin E, manganese, selenium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, fiber, phosphorous, and calcium. Wow!

  • Cashew Milk (sub 1 for 1)

Cashew milk is a bit milder in flavor than almond milk and even creamier! It’s rich in vitamins and offers a little of the healthy fat that is essential to all diets. It’s also one of the creamiest dairy-free milk swaps a try, so it’s great to use in dairy-free ice cream, smoothies, or as a savory option for creamy sauces such as Alfredo.

  • Rice Milk (sub 1 for 1)

Rice milk is made from boiled rice, brown rice syrup, brown rice starch and water. It’s the most hypoallergenic of all the milk substitutes.  The unsaturated fat comes from rice bran oil, which can help lower your blood cholesterol. It contains lots of B Vitamins and other nutrients. Probably the mildest tasting of the milk substitutes, but higher in natural sugars due to the starchy nature of rice.

  • Hemp Milk (sub 1 for 1)

Hemp milk is made from ground hemp seeds mixed with water and has a creamy, nutty flavor. It can be a good alternative for anyone with soy and nut allergies.  It’s creamy and has a little thicker consistency. It also has protein, vitamins, and minerals.

  • Coconut Milk (sub 1 for 1)

Coconut Milk is getting lots of attention and is made from fresh coconut meat. It’s creamy, has a coconut flavor, and is full of vitamins and minerals similar to almond milk.  Coconut milk contains saturated fat and is high in iron, which is great for non-meat eaters, with 22 percent of the recommended daily allowance. However, coconut milk in a carton is different than coconut milk in a can. We love using the canned version because that’s the kind that’s creamiest. Use it in Thai dishes, in your smoothies, in dairy-free ice cream or as coconut whipped cream!

Swap Out The Mayonnaise

table with mayo and other ingredients on top

Mayo can be off-putting to many… but even if it’s the norm in your house, there are some simple swaps that will give you more bang for your buck.

  • Greek Yogurt (sub ½ greek yogurt for ½ of mayo in recipes)

Packed with protein, we’ll often use Greek yogurt for half of the mayo in a recipe. It’s not a perfect flavor comparison which is why we still use mayo but just not the full amount!

  • Avocado (sub 1:1)

If you typically lather mayo on your sandwiches, try mashed avocado instead. It still gives you the creaminess you want and we actually prefer the flavor, not to mention the healthy fats and other nutritious benefits.

When you swap out mayo for a ripe avocado spread on your sandwich, you are avoiding cholesterol and saturated fat and increasing your intake of healthy fat, fiber, and potassium. Plus, we think it just tastes better! Two tablespoons of mayonnaise have 115 calories and a quarter cup of avocado has 80 calories. And avocados are thought to help prevent certain cancers and enhance heart health.

Swap Out The Peanut Butter

table with peanuts and a spoon of peanut butter
  • PB2 (sub 2:1; 2 tablespoons PB2 powder equals about 1 tablespoon peanut butter)

Okay, so natural peanut butter really isn’t bad for you (though if you typically buy Jiffy or another popular version out there, you may want to reconsider!), but some people are hesitant to eat it since it is higher in calories and fats, albeit good-for-you fats. So if this is a concern for you, there’s actually an alternative out there called PB2, and Chris herself loves it! It uses a special process of roasting the peanuts and squeezing out the extra oil leaving you with 85% less fat and calories than ordinary peanut butter (45 calories and 1.5 grams of fat). It comes in powder form and you just mix a little with water and it tastes just like normal peanut butter, except with a lot less fat and sugar. You can use it for PB&J’s, dip for fruit and veggies, and plop it into smoothies. We also like to use it in our delicious chicken kebab recipe.

  • Nutt Butters

If you have a peanut gallery you should try another nut butter. My favorites are almond butter and sunflower butter.

Swap Out The Ice Cream

scoops of different flavors of ice cream
  • Artic Zero

Ice cream is a favorite food for most people, but a pint of Chunky Monkey can set you back 1,160 calories and 72 grams of fat, not to mention put you in a state of sugar shock. Luckily, there are some new products on the market like Arctic Zero. Artic Zero is basically a delicious-tasting non-GMO protein shake you can spoon. It is made with whey protein, and if you have one of those nights where you sit down and devour a whole pint in front of the TV, you’d only be setting yourself back by 150 calories! Arctic Zero was developed to provide the health benefits, nutrition, and the taste of ice cream without the negative impact like artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners. Halo Top is another good alternative on the market too!

  • Nice Cream

Nice cream is a much healthier, dairy-free ice cream substitute that you can feel good about. Made with frozen bananas, all it takes is a few pulses in the food processor to develop that creamy, sweet concoction you crave. You can follow this recipe for our nice cream with four different flavor variations.

Swap Out The Candy 

pick background with pretty candy on top
  • Fresh Fruit

Do you have a sweet tooth? If you find yourself turning to candy to satisfy your sweet tooth, swap it out by switching to fresh fruit instead. Eat a piece of fruit as a snack or top it on Greek yogurt for a healthy breakfast. You can also make fruit smoothies in the morning that will not only give your body the nutrients it needs to start the day right but satisfy your sweet tooth naturally. You can even throw a few veggies in there–if combined with enough fruit, you won’t even taste it!

  • SmartSweets 

This candy company makes its products free from sugar alcohols, added sugar; and artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, or artificial colors– basically everything that makes candy such a problem. Insider tip, the gummy worms have the best flavor!

  • YumEarth Candy

This candy still has sugar but it’s all organic and doesn’t have any artificial flavors, colors and it’s allergy-friendly. They taste amazing, totally equal to any other candy. The lollipops are a staple in our house but once in a while, we’ll enjoy giggles (instead of skittles) and chews (instead of starbursts). And for the holidays, I see they now have candy canes!

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1 Comment

on January 31, 2018 at 8:20 PM Reply

You have such great suggestions, and explaining some of the differences of flour was wonderful. I didn’t realize that white whole wheat flour was actually white whole wheat flour just not made with red wheat. That was a nice thing to learn as well as a lot of the substitutions you suggested. As an aside, you might want to proofread and make sure you don’t use “it’s” for places when you mean it’s a possessive, for example, “it’s white counterpart”. I really enjoy your emails !!

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