Smart Substitutions Make Baked Goods More Nutritious

Try Nutrition Diva's easy swaps to make your baked goods more nutritious without compromising taste or texture.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
2-minute read

I recently returned from the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, an annual event sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. One of my favorite things to do at this conference is to view the scientific posters, which summarize interesting new research from every corner of the profession. In the course of an hour or two, I can take in a hundred or so posters and learn a little bit about an awful lot!

Several of the posters this year featured clever ingredient substitutions that make recipes a bit healthier without adversely affecting the taste and texture.  Here are 4 you might want to experiment with at home. For best results, pay close attention to the recommended ratios: These researchers ruined many batches of muffins, so that you don't have to!

1. Replace white flour with pureed lentils. Nutrition students at Morgan State University subsituted pureed lentils for some of the white flour in oatmeal raisin muffins. Not only were the lentil-fortified muffins high in fiber, protein, and iron but tasters actually preferred them to the muffins without lentils.  To try this at home: For every 2 cups of flour called for in the recipe, use 1 3/4 cup of flour plus 1/4 cup of pureed cooked lentils. This should work in any muffin or quick-bread recipe.

2. Replace butter or shortening with avocado. Nutritionists from Hunter College turned their biscuits an interesting shade of green by replacing some of the shortening with pureed avocado. They found that you can successfuly replace up to half of the fat with avocado but that more than that led to disappointing results. Replacing half the fat with avocado cuts total fat content by about a third and calories by about 15% and increases levels of nutrients and phytochemicals.

3. Replace rice flour with quinoa flour. Here's one for you gluten-free bakers. Instead of using rice flour, use a 50/50 mix of rice and quinoa flour. Not only does this bump up the protein, fiber, and mineral content, but tasters consistently prefered muffins made with rice and quinoa.  (This project was done by a different group of researchers from Hunter College.)

4. Replace fat with chia seeds. Nutritionists at Samford University in Alabama experimented with chia seed as a fat replacer and found that it's possible to reduce fat and increase fiber and omega-3 content without affecting the flavor. Testers noted (but didn't seem to mind) that the muffins made with chia were denser and more compact. They did, however, find the color of the chia muffin off-putting. To try this at home, make a slurry using 9 ounces of water and 2 tablespoons of chia seeds.  Give it time to form a gel and then use it to replace up to half of the fat or oil in your recipe.

If you try any of these, I'd love to hear from you. Send your thoughts (and photos!) to me at nutrition@quickanddirtytips.com

About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.