Cut the Fat in Baking

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Fat ensures that your baked goods are moist and tender, but you can dial it down and still make them delectable with a few basic swaps.

How Much Fat Can You Cut?
The easiest way to reduce fat when cooking is to just use less oil or butter. Since baked goods require very specific measurements, that can be trickier when baking. Sometimes cutting down added fat will work; other times, you’ll need to replace some of that fat with other ingredients. When trying to re-invent your favorite recipes, it may take some trial and error. Instead of wasting batches upon batches of ingredients, I like to split a recipe into thirds and make adjustments to each mini-batch. Once you discover what works best, make sure to write it down for next time—and don't be afraid to double-check your math!

Simple Swaps to Try
The typical ingredients that add fat to your baked goods are eggs, oil, butter, shortening, milk and cream. There are several easy swaps you can make, but be warned that they may change the texture slightly. In the end, these changes will cut back on the total fat and much of the less-healthy saturated fat.

  • For cookies, replace half the butter with applesauce, egg whites or plain yogurt.
  • Replace regular butter with equal amounts of healthier buttery spreads such as Promise or Smart Balance.
  • Trade half the butter with puréed fruit such as mashed bananas, apple butter or prunes (prunes work best with chocolate recipes).
  • Replace half the oil with applesauce.
  • Replace each whole egg with two egg whites or 1/4 cup egg substitute.
  • Replace cream with equal parts of evaporated skim milk.
  • Replace half the cream cheese with equal parts of reduced-fat cottage cheese or part-skim ricotta cheese.
  • Replace each 1/2 cup shortening with 1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil.
  • Replace equal parts sour cream with plain or Greek-style yogurt.
  • Replace whole milk with 1% or 2%.

Dana Angelo White, M.S., R.D., A.T.C., is a contributor to Food Network's Healthy Eats blog, a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana's full bio »

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