Brownies, Lightened Up

I’m a brownie kind of girl—my friends and family can vouch for me. There are in fact ways to lighten up this delectable dessert. What’s the secret? Read on to find out.
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I’m a brownie kind of girl — my friends and family can vouch for me. Luckily, you can lighten up this uber-chocolatey favorite easily. What’s the secret? Read on to find out.

The Nutrition Facts

Commercially-prepared brownies typically contain around 230 calories and 9 grams of fat each (for about 3 inches square). If you look at some store bought brands those numbers go up: Starbucks espresso brownies weigh in at 370 and 21 grams of fat, while their caramel variety has a whopping 580 calories and 36 grams of fat. The more gooey stuff you put on those brownies, the higher the calories go.

Go Simple

The goodness of brownies is all in the chocolate. So when you’re looking for a recipe, choose ones that call for the basics: flour, butter, sugar, cocoa powder and/or chocolate. Skip recipes with extra heavy ingredients like heavy cream and corn syrup. If you find a very simple recipe, you’ll find that it tastes even better than the boxed stuff where you’re paying more for a laundry list of additives and preservatives.

The add-ins also rack up calories — and fast: Keep mix-ins like peanut butter, nuts, caramel, chocolate chips, toffee, marshmallows to a minimum. If you must have one, choose heart healthy nuts or natural peanut butter and halve or quarter the amount listed. If you’re looking to enhance the flavor without calories, try espresso powder. It has minimal calories and a little goes a long way.

Cut The Fat

By popular demand, we've added some tips on how to cut fat (and add nutrition) to your favorite recipes.  These swaps will make your finished product a cakier, still-delicious treat.  Here are some easy ways to cut the fat in your favorite brownie recipe:

  • Trade half the butter for pureed fruits such as bananas, pumpkin, prunes or apple butter, or nonfat plain yogurt.
  • A half-cup of oil packs a whopping 960 calories, while applesauce has just 60 calories per half-cup, so replacing half the oil with applesauce can create huge fat and calorie savings.
  • Replace each whole egg with two egg whites or 1/4 cup egg substitute.
  • Get more fat-reduction ideas for all your baked goods >>
The Portions

Of course, controlling portions also helps you control calories. Prepare in mini muffin pans for perfectly portioned brownie bites or pre-slice into small (2-inch) cubes once the brownies have cooled. If you’ve made too much, freeze a batch for later (or share with friends or coworkers.)

Recipes to Try:
TELL US: How do you lighten up brownies?

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »

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