Healthy Baking Alternatives

baking cookies

The holiday season is upon us! Baking can be a fun and interactive family activity to celebrate winter festivities.  Enjoy this season with a variety of healthy baked goods! 

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommends limiting added sugars and saturated fats to no more than 10% of your total daily calories. Instead of restricting yourself from all baked goods, aim to achieve a healthy eating pattern by allowing yourself to eat them in moderation.   


When baking, simple recipe modifications can help reduce the amount of fat and sugar in your favorite holiday dessert and boost its nutritional content.  Below are some healthy baking alternatives to try this holiday season:

  • Add a fruit or vegetable. Add ingredients such as pureed apples and pumpkin, smashed bananas and sweet potatoes, or grated zucchini and carrots. These ingredients can keep your recipes moist and flavorful, while also increasing the nutrients in your sweet treat!
  • Choose heart-healthy swaps. Substitute butter and margarine for a heart-healthy oil such as canola oil or olive oil. Apple sauce can also be another healthy alternative! Try different substitutes to see which alternative can best replicate the taste and texture of the original recipe.
  • Reduce the amount of sugar.  You can often reduce the amount of sugar in a baking recipe by 25% without any noticeable changes. You can also try switching to other natural sweeteners like dates or applesauce. Be sure to account for differences in quantity, texture, and moisture level when substituting sugar for an alternative in your next recipes!
  • Experiment with new flours.  Whole wheat flour can be an easy substitute to all-purpose white flour.  If homemade breads are part of your baking routine this holiday season, try baking with whole wheat flour, or you can even start with an equal mixture of both flours!  Almond flour and coconut flour can also be healthier options to swap for as well.


In addition to simple recipe modifications, control portion sizes when incorporating baked goods into your diet. Miniature desserts, such as mini muffins and cheesecakes, and bite-sized brownies and tarts, can help to ensure you are maintaining a healthy eating pattern and a balance between sweet treats and nutrient-dense foods.

This winter, create a healthier, more nutritious version of your family’s favorite holiday treats!  Start with small adjustments and changes to your traditional baking recipes for a dessert your whole family will love!  Visit the USDA MyPlate website to try out this Cranberry Nut Bread recipe this holiday season!