3. Swap frosting for fruit slices or pureed fruit — nature's candy!
4. Add unsweetened dried fruits such as raisins for added fiber and natural sweetness.
5. Add heart-healthy raw, unsalted nut pieces for added crunch and flavor. Try incorporating nut butters into your recipes for added protein.
6. Replace one whole egg with two egg whites to reduce cholesterol. Or, you can skip eggs altogether and combine 1 tablespoon of heart-healthy ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons of water.
7. Try using evaporated skim milk instead of heavy cream.
8. Use whole-grain flours instead of refined white flours for additional fiber and nutrients.
9. Consider using agave nectar instead of sugar. Agave syrup has fewer calories but is also sweeter, so you only need half to three-quarters as much.
10. Use dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa, which offers flavonoids, a healthy antioxidant. I recommend using mini chips, which allow you to use less overall chocolate but still provide a bit of flavor in each bite. Unsweetened cocoa powder is great for adding chocolate flavor without a lot of calories or fat: 1 tablespoon contains approximately 15 calories and 1.5 grams of fat (and zero cholesterol or sugar).
Healthful baking rule of thumb
When it comes to lightening up your recipes, start by making small changes and never change a major ingredient. If you have a family recipe that is filled with special meaning, then you might not want to do anything too radical. Evaluate each recipe on a case-by-case basis and have fun experimenting with these more healthful options.
And, when the baking is done, pay attention to the portion size of the desserts you consume: No food is a "bad food" when enjoyed in moderation. Portion size is particularly important when it comes to high-calorie foods such as cakes, brownies, tarts, cupcakes, cookies and pies. Set yourself up for success by taking a smaller piece of pie or one less cookie. You can still savor every bite and feel just as satisfied.
Gordon, a master of public health professional and a master certified health education specialist, is creator of the healthy recipe site EatingbyElaine.com.