Practice Portion Control!
If the recipe makes a dozen cookies, it is not necessary that you have to prepare a dozen cookies. You can divide all the ingredients into half, and bake only 6.
Baking is a science as well as an art. It can be a profession or a hobby. Different people perceive baking differently. I can say that, for some people like me, it is a therapy... a stress buster. When people turn to retail therapy or resort to binge eating to beat the blues, I hit the kitchen to bake.
Like I said earlier, baking can never be calorie (guilt)-free! It always includes an extra dose of all things 'sweet' and 'fat', to sweeten and soften the deal. If you are not blessed with some sort of extraordinary self-control, it can be very difficult to demarcate between 'just a little' and 'more than enough', when devouring baked products.
But where there is a will (to lose weight), there is a way. There is no need to stay clear off baked goodies when trying to lose or maintain weight. Just bake smarter with a few substitutions and additions of some healthier ingredients.
Also, don't think that the dish will taste plain or boring; it will taste just the same, and no one will ever notice the difference (except you!).
Ways to Cut Calories in Baking Recipes
Some ingredients like sugar form the heart of the dish. Now, there are two options for you to choose from - first, you can completely substitute sugar with a low- or no-calorie sweetener. Second, you can simply use less sugar. Ideally, you can use at least one-fourth part less sugar, and the dish will still taste the same. With an artificial sweetener, you will have to read the label carefully before using it. If it says take the same quantity as you would for sugar, then you won't have a problem. But if the sweetness of the artificial sweetener is either more or less as compared to sugar, then you may have to do a 'trial-and-error' run, before you finalize the recipe.
Substituting sugar completely with an artificial sweetener can result in a slight change in texture and appearance of the finished product. The reason being, sugar provides a little caramelized flavor and an optimum brown color after baking, which will not be the case when a sweetener is used. But this does not mean that sugar cannot be replaced completely; 100% substitution can be done. A spoonful of honey or maple syrup can also be added to make things sweeter. Slight texture alterations are bearable, instead of baking something that makes you pile on the extra pound, isn't it?
This 'oh-so-essential' ingredient makes your baked goodies... well... soft. It is unavoidable, because it adds moisture to the dish. If you plan to substitute it, then it should be done with something that is equally moist, like fat-free cream or light cream cheese. They work for cookies, cakes, and muffins. Usually, replacing ½ cup of butter, margarine, or any other shortening, with a moist and healthier ingredient, does the trick. When using fat is unavoidable, choose margarine over butter.
But you have to be wise and choose the right ingredient according to the flavor of the recipe. There is a list of ingredients that can be used as fat substitutes. Using unsweetened apple sauce works the same way as fat, and contains around 10 - 15 times less calories too. You can substitute half or even all the fat with equal amount of applesauce. Canola oil, olive oil, and even avocados make great substitutes.
Light margarine, whipped butter, fat-free half-and-half, milk, and even strong coffee can help soften and make the product fluffy. Low-fat yogurt or buttermilk works for desserts, fruit purees like prune puree works well with chocolate-flavored products, and can replace half the fat. Pureed bananas can also replace fat, but they are best for quick breads or cakes. They are not preferred for light- and fluffy-textured products, because they make these dishes dense.
Again, a little 'trial-and-error' run is required to make things work. Don't worry much about the taste, because a slight alteration in the taste is better than... you guessed it right... a few extra pounds of weight!
Use Alternative Flour
Refined, all-purpose baking flour is usually highly processed, and has very less nutritional value. It is also devoid of fiber. If you are just starting off on your journey of calorie-cutting in baking, you can replace half of the white flour with whole-wheat flour. This replacement works for almost all baked dishes that require white flour. The end product, made with 50% whole-wheat flour, will become a little nutty and dense. But it will make you feel fuller faster because of the fiber content. Also, it will have more nutrients like calcium and protein packed in, as compared to a 100% white flour product.
When you are using whole-wheat flour, you may have to sift the flour through a fine sieve a few times. When you do this, a little amount of fiber will be lost, and therefore, I would say that this step is optional. It totally depends on whether you want to sieve it or not. The only advantage of sieving the flour is that, the end product will be fluffier in texture. But I guess fiber is more essential, and you should not lose out on it.
If you are sensitive to gluten, gluten-free flour is the alternative. Nowadays, all types of gluten-free baking mixes are easily available in the market.
If cholesterol is your biggest foe, then maybe it is time for you to drop the eggs from the baking mix. Egg substitute sold in cartons are the keyword for you. For each large egg, you will need at least ¼ cup of egg substitute. They come in fresh, frozen, or powdered forms, and contain almost 99% egg white. They do not have cholesterol, and are made with vegetable oil as an ingredient. Therefore, even though they have fat, it is mostly unsaturated.
If you are hell-bent on the idea of using eggs, choose egg whites instead, and leave the yolks out of the recipe. Preferably, opt for organic eggs over the regular ones. By doing this, you will at least ensure that you feast upon more vitamins and minerals with each bite. Calorie reduction as well as optimum nutrition should be the ultimate aim in all of this.
Cut Down on High-calorie Add-ons
If the recipe book says ½ cup chocolate chips, what will happen if you use ¼ cup? Frankly speaking, you will get rid of at least 200 - 300 calories, 9 - 10 grams of fat, and 0.5 - 1 gram of saturated fat, and that too without compromising much on the taste. All the extra brushings of butter, the frostings, the sprinkling of powdered sugar, or the use of candied cherries, should be done to a bare minimum. You can even do away with these completely.
Choose Healthier Add-ons
It's clichéd that everyone loves chocolate and it is considered a sin, to be indulging in it. But ditch it! And opt for a few healthier alternatives. If avoiding chocolate is not possible, then opt for darker versions or carob chips. The best option would be to consider a recipe with cocoa powder rather than chocolate chips. Milk chocolate chips are a complete no-no.
Nuts top the list when it comes to add-ons. Even though nuts contain fat, they are healthy. Fruit pieces are also a great way to enhance the taste and appearance of the baked products. One more way of adding flavor would be the addition of citrus zest. This contains aroma oils and flavors. Addition of lemon or orange zest will add that extra zing to low-fat baking mixes.
Opt for Cooking Sprays and Non-stick Cookware
Before keeping the mix for baking, we usually brush the baking tray with butter and flour, and in turn, again add a few extra calories. You can save on that by using nonstick baking cookware. Your baked product will be nice and brown, and will come out without sticking to the edges. And if you still want to, then a slight spritz of canola cooking spray will be enough to give you smooth edges.
In summation, I would say that, although baking is a stress reliever for some people like me, for those who are calorie-conscious, the baking tips mentioned above could just do the trick.