Healthy Baking With Fruit & Nuts

Simple substitutions and additions can increase the nutritional benefits of baked goods.

Simple substitutions and additions can increase the nutritional benefits of baked goods.

Cookies, cakes, muffins, pies and other baked goods can be a threat to your health and your waistline. Don’t deprive yourself of yummy baked goods; instead, make simple substitutions. Try adding fruits and nuts to manage calories and fat, sneak in extra vitamins and minerals and provide added health benefits to your favorite treats.


Nuts contain monounsaturated fat, which may help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Nuts also contain vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, folic acid, niacin, copper, magnesium and potassium. Try almonds, pecans and pistachios for added protein and walnuts for omega-3 fatty acid. If you are just adding nuts and aren’t substituting anything out of your recipe, be conscious of the amount you add because you are increasing calories with the additions.


Fresh or dried berries are high in antioxidants and fiber while promoting a healthy weight. Fresh or dried options include strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. Cranberries are full of antioxidants and are low in sugar. The zest or juice from citrus fruits provides vitamin C, fiber and flavonoids to help lower your cholesterol.


Choose recipes that use sweet fruits in place of sugar to save on calories and add the health benefits of the fruits. Start by replacing half of the sugar needed in your recipe with an equal amount of pureed figs, dates or bananas. Bake the recipe as you normally would and judge your result for sweetness and texture. You may need to adjust by adding more or less fruit puree next time. Instead of frosting for cakes, try fresh fruit on the top or within the layers. Not only does this help with your waistline, but it also provides added fiber.


When substituting ingredients in baking, it may take a few tries to get it just right. To start, make half a batch with the substitution. Mashed bananas, apple butter or prunes can replace half of the butter to reduce the amount of fat in your baking recipe. Applesauce can also replace half the amount of oil to reduce fat. Try substituting alcohols in recipes like chocolate truffles with the same amount of orange juice or fruit puree.


Sometimes you shouldn’t toy with a good thing, like trying to add ingredients or make substitutions to a tried-and-true pound cake recipe or your great-grandmother’s cookie recipe. Instead, look for new healthy baking recipes that rely on fruits or nuts and provide something new to your holiday party. Instead of a pie, make a tart. Choose a tart with lighter crust and lots of fruit. Instead of traditional cookies, try a pistachio biscotti or no-bake granola bars with nuts and dried cherries or cranberries.

About the Author

Poppy Carpenter graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. In addition to teaching journalism to junior high students, she also covers health and fitness for "PUSH Monthly" and Angie's List.

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