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The Kitchen is a Laboratory and Food is the Experiment!

his post comes from us courtesy of an intern I have had the pleasure of working with past week. Lauren Furgiuele, an intern from the Iowa State University Dietetic Internship program has lent her personal experiences in the kitchen to this blog entry on experimenting with substitutions to make dishes more nutritious.

Working in the nutrition field, I'm pretty much always thinking about food. Recently I have had a pretty big sweet tooth, but in order to avoid those high-calorie, high-fat, and high-sugar sweets, I've been looking for some healthy substitutes for my baking recipes. Once I finally decided on my food of choice, zucchini carrot bread, my healthy mindset went a bit too out of control. I've read that substituting too many products for a healthier option is just a disaster waiting to happen. Nonetheless, I did 4 substitutions and ended up with a sunken-in, gross-looking, tasteless loaf of zucchini carrot bread. I was more than disappointed, but I decided to move on and bake another loaf… this time with only 2 substitutions. The difference was night and day, which is why I want to inform you all on some great baking substitutions I have [successfully] used that can still result in a delicious product to satisfy your sweet tooth cravings:

  • Whole wheat flour for white flourwhole wheat flour provides the entire wheat grain, resulting in a much higher fiber content which will help in digestion and lower the risk for diabetes and heart disease. For every 1 cup of white flour, substitute with 7/8 cup of whole wheat flour.
  • Unsweetened applesauce for oil or butterthis sounds like an odd one, but the applesauce provides a fun texture and hint of sweetness to your product, without a ton of calories and fat. For every 1 cup of oil or butter, substitute with 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce.
  • Plain Greek Yogurt for oil or butterthis one is my favorite. Not only is the Greek yogurt MUCH lower in calories and fat, but it also gives a little bit more protein as well! For every 1 cup of oil, substitute with ¾ cup of Greek yogurt. For every 1 cup of butter, substitute with ¼ cup of Greek yogurt+ ½ cup of butter.
  • Stevia for sugar – sugar substitutes are a great option for people with diabetes or those at risk. Stevia is a natural low-calorie sweetener with no sugar. However it does have a much sweeter taste, so swap with caution! For every 1 cup of sugar, substitute with 2 tablespoons of powder (or 1 teaspoon of liquid stevia).


As I mentioned before, don't try to substitute different ingredients all at once. A lot of the ingredients in baking products, such as flour, fat, sugar, and eggs, are not only in the recipe for taste but to make sure the product has the right texture and rising properties as it bakes in the oven. That is why it is usually a good idea to only substitute one ingredient as you begin, to make sure that your food coming out of the oven is still enjoyable! Below is one of my all-time favorite recipes with the substitutions I have used:

Banana Nut Bread


  • 2 ½ cups white flour (split in half by using 1 ¼ cups white flour and 1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil (use 2 Tablespoons and ~1 tsp of plain Greek yogurt)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (I use walnuts)
  • 3 bananas


  • Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom of loaf pan, 9x5x3 inches. Mix all ingredients; beat until it is all mixed well. Pour into pan. Bake until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean (about 55-65 minutes).