Healthy baking substitutes may allow for more brownie ‘pig outs’

We all have our go-to meals or snacks when we feel like splurging on calories or treating ourselves. For carbaholics, pasta does the trick. For those with a hearty appetite, meat and potatoes are where it’s at. Others with an unquenchable sweet tooth munch on brownies, cookies and ice cream.

Because of those food’s high calorie and fat content, however, health conscious students can rarely indulge in these treats — or can they?

With this idea in mind, I set out to find a way to enjoy my favorite dishes by substituting ingredients in common recipes with healthier ones. Below is my review of a selected recipe — the first of a three-part series — with explanations of how it’s made, its health value, and if it’s really as good as the original. Check back in a week for Spaghetti Squash with Tomato Sauce.

Applesauce brownies

Substitute: unsweetened applesauce for butter

Review: 3 out of 5 stars

This recipe was very easy to follow. It was similar to a recipe for traditional brownies; however, instead of using butter, I used unsweetened applesauce, which can substantially cut down on calories and fat. Also, this recipe used two egg whites and one egg, rather than two eggs to minimize fat.

In general, these brownies were surprisingly good. They were pretty dense, spongy and moist, with a texture and consistency that resembled pound cake. The cocoa in them was quite noticeable, giving it a slightly bitter taste. If I could change this recipe at all, I would probably add artificial sweetener. This would dull the bitter cocoa taste and still keep the brownies low in calories. I would also recommend eating them warm or hot. The cooler they are, the less flavor they seem to have.

Each brownie is about 70 calories. By substituting 8 tablespoons of unsweetened applesauce (50 calories) for 8 tablespoons of butter (800 calories), this recipe saves a total of 750 calories (about 50 calories less, per brownie). Brownies made with butter have about 6.5 grams of fat, whereas applesauce brownies have about 0.9 grams of fat.

“Applesauce is commonly used as a fat replacer, but most fruit purees can be used to replace half of the fat in a baked product without altering the texture and flavor too much,” said Linda Garrow, food science, health, and nutrition teaching associate. “The fruit purees provide moisture and sugar, a sweetener and tenderizing agent,” she said.

On the other hand, fat, such as butter, adds flavor and works as a tenderizing agent, Garrow said. Fats also add lubrication, which the applesauce does not.

“Another way to reduce fat in a baked product is to replace each whole egg with two egg whites,” Garrow said. “This also makes a nice experiment to understand the function of fat in your recipe. A cake made with egg whites is much more elastic (and) less tender than a cake made with whole eggs (because) there is fat in the yolks.”

Overall, these brownies were sweet and chocolatey enough to satisfy my sweet tooth. There was, however, a noticeable difference between applesauce brownies and traditional brownies. If fat and calories are a concern, I would definitely recommend them and even make them again myself. However, I think that traditional brownies are worth the extra 750 calories.

Servings: 16


7 tablespoons flour

½ cup cocoa

¼ teaspoon salt

2 egg whites

1 large eggs

¾ cup white sugar

8 tablespoons applesauce

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla


1. Combine flour, cocoa, and salt; mix well.

2. Whisk together egg whites, egg, sugar, applesauce and vanilla.

3. Add egg mixture to flour mixture. Mix until blended, but DON’T over mix.

4. Pour into greased 8 inch pan.

5. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes.

(Adapted from “”:

In addition to these recipe swaps, Garrow also suggests using herbs and spices in place of butter and mayonnaise when the sole purpose is to enhance flavor. Garrow said to use jelly or jam rather than butter on toast, and to avoid using cheese if it will be difficult to taste among other ingredients.

“The bottom line is that we can make substitutions to make our favorite, not-so-healthy foods more nutritious, but we must also accept that there may be slight flavor and or textural differences,” Garrow said. “Sometimes substitutions result in preferred differences. Make your calories count. If you can’t taste the food ingredient, don’t eat it.”

Julia is a junior in Media. She can be reached at [email protected]