Low-Calorie Recipe Substitutions for Baking

Baking ingredients
Nadine Greeff/Stocksy United

Are you trying to lose weight? The way that you cook and especially the way that you bake can play a big role in your success.

Low-calorie recipe substitutions will help you cut fat and calories out of your favorite dessert recipes. That way you can still afford to enjoy a diet-friendly sweet treat and keep your diet on track.

Recipe Substitutions for Baking

Instead of... Use...
Milk, whole Fat-free or 1% milk
Eggs 2 egg whites per egg or 1/2 cup egg substitute per egg
Sugar Splenda sugar blend or if you use lactose-free milk, you can cut the amount of sugar used by 1/4.
Chocolate chips Dried fruit
Nuts Half required amount (toasted first)
White flour Whole wheat flour
Cream, heavy Equal parts half-and-half and fat-free evaporated milk
Cream, light Equal parts 1% milk and fat-free evaporated milk
Sour cream Light sour cream or fat-free plain yogurt
Butter Margarine
Fruit-flavored yogurt Fat-free plain yogurt mixed with fresh or frozen fruit
Whipping cream Fat-free whipped topping or evaporated skim milk (chilled)
Syrup Sugar-free syrup or sugar-free preserves or pureed fruit
Coconut Half amount required (toasted to enhance the flavor)
Traditional pie crust Graham cracker crust
Fruit canned in syrup Fruit canned in water or juices

General Tips for Healthy Desserts

With the recipe substitutions above, you should be able to reduce the calories in your favorite treats. Baked desserts can be part of a healthy diet if consumed in moderation. If you want your weight management or weight loss plan to be successful, keep a few tips in mind:

  • Portion control is key. You can enjoy almost any sweet treat as long as you enjoy it in moderation. Make sure you eat just a single serving of your favorite baked dessert—or better yet, just eat half! Consider using half the cookie dough when baking and freeze the other half. If you're making cakes consider having a few neighbors that would want to share some of it to prevent you from eating all of it yourself.
  • Skip the creamy toppings. Sometimes it's not the baked dessert but the toppings that add fat and calories. So scrape off the frosting, say no to whipped cream, and save the chocolate sprinkles for another day. If you need something sweet on top, consider fruit preserves that are low in added sugar.
  • Fruit adds volume. Want to make your small baked dessert look bigger and more beautiful? Add fruit! Fruit is not only low in calories but it also provides vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and diet-friendly fiber to help you feel fuller faster.
  • Start with low-calorie recipes. While you can use substitutions to adapt a regular recipe, sometimes it better to make desserts that are naturally low in calories. Meringues, for example, are a tasty low-calorie cookie. And angel food cake is very low in calories and can easily satisfy your sweet tooth. If you're looking for more delicious low-calorie recipes, check out this directory of low-calorie desserts. You'll also find some yummy low-cal treats at our low carb desserts center that may be especially helpful for those with pre-diabetes or diabetes.
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  • Armstrong, Cheryl H., MBA, RD. Purdue University School of Consumer and Family Sciences. "Top 20 Healthy Recipe Ingredient Substitutions" (Handout) Nutrition and Food Safety Workshop for Quantity Food Providers.