How to reduce fat, sugar and sodium in baked goods

Baked goods can be oh so good, but they often contain oh so much saturated fat, sugar and sodium. Here are some tricks to save the flavor but lose the unhealthy culprits.

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Saturated fat vs. unsaturated fat

In baked goods, the saturated fat often comes from butter, lard or vegetable shortening. The fat helps to blend flavors, provide moisture and increase tenderness. But too much saturated fat can raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol the risk for heart disease.

You can replace saturated fat with an unsaturated fat such as vegetable oil or margarine. Another trick is cutting a portion of the fat and replacing it with a pureed fruit like applesauce, mashed bananas, or pureed pumpkin. This provides moisture, sweetness and some vitamins and minerals. Using less fat can make baked goods a little chewier and less fattening.

Sugar vs. pureed fruit

Sugar and other natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup and molasses can help to retain moisture in baked goods. It also provides calories without any real nutrients. Often, you can cut the amount of sweetener by one-third and still retain some sweetness. Use less sweetener if you use pureed fruit in place of the saturated fat.

Sodium vs. low-sodium substitutes

Sodium in baked goods comes from salt, baking soda or baking powder. Salt enhances the flavor of other ingredients and controls yeast activity in certain baked goods. Baking soda and baking powder provide leavening. Sodium should be used sparingly for people with high blood pressure, kidney disease and congestive heart disease. But, you can still get the required leavening action from low-sodium baking soda and baking powder. Reduce the salt by one-half, and you should still have flavorful food.

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