Make Any Recipe “Skinnier”

Sometimes, you have a great recipe, that you LOVE…but it just has too many calories!  For me, the culprit was chocolate chip muffins.  Delicious, but 267 calories each!  So, I wanted to “skinny up” my recipe.  I decided to share these strategies in case anyone else was interested.  These tips are geared mostly toward baked goods (sweets).

Flour:  You may not actually lessen calories here, but choosing 100% white whole wheat flour instead of white flour does make it healthier.  The whole wheat gives you “better” calories. When using regular whole wheat flour, I sub ½ whole wheat and ½ unbleached white all-purpose flour.  However, I have found that white whole wheat works well for baking, so I substitute it completely for regular white flour.  You can also change out part of the flour with quick oats to save calories and carbs, although this will obviously change the texture.

Sugars:  Generally speaking, you can reduce the sugar by a small amount in most recipes.  I like to reduce it by a bit at a time to find the “magic” spot (usually starting with around 20-25% less sugar).  If you don’t mind the “diet taste” you can also substitute stevia, splenda, or other low-calorie sweeteners.

Milk:  In many recipes, you can actually substitute water for the entirety of the milk.  If you’re concerned about taste or texture, start slowly, replacing half the milk with water at first.

Butter:  In most baking recipes, you can substitute unsweetened applesauce for the butter/oil.  However, it does change the texture a bit, so again, I would recommend to start with a small substitution (start by replacing 25%-50% of the butter/oil), then work your way up to your magic number.

Eggs: There are several ways to reduce/substitute eggs in recipes.  First, you can sometimes simply use less eggs with minimal impact on taste.  (For example if a recipe calls for 2, sometimes you can get by with only 1.  You might even search for other recipes to see if there are similar recipes with less eggs).  You can also use egg whites instead of eggs, or a combination (such as 1 egg + 2 egg whites in exchange for 2 eggs).  Finally, you can substitute milled flax seed for eggs (1 tbsp. flax seed + 3 Tbsp Water equals 1 egg), with little effect on taste and texture. If a recipe calls for only 1 egg, I generally leave it as is.

Baking Chips:  Baking chips (chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, etc.) make up the bulk of calories found in most recipes containing them.  You can almost always reduce the amount of baking chips, with little negative affect on taste.  For my chocolate chip muffin recipe in particular, each muffin had over 100 calories of chocolate chips!  So, I decided to half the amount of chocolate chips.  There are still plenty, and they taste great.  You can also use “mini” chips, to help spread them out, while still using less.

Calorie-Free Flavorings: Using flavor additions such as extracts (vanilla, almond, etc.), and spices (like cinnamon) can add flavor, and draw out the natural sweetness without adding extra calories.

Yield:  Make more, smaller servings.  For my muffin recipe, I made each muffin a little smaller (but still a full sized muffin), and increased the yield from 15 to 18 servings, with a very small impact on the overall size of the muffin.

Another option is to make them half the size and double the amount (mini-muffins/ half-sized cookies, etc.).  This is a great “mental” thing as well.  Smaller sizes generally encourage you to eat less.  For example, I might eat 3 full-sized muffins (Yes, I know…please no “you’re a pig” comments!)…whereas I might eat 4-5 of the smaller ones (which would be the equivelant of 2-2.5 large ones instead of 3).

Come back tomorrow, where I will be sharing my before and after Chocolate Chip Muffin recipe!


  1. says

    Absolutely right–of course, all of these substitutions change the nature of the finished product some–baking is, after all, a form of chemistry–but as long as the results are yummy, well, why not? I've been doing it for years.

  2. says

    Great tips! The one about using flavorings to reduce sweetener is particularly important. It works for reducing salt, too–salt doesn’t have calories but can cause you to retain water and look fatter, and too much salt is bad for your heart.

    Here is my recipe for Raisin Bran Bread that has been through two rounds of modification to make it more nutritious and cheaper to make. I don’t know the calorie count, but because I cut the fat and sugar and made it denser (so you feel full on a smaller serving), it’s probably lower than the original–and you are getting more nutrients with your calories.

    • Crystal says

      Thanks, Tonya! I am such a picky eater and used to be completely against whole wheat flour, but as we eased ourselves into it, there are a lot of things that we actually prefer to be made with wheat flour. Like these muffins, I don’t like them half as well when made with white flour. The whole wheat flour makes them much better in my opinion.

  3. Pamela Cessna Kuhn says

    This was a good post for me to read. I've been trying to make recipes more healthy. Some have been colossal failures. I love how this isn't just skinnying a single recipe but ideas that can be used in any recipe.

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