Healthy Banana Bread or Muffins and Making Substitutions in Your Favorite Recipes

Banana Muffins 1

I’ve been experimenting lately with some of my favorite bread/muffins recipes, substituting healthier ingredients for the white flour and white sugar.  It’s been fun, and yummy, to see how easy it is to make changes to the ingredients and still come out with tasty and healthier muffins.

I combined two different similar banana bread recipes to create this one. I received one from a co-worker who grew up in Hawaii and she called it Kona Banana Bread, and the other from my sister. I’ve just made a few changes to the original ingredients and they always turn out fabulous!

Healthier Banana Bread

Banana Muffin Ingredients (of course I left the bananas out of the picture – oops!)

  • 1/2 cup butter – softened
  • 3/4 sucanat
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 bananas (1+ cup) – really ripe and squished
  • 1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Nuts – optional

With a stand mixer, or hand mixer, mix together butter, sucanat, and vanilla.  This does not really “cream” the way that the original recipe calls for when using white sugar, but it turns out fine.  Add eggs and banana slowly.  Measure dry ingredients on top and sift together with fork before mixing into the batter.  Pour into a greased pan or lined muffins tins.  Makes one large loaf, 2 smaller loaves, or 12+ muffins.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, 20-25 for muffins, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Enjoy!

Banana Muffins

Tips for Substituting Healthier Ingredients

1. Unrefined sugars, such as sucanat, can be exchanged one for one with white sugar in a recipe. Because you can usually cut down on the amount of sugar in recipes, I cut back on the sucanat, (from 1 cup in the original recipe, to 3/4 cup) just to have less sugar and because it’s a little more expensive.

2.  Adding vanilla and cinnamon help to give the impression of sweetness, without adding extra sugar. This is a great tip that I learned from the Healthy Snacks To Go ebook and use on everything from baking to making oatmeal.  One of the recipes called for vanilla and cinnamon, the other didn’t.  After cutting back on the sugar, and adding the vanilla and cinnamon, I think the sweetness is just right.

2. Butter, or even coconut oil, can almost always be substituted for margarine or shortening with great results. I mainly use butter in my baking, but I need to try coconut oil more often.

3. White whole wheat flour is a great alternative to regular whole wheat flour for baking. I use King Arthur brand, and it’s just a little bit lighter and less dense than using traditional whole wheat flour.

4. Use real sea salt in place of traditional table salt. We use the Real Salt brand for all of our baking and cooking.

5.  Adding nuts, especially walnuts, would make these even healthier. We’re just not really nuts in our bread kind of people.

Really you just need to be a little adventurous and take the step to start substituting healthier ingredients.  Your final product might not turn out exactly like you hoped, but I bet it will still taste good and disappear from your counter just as quickly as the original version. And then you have the excuse to make another batch, and experiment some more, to see if you can tweak the recipe to get it just right for you and your family.

Here’s some other great posts from Simple Organic on substituting healthier ingredients: Healthy Substitutions: Ditch the Condensed Soup and Sweet, Sugar-Free Holidays.

And speaking of Simple Organic, I’m excited to announce that starting next month, I will be a Simple Organic contributor!  I am so grateful for this opportunity to join the other amazing bloggers who write there!

What healthy substitutions do you regularly make in your baking and cooking?


Remember to take advantage of 25% off Herbal Nurturing: A Family Healing and Learning Guide ebook using the code RENEWED25 through Saturday.  This is a great discount on a great resource!

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  1. Abby says

    I do the substitutions you mentioned as well. And (as you probably already know) if a baking recipe calls for liquid oil (like canola) you can sub half to all applesauce instead. Yummy!

  2. Heather E. says

    I just wanted to share my tip for baking any kind of sweet bread…I substitute any butter or oil for unsweetened applesauce. I make my own but any product that is simply apples will work just as well. This makes the bread even healthier and the bread does not have the greasy feel.


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