Baking Swaps

Ingredient Swaps to make your baking more nutritious......and still delicious!

Do you find yourself always reaching for something sweet after dinner? It’s true, many of us have that sweet tooth- but the question is, how can we make that cookie a little more nutritious. Being aware of simple swaps like the ones below can help you easily spot how to quickly make your average recipe more supportive of brain and digestive health, and overall well-being! Many people don’t even notice the change in flavor. Try some of these swaps out in your next recipe- but be aware of ratio changes when making these swaps- you’ll often need more or less of your average ingredient.

Substitutes for refined white flour:

White flour has been shown related to inflammation via the upper gastrointestinal tract. In our gut health post, we discussed how to keep your gut healthy. Replacing white flour with options such as almond, oat, or coconut flour for your average white flour may help you gain some of the benefits associated with a healthy gut!

1.     Almond flour: Made from (you guessed it!) almonds ground up into a flour, this substitute is lower in carbs than traditional white flour, high vitamin E (¼ cup i 35% of your RDI), magnesium and fiber (3 grams per ¼ cup)!  Almond flour a great alternative for individuals consuming a gluten-free and grain-free diet.  Sub 1 cup of almond flour for 1 cup white flour in your next recipe to reap the benefits.

2.     Coconut flour:  Created from ground-up coconut, this flour is gluten-free, grain-free, lower in carbs (16 grams vs 22 grams in one cup of white flour) and super high in fiber (a whopping 10 grams per one cup!).  Coconut flour is also a great source of iron and potassium, about 2 mg and 350 mg per one quarter cup, respectively!  Because this flour is highly absorbent, it cannot be subbed at a 1:1 ratio.   Sub  ⅓ cup coconut flour plus one extra egg with 1 cup white flour.

3.     Oat flour: Who knew your go-to morning staple could be used in baking?  Oat flour is simply made by blending oats in a food processor until flour-like consistency.  Oat flour is gluten-free (make sure your oats are certified gluten-free to avoid cross-contamination).  With 10 grams of fiber and 20 grams of protein per one cup, this flour is way more nutrient-dense than white flour!  Sub one cup of oat flour for one cup white flour.

Substitutes for sugar:

Despite the bad rap sugar gets in our society, our bodies DO need sugar. Thinking “consume it then use it” when eating sugar can help us to utilize it for the energy we need in our day to day lives. Sugar has been shown to be a calorie dense, quick-source of energy when utilized in the right way. 

1.      Pure maple syrup: Research shows that pure maple syrup (not talking about Mrs.Buttersworth here!) has a higher antioxidant capacity than sugar and a lower glycemic index.  Plus, a little goes a long way!  Sub ⅔ cup of pure maple syrup for every one cup of sugar in your recipe.

2.     Raw honey: Besides containing sugar, honey contains amino acids and antimicrobial properties.  It’s higher ratio of fructose to glucose makes sweeter than normal sugar, meaning you can use less!  Sub ½ cup of raw honey for every one cup of sugar.

3.     Date sugar:  made from dried chopped up dates, date sugar is technically not a sugar at all, but it acts like one!  This sugar contains all the health benefits of whole pitted dates such as potassium, calcium, fiber and antioxidants. Sub ⅔ cup of date sugar for one cup of white sugar.

Substitutes for oil or butter:

Though butter has recently become hot topic in the health world- regarding possible cardiometabolic benefits- there is still much research to be done on the topic. Of course- everything in moderation, but if you have the opportunity to reduce some saturated fat with other beneficial foods, why not try it out! It may seem unlikely- but bananas, applesauce, nut butter, and canned pumpkin can serve as excellent substitutes for oil or butter!

1.     Mashed banana: You’ll add in potassium, fiber and B vitamins while tremendously lowering the calorie and fat content! Sub up to 1 medium-sized mashed ripe banana with one stick of butter.

2.     Unsweetened applesauce: By substituting ½ cup of applesauce for oil, you save over 900 calories, 109 grams of fat and add in vitamin C and some fiber!  Sub ½  cup of applesauce for 1/2 cup of oil or softened butter.

3.     Natural nut butters: Nut butters won’t lower the fat content, but you’ll increase the good fats (aka monounsaturated) and lower the bad ones (saturated fat)! You’ll also a considerable amount of fiber and protein (6 grams and 12 grams, respectively). Make sure you use the smooth, natural kind!  Sub ¼ cup of nut butter with ¼ cup of butter or oil.

4.     Canned pumpkin: Yup, canned pumpkin is not just for pumpkin pie. Similar to applesauce, you save loads of calories and fat.  Additionally, pumpkin is a terrific source of vitamin A (280% of your DRI in ½ cup!).  Sub 1 cup of pumpkin for one cup of oil.

How are these cookies different from your average chocolate chip cookie?  These cookies are made with almond flour instead of white flour, almond butter in place of butter, banana in place of the egg (and for sweetness) and only 2 tablespoons of maple syrup for sweetness, as opposed to at least ½ cup white sugar.


These delish cookies are made with these nutrient dense ingredient swaps: almond flour, mashed banana, almond butter and maple syrup!  They are also gluten-free and grain-free

Simple 6 Ingredient Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies


●      1 cup almond flour

●      ½ tsp. baking soda

●      1 ripe banana, mashed

●      ½ cup almond butter (or any nut butter)

●      2 Tbsp. maple syrup

●      ½ cup mini dark chocolate chips

1.     Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

2.     Combine almond flour and baking soda in a large bowl. Combine mashed banana, almond butter and maple syrup in small bowl and mix well.

3.     Add mixture to dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in chocolate chips and combine. Make topping by combining all ingredients together. Spoon batter into 12 cookies.

4.     Bake for 15 minutes or until done.


Blog by Bethany & Taylor - PLN interns


Balancing a Busy Lifestyle

By: Taylor and Bethany - PLN interns

As nutrition students, we know balancing a busy life is difficult. One goal we make a conscious effort to attain is to ensure that we have a healthy snack on hand during our busy times. For instance, on the commute home from work, or when your lunch gets pushed back due to back-to-back meetings.

Sometimes healthy means simply acknowledging that you are going to have a busy day, and preparing both mentally, and physically. Physically preparing for this day might mean taking some extra time to prep a snack for the day, since you know you might not be able to sit down for a full meal. Mentally preparing might include making a note or setting an alarm to remind you that you need to make time for this snack during your day. Setting small goals is important, especially when you know that it will help you avoid getting to that hangry, exhausted stage.

Maintaining energy balance, and fueling our bodies is vital to our sustainability as human beings. In order to do this, we try to have snacks on hand with balanced nutrients. This might include a carbohydrate, protein, or fat. Each of these components works to fuel the body in different ways. This snack combines the perfect combination of whole grains + a healthy fat to help fuel your brain and your body. Old-fashioned oats are a slow-digesting carb that benefit blood sugar levels and promote fullness.  The other carbohydrate in this snack is fruit! It is important to include carbohydrates such as fruits and whole grains in our diet because they are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The combination of these + fat from the nut butter helps keep us satisfied for longer, meaning we can keep ourselves fueled until our next meal.

These No-Bake PB&J Granola Bars are the perfect on-the-go snack for busy people!  They are made with super simple ingredients and don’t need to be baked!

Recipe: No-Bake Peanut Butter & Jelly Granola Bars



●      2 cups dry old-fashioned oats

●      ½ cup natural, smooth peanut butter

●      ½ strawberry jelly

●      ½ cup freeze-dried strawberries


●      2 Tbsp. natural, smooth peanut butter

●      1 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted


  1. Line a square 9x9 pan with parchment paper.  Set aside
  2. Mix together peanut butter and jelly in a large bowl.
  3. Add in dry oats and freeze-dried strawberries, stirring until mixture is combined well.
  4. Press down oat mixture into pan.  Make sure it is in an even layer. 
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
  6. Take out of pan and cut into 8 bars.
  7. Mix together glaze ingredients and drizzle on top of bars.
  8. Enjoy!

*you can add a scoop or two of protein powder if you desire!


Baked Apple-Craisin Oatmeal

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Coat an 8 inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  In a large bowl, mix 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats, 3/4 dried cranberries (or raisins), 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt,  and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

In another bowl, whisk 2 eggs, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 2 cups milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, extract, and 4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter.  Add this mixture to the oat mixture and stir to combine.  Stir in 1 finely chopped apple.

Pour into baking dish.  Sprinkle dried cranberries and slivered almonds on top.  Bake about 45 minutes, until top is golden and set.  Let cool slightly and cut into squares.



Mind Your Gut: Ways to Protect It and A Gut Healthy Dessert

Stress. We are constantly putting our bodies through it! Some of us work to combat stress; whether through yoga, taking a break from “screen-time,” or simply setting time aside for loved ones. However, have you ever thought of combating stress through your gut?! It might not be as trendy as that hot yoga class, but the gut, often referred to as our “second brain,” plays a vital role in stress. Recently, research has shown how our brain and gut work together to regulate our food intake, metabolism, body weight, immune system and brain health.  

How does the food we eat impact our “second brain?” Well, the gut contains 50-100 million nerve cells (Mayer, 2016). Our diet can directly impact these nerve cells, as well as immunity cells, in a positive or negative way. If the gut senses dangerous substances in the food or liquids we ingest, it signals these immune cells to fight off bacteria and protect us from harm (Mayer, 2016). Most importantly, the gut contains the largest amount of serotonin in our body (more than 95 percent)! Serotonin - which is vital to maintaining our mood, sleep cycles, and digestion - makes sure this pathway between the gut and brain stay in constant communication. Because of this communication, that “gut feeling” you get is not just a myth. Information from the gut is actually stored in the brain! This can impact not only decisions around the food we eat but also everyday actions including decisions made in socializing or working(Mayer, 2016).

So how can we make sure this pathway, and our overall health, stays intact? Here are some tips on foods to avoid, and include, as well as a yummy gut-healthy dessert!

Worst foods for gut health:

●      Dairy: casein and whey hard to digest, causing gut bacteria to ferment milk sugars.

●      Gluten: most people are sensitive to gluten, which creates inflammation.  Research shows that going GF helps with inflammation.

●      Soy:  90% of soy products are genetically modified, and is known to contain pesticides.  Glyphosate (active pesticide ingredient found in soy) shown to cause dysbiosis of gut microbes

●      Corn: most corn produced is GMO, causing similar effects as soy.

●      Phytates: blocks absorption of essential nutrients  ( Ca, Fe, Zn, Mg, Cu)

●      Sugar:  any form of sugar in excess (even healthier alternatives) can feed bad gut bacteria and may result in candida overgrowth

Best foods for gut health:

●      Healthy fats: including olive oil, avocados, and nut butters

●      Nuts and seeds

●      Vegetables

●      Low-glycemic fruits (berries)

●      Slow-digesting starches/complex carbs like cooked or roasted sweet potatoes, rye bread, oats

●      Hypoallergenic protein powders like pea, rice, chia

●      Free-range poultry, wild-caught fish, grass fed beef

●      Fermented foods like kimchi, saurkraut, and kombucha, kefir

●      Dark chocolate

Chang, R. K., et, al. (2017, April 08). Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health. Retrieved from

Harmon, K. (2014, March 19). Why is Dark Chocolate Good For You? Thank Your Microbes. Retrieved from

Mayer, E. A. (2016). The mind-gut connection: How the hidden conversation within our bodies impacts our mood, our choices, and our overall health. New York: Harper Wave.

Pedre, V. M. (2017, November 14). Here's EXACTLY What To Eat (And What To Avoid) To Heal Your Gut. Retrieved from


Recipe: Gut healthy ingredients : sweet potatoes, almond butter, chocolate and pea protein



4- Ingredient Flourless Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Muffins



●      1 cup almond butter

●      2 medium sweet potatoes, cooked with skins removed

●      1 scoop vanilla  plant-based protein powder (I used pea)

●      ½ cup dark chocolate chips



1.     Preheat oven to 350 and line a muffin pan with silicon baking cups.

2.     Puree sweet potatoes in food processor.

3.     Add in almond butter and combine.

4.     Add in protein powder and combine.

5.     Add batter to a bowl and mix in chocolate chips.


6.     Divide batter among 9-12 baking cups and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until done.

7.     Enjoy! Your gut will thank you :)


Blog post by: Bethany DiCarlo & Taylor Hisek - interns at Pro Lifestyle Nutrition




Pumpkin Spice Season


Tis' the season for football, sweaters, boots, apples, and pumpkin spice!!  Fall has always been my favorite season - I love the change in weather, enjoying the many holidays/festivities (minus haunted houses), and also the flavors and smells associated with this time of year. 

With pumpkin spice being the star of Fall, most brands and food products are now selling a pumpkin spiced flavored version of something (cereals, oreos, other cookies/treats, crackers, lattes, etc..).  I wanted to share some recipes and ideas for incorporating pumpkin spice into home-made treats and whole foods.

First tip - pick up a lovely container of pumpkin spice (PS)!  That way you can simply add it to things to get that fall flavor minus all the processed ingredients and added sugar that many boxed and bagged items have.  Some things I LOVE adding pumpkin spice to:

  • Toasted cinnamon raisin Ezekiel bread with cream cheese. Then add the PS while toast is hot - makes me feel like I'm eating a pumpkin cinnamon roll!
  • Tea and coffee - love adding a drop of vanilla, a couple tablespoons of vanilla almond milk + some PS.
  • Vanilla Greek yogurt or plain yogurt with a tsp or 2 of honey or pumpkin butter + PS.
  • Whole grain waffle + a tablespoon vanilla yogurt or cream cheese or nut butter with PS.
  • Whole grain or puffed rice cereal and milk.
  • Oatmeal and over night oats - I am new to making over night oats but LOVE them! So convenient to have during the week for a quick breakfast or snack.  For 2 servings - place 1 cup oats into a mason jar along with 1 cup unsweetened or vanilla almond milk + pumpkin spice.  You can add a tsp of honey or maple syrup as well for some added sweetness! 
  • Popcorn - spray or melt a tsp of olive oil, coconut oil, or butter onto 3 cups + pumpkin spice and toss together.
  • Unsweetened apple sauce - simply add the PS and you have pumpkin spiced apple sauce!
  • Soup - with some pumpkin puree, low sodium chicken broth, some sauteed shallot and minced garlic, you can throw together a quick pumpkin spice soup!
  • Baked treats!  I was born with a sweet tooth and need to allow myself dessert every day in order to be happy and to prevent binge eating.  One way I manage my sweet tooth is by baking healthier baked goods to keep in on hand and ready to enjoy during the week.  I end up satisfying my sweet tooth while not over indulging and at the same time end up eating something healthy!   

Below are a few recipes for healthy, tasty Fall treats!

Banana Oat Protein Bars


Servings: 4 - as a meal replacement; 6-8 - as a snack or dessert


Maple syrup, 3 Tbsp (use 5 Tbsp if doubling recipe.)

1 Banana, mashed

Protein Powder (Vanilla - organic), 2 scoops (30 grams protein)

Baking powder, 1 Tsp

2 eggs


1.     Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 11 X 7 pan with coconut or other oil so bars won't stick.  If doubling recipe use a 13 X 8-9 pan.

2.     Mash banana in a large bowl.  Add in maple syrup, whisked eggs, vanilla extract, pumpkin spice, salt, and baking powder.

3.     Mix together.  Then add in oats, protein powder, and ¼ cup water.

4.     Coat an oven safe baking dish with cooking spray or use a light coating of oil/butter.  Pour mixture into dish and spread out evenly.

5.     Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.  Edges should be slightly golden when finished.   Store these in the fridge.

Pumpkin spice

Whole oats, 1.5 cups

Salt, 1/8 tsp

Vanilla extract, 1 tsp

Water, ¼ cup

          Optional add ins:

1-2 Tbsp mini chocolate chips

1-2 Tbsp nut butter



Pumpkin Banana Protein Bars

Servings: 10


Maple syrup, 3 Tbsp

1 Banana, mashed

¼ cup apple sauce

1 cup pumpkin puree

Protein powder (Vanilla - organic), 2 scoops (30 grams protein)

1 tsp baking powder

2 eggs

1 tsp + pumpkin spice

2.5 cups whole oats

1/8 tsp salt

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

¼ cup almond milk

         Optional add ins:

1-2 Tbsp mini chocolate chips

1-2 Tbsp nut butter


1.     Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

2.     Mash banana in a large bowl.  Add in maple syrup, whisked eggs, vanilla extract, pumpkin spice, salt, and baking powder.

3.     Mix together.  Then add in oats, protein powder, and ¼ cup almond milk.

4.     Coat an oven safe baking dish with cooking spray or use a light coating of oil/butter.  Pour mixture into dish and spread out evenly.

5.     Bake at 350 for 23 minutes in a 9X 6 inch pan.  Edges should be slightly golden when finished.  Store these in the fridge.

Pumpkin Muffins

Makes 12 muffins



1.5 cups rolled oats

3/4 cup pumpkin puree

¼ cup mashed banana

¼ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 Tbsp vanilla

2 Tbsp coconut oil or butter


1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray a muffin pan with cooking spray or use cup cake liners.

2.     Combine all ingredients together in a food processor and mix well until combined.  If you do not use a food processor just mix really well.  Pour into muffin tins or linersand bake for 15 minutes.

3.     Recipe makes 12 muffins with 2 being the serving size. Store these in the fridge.


¼ cup unsweetened almond milk

¼ cup maple syrup

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

Oil spray

¼ cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

And let's not forget that it's apple season as well!  I love an apple with peanut butter or a mozzarella cheese stick.  I also am a lover of apple pie, cake, and crisp!! So to satisfy that craving in a lighter way, I use this recipe for baked apples:


Baked Apples

Serving size: 3/4 cup


5 apples - sliced in about 1 inch thick slices

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1 Tbsp pumpkin spice

1/4 tsp Salt

1 cup whole oats

2 Tbsp melted butter


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix together so that the apples are well coated.
  4. Pour into baking dish and bake for 25 minutes.


Cheers to Health and a Happy Fall!