How to Make Healthy Banana Bread

By: Emily McKenna  |  Thursday, June 2, 2016
Over the years I have perfected my banana bread recipe—one of my favorite solutions for using overripe bananas. I use all whole-grain flour or whole-grain flour mixed with white all-purpose flour, and rely as much as I can on the natural sweetness of the bananas to cut the total amount of granulated sugar called for in the recipe. I also like to roughly mash, or chop, my bananas so that there are big chunks of fruit to bite into. I always throw in a handful of toasted chopped walnuts and sometimes I'll add a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg and a handful of dark chocolate chips.
Related: Banana Cream Layer Cake and More Easy Banana Recipes
Want to lighten up your favorite banana bread recipe? Here are 4 of my best tricks you can use to make your banana bread recipe healthier and delicious. Try these tricks with this recipe for EatingWell’s healthy Banana-Blueberry Buttermilk Bread.
Related: How to Bake a Healthier Cupcake
1. Use Less Sugar:
This is really a two-part tip. I try to add as little sugar as possible to my banana bread. This means packing as many naturally sweet and creamy bananas into my bread as I can. So, when a recipe calls for 2 medium bananas, I will usually use 3. The more the merrier, in my opinion, and I swear that this tactic has never steered me wrong. The bread bakes up just fine, stays super-moist and has intense banana flavor.
When it comes to choosing sugar, I always go for light or dark brown sugar: brown sugar adds a deeper, more caramel-like flavor to my bread than granulated sugar, which has a less nuanced flavor.
2. Replace All-Purpose Flour with Whole-Wheat Flour:
Generally, you can replace at least half of the all-purpose flour in a recipe with whole-wheat flour. I tend to do a one-to-one swap in my banana bread, using all whole-wheat flour or whole-wheat pastry flour in place of the amount of all-purpose flour called for—I prefer the heartier, nuttier flavor that whole-wheat flour adds, and I want the extra fiber (almost four times as much as all-purpose), potassium, magnesium and zinc. If you want the nutritional benefits of whole-wheat flour, without quite as much whole-wheat flavor, use white whole-wheat flour.
Recipes to Try: Cranberry-Walnut Quick Bread and More Whole-Wheat Breads & Muffins
3. Add Healthy Fruit and Nuts:
In addition to upping the amount of bananas in my bread (see my first tip), I also like to mix in different kinds of fruit and nuts, which add texture, flavor and health benefits. When it comes to fruit, I love the taste of tart, plump blueberries. I will add as much as 1 1/2 cups of blueberries to my banana bread, folding them in after combining the wet and dry ingredients. As for nuts, 1/2 cup of toasted, roughly chopped walnuts folded into the batter before baking adds nutty flavor and something to crunch on, along with good omega-3 fats, which can help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. A similar amount of chopped almonds delivers healthy monounsaturated fats.
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4. Use Less Butter and More Buttermilk:
Buttermilk is fantastic in banana bread. By using a combination of 1 cup of nonfat buttermilk plus 2 tablespoons of canola oil, you can get away with almost no butter—just 2 measly tablespoons. In addition to lending a pleasant tangy flavor, buttermilk helps keep your bread moist as it bakes.
Recipes to try: Banana-Walnut Chocolate Chip Bread and More Healthy Muffins & Quick Breads
Banana-Blueberry Buttermilk BreadBanana-Blueberry Buttermilk Bread
The slight acidity of buttermilk tenderizes and moistens baked goods while allowing you to cut way back on butter or oils. Here, it also lends a slight tanginess to the winning combination of bananas and blueberries. To make muffins instead, see Muffin Variation.