How to Make Healthy Banana Bread
Pictured Recipe: Gluten-Free Banana Bread
Over the years I have perfected my banana bread recipe—one of my favorite solutions for using overripe bananas. The traditional recipe is a standard quick bread: butter, flour, sugar, eggs, milk and baking powder. They're not unhealthy ingredients, but if you do a little tweaking, it can be a bit healthier.
Want to lighten up your favorite banana bread recipe? Here are 5 of the best tricks you can use to make your banana bread recipe healthier and delicious.
1. Use Less Sugar
Pictured Recipe: Banana-Blueberry Buttermilk Bread
I try to add as little sugar as possible to my baked goods. It's easy with banana bread since bananas are naturally sweet.
This means packing in more naturally sweet and creamy bananas into the bread to replace some of the white sugar. For example, when a recipe calls for 2 medium bananas and 1 cup of sugar, use 3 bananas and 3/4 cup sugar instead. This tactic has never steered me wrong. The bread bakes up just fine, stays super-moist and has intense banana flavor.
Related: How to Bake a Healthier Cupcake
2. Swap Out All-Purpose Flour for More Nutrient-Dense Flour
Pictured Recipe: Coconut-Rum Banana Bread
Generally, you can replace at least half of the all-purpose flour in a recipe with whole-wheat flour. Whole- wheat flour has more fiber and nutrients than white flour.
I tend to do a one-to-one swap in my banana bread. I use all whole-wheat flour or whole-wheat pastry flour in place of the all-purpose flour called for. I prefer the nuttier flavor that whole-wheat flour adds. I also want the extra fiber (almost four times as much as all-purpose), potassium, magnesium and zinc. But if you really like the flavor of white flour, you can try white whole-wheat flour.
Cut Carbs If you want to cut the carbs, there are a few gluten-free flours that pack a lot of nutrients. You can use 1/4 cup of coconut flour for every cup of all-purpose flour a recipe calls for. A 2-tablespoon serving of coconut flour contains 18% of the Daily Value for fiber and 6% DV of potassium.
Add Protein If you want to add more protein, you can use teff flour. It's a gluten-free flour that's considered a supergrain. It contains a lot of iron and magnesium, as well as B vitamins, zinc and calcium. For every cup of flour a recipe calls for, you can use about 4 tablespoons of teff flour.
Without gluten, it can get very dense. If you don't care if it's gluten-free, only substitute part of the all-purpose flour called for.
3. Add Healthy Fruit, Nuts and Even Veggies
Pictured Recipe: Zucchini Banana Bread
Fruit and nuts 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. It's best to fold them in after combining the dry and wet ingredients.
Add Texture For something nutty to crunch on, I fold chopped walnuts into the batter before baking. They add good omega-3 fats, which can help lower "bad" LDL cholesterol. A similar amount of chopped almonds delivers healthy monounsaturated fats.
Add Fruit or Veggies Want to boost the nutrition even more? Add a serving of vegetables to your banana bread. Drop one of the bananas in your recipe for a cup of shredded zucchini. It boosts the fiber, lowers the sugar content and helps keep the bread moist.
You can also try a cup of pureed pumpkin in place of two bananas. The pumpkin adds extra fiber and has a lower sugar content than bananas. Plus, it delivers a punch of vitamin A.
You can also get in more vitamin A and fiber with sweet potatoes. Our Sweet Potato Banana Bread uses 1 cup of grated sweet potato to fortify it.
Related: 9 Vegetables You Can Eat as Dessert
4. Milk Swaps
Pictured Recipe: Gluten-Free Banana Bread
Banana bread is easy to modify to fit different dietary restrictions.
Vegan Our Vegan Banana Bread swaps almond milk in for cow’s milk to make it dairy-free. It also uses flax eggs instead of chicken eggs.
Buttermilk Buttermilk is fantastic in banana bread. In addition to lending a pleasant tangy flavor, buttermilk helps keep your bread moist as it bakes.
Yogurt Yogurt also adds that same tang to our Pineapple Coconut Banana Bread which gives you a bit of protein, calcium and good gut bacteria.
5. Butter Substitutes
Pictured Recipe: Banana-Coconut Bread
Banana bread needs the fat that butter provides to help keep it moist and delicious. However, there are other, more nutrient-dense substitutes you can use.
Olive Oil Olive oil adds healthy fats along with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. To substitute olive oil for butter, use 25% less olive oil than the recipe calls for.
Peanut Butter Peanut butter can also be melted down like butter and mixed into the batter. It gives banana bread more flavor and protein. You can use the same amount of peanut butter as butter called for in the recipe.