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Baking Hacks: How To Reduce Sugar in Your Favorite Baked Goods

Brownies, cookies, and cakes, oh my! You may love it all, but your body isn’t going to benefit from the sugar high. Plus, extra sugar can make it harder to lose weight. So, what is it about sugar that makes us crave something sweet? Sugar releases feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine that boost our mood. That’s why so many of us LOVE baked goods. Unfortunately, these scrumptious treats—especially store-bought varieties—tend to be loaded with high sugar levels.    

We aren’t going to sugarcoat it for you: baking with less sugar is the key to healthier baked goods. What do you think Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood would say? (British Bake Off fans, anyone?) In this kitchen, we’re focusing on baking hacks using healthier alternatives that taste just like sugar. With sugar reduction swaps using basic baking ingredients, your sweet tooth cravings will still be satisfied—and you’ll have less guilt! 

It’s time to put on your apron and start baking! You just need to ensure your pantry has all the essentials on hand. Whether you’re baking from scratch or following your favorite recipe, we’ll provide you with examples of reducing sugars in your next batch of goodies. On your mark, get set, BAKE!  

Easy Substitutes for Baking With Less Sugar 

Did you know that sugar does more than sweeten your baked goods? It also affects the texture, moisture, and browning of your treats. When looking for ways to reduce your sugar intake and create a healthier bake, find suitable basic baking ingredients to make the result as tantalizing as the original version! 

Alternatives to traditional sugar don’t have to compromise the deliciousness of your favorite baked goods. Baking with less sugar is as simple as using healthier options for those “not-so-good-for-you” ingredients that your baking recipe may call for. 

Add these alternative sweeteners to your shopping list and enjoy every last bite of your creations!

Honey or Maple Syrup 

You probably already have both of these in your pantry! Honey isn’t just for tea, and maple syrup isn’t just for your pancakes. These natural sweeteners are great for baking. Each adds a unique flavor, so keep that in mind when creating your recipes and choose one that complements the flavors.  

The Swap: For every cup of sugar, use ¾ cup of honey or maple syrup (reduce liquid ingredients in your recipe as needed) 

Best For: Quick breads and soft/moist cakes like coffee cake 

Coconut Sugar 

While this is still a form of sugar, it has a lower glycemic index than white sugar—which means a slower rise in blood sugar. If you don’t like coconuts, no need to worry. It won’t give you that coconut flavor. This sugar is best used for baked goods with a dry texture and creates denser pastries.  

The Swap: 1:1 swap for both white and brown sugar in recipes 

Best For: Cookies, shortbreads, and frostings 


If you’re watching your calorie intake, stevia is calorie-free! It comes from stevia plant leaves, a natural sweetener that can reduce sugar in your diet. Many believe it tastes just like sugar (you can be the judge!). It has a higher potency than sugar, so remember to use much less in your recipes! 

The Swap: 1 teaspoon of stevia for every 1 cup of sugar 

Best For: Brownies, cookies, muffins, and cake 


Using applesauce instead of sugar is great for moist baked goods. It provides extra sweetness and adds a little liquid to your recipes. Not only does it infuse moisture and flavor, but it also gives your sweet treats some fiber and added nutrients from the apples. And, of course, applesauce is incredibly delicious in apple-flavored baked goods like cinnamon apple cake or apple streusel muffins.  

The Swap: 1:1 ratio in recipes (reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 1/4) 

Best For: Muffins, cakes, and brownies 

Cinnamon or Vanilla 

These are less like sugar substitutes and more like sweetness enhancers! Adding extra cinnamon or a few drops of vanilla extract amplifies the sweetness of your baked treats. This allows you to use less sugar when whipping up your decadent delights! 

The Swap: 1 cup sugar to ¼ cup cinnamon / 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar 

Best For: Snickerdoodle cookies, cinnamon rolls, vanilla frosting, and vanilla cake 

Mashed Bananas 

Mashed ripe bananas are rich in natural sugars, making for a delicious sugar swap (this is great for all banana lovers out there). Sweeten your baked items while boosting your intake of nutrients like fiber and potassium. We’re not monkeying around here—grab those bananas (the ones that are almost too ripe will give you the best flavor) and get baking! 

The Swap: Use 1/2 the amount of mashed banana as sugar called for in the recipe 

Best For: Pancakes, muffins, and banana bread 

How Sweet It Is To Enjoy Healthier Treats 

Baking with less sugar doesn’t mean you must resort to tasteless and bland baked goods! Whether you use honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, stevia, applesauce, cinnamon, vanilla, or mashed bananas, the sweet possibilities are endless. You can still enjoy flavorful, deliciously moist, and satisfying sweet treats with these healthier alternatives. 

Part of sticking to a healthy lifestyle to maintain your happy weight is allowing yourself to satisfy those sweet cravings occasionally. And what better way to do so than by making them more nutritious for you? Using foods or other ingredients that work just like sugar lets you treat yourself to yummy cookies, cakes, and brownies while still sticking to your health goals. With a combination of sugar substitutes and moderation, you can still indulge every now in the sweeter things in life!  Are you looking for more baking hacks and healthy (but still fun!) food ideas?

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After years of fad diets, I found myself in an unending cycle of failure. Trying to figure out a healthy lifestyle on my own left me feeling confused and alone. After discovering the science behind food and the behaviors that impact lasting change - I've never gone back. Now, my passion is to help women live energetic and confident lives without the yo-yo dieting.

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