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Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth: Healthy Baking Swaps and Lightened up Valentine's Day Desserts

02/06/2015 05:59 EST | Updated 04/08/2015 05:59 EDT

With the sweetest holiday of the year fast approaching, sugar and chocolatey treats are on the brain. As you probably know by now, I'm the first to promote balance and am all for enjoying your favorite treats, but if you're looking to lighten up one of your favorite recipes, or try something new, this one's for you!

The best part about these ingredient swaps is that you actually have some major nutrition benefits to gain! Enjoy some added fiber with avocado and beans and kick up the protein, calcium and Vitamin D with yogurt. I'm sure you're already wondering how these ingredients could possibly go hand in hand with sweet, creamy, desserty goodness, but trust me, they're worth a try. Your sweetie won't even know the difference!

Avocado

This delicious fruit offers all the creaminess of butter but is full of heart healthy unsaturated fats. With similar consistencies at room temperature, it works well in brownies or chocolate cookies. It can also act as a creamy base for puddings and custards!

How to Sub: For butter, because these are both fats, you can go ahead and replace the full amount requested in the recipe. For puddings and custards, the avocado can replace the cream or milk as the base.

Apple Sauce

Apple sauce is versatile in the baking world. It can also work as a substitute for butter or oil and can replace sugar as well. Try it out in banana bread or other loaves, and muffins.

How to Sub: Start off by replacing ½ the amount of fat in the recipe. If you like what you taste, you may even want to try replacing a bit more the next time!

For sugar, use unsweetened apple sauce to replace the sugar cup for cup. For every cup of apple sauce, you'll also want to reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup (oil, milk, water etc.)

Black Beans or Lentils

This one may come as a bit of a surprise. Black beans can replace the flour in a recipe. you'll want to puree these guys so you don't end up with a mouthful of beans in a brownie, but once they're smooth, they incorporate really well. This little tip adds fiber and protein, can't go wrong with that!

How to Sub: Start off by replacing half the amount of flour and then increase the next time you bake if you liked the results. This works for most types of baking, Try it in cookies, brownies, breads or muffins.

Greek Yogurt

With it's thick, creamy consistency, Greek yogurt is the perfect swap in many desserts.

How to substitute: Substitute half or all of the mayo, cream or cream cheese in pies, pasta dishes and sweet or savory dips.

Fruit

Ok, so this one's not really a sub but just an all around nutritious and delicious dessert option. Sometimes plain ol' fruit just doesn't quite cut it when you're craving dessert so kick it up a notch by dipping it in chocolate, doing a chocolte fondue, or making a dip with Greek Yogurt!

Check out the recipes below to get you started and let me know how these turn out for you guys! What are your favorite cooking and baking swaps?

Lentil Walnut Brownies

Lightened Up Key Lime Pie

Fancy Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Creamy Avocado Pudding