A perennial favorite, banana bread is a great treat that isn’t too sweet, making it perfect for everything from breakfast to snacking to dessert. Unfortunately, even though there’s a fruit in its name, banana bread isn’t always the healthiest baked good on the menu, especially if you’re being mindful of your carb intake. While there isn’t really a way to make this delectable bread keto- or Atkins diet-friendly, you can still make a few changes to the recipe that will cut down the overall fat and sugar content. Trust us: The concept of healthy banana bread isn’t that bananas.
What Are the Best Healthy Banana Bread Recipes?
How to Make Simple Substitutions When You're Baking Banana Bread
If you already have a favorite banana bread recipe that you're fond of using, you can make a few adjustments to slash the high fat or sugar content without sacrificing the taste. Generally speaking, there are a few things you can swap out easily pretty easily. For example, try using whole-wheat flour instead of white; not only is whole wheat naturally lower in calories, but it also naturally boasts more vitamins than standard white flour. Or, if you have more time on your plate, you can also fire up the food processor and grind some oats to make a batch of (aptly-named) oat flour.
Another easy substitution involves trading sugar for maple syrup. A good rule of thumb is to use 3/4 cup of maple sugar for every one cup of sugar. Remember: A cornerstone of banana bread is to mix dry ingredients in one bowl and wet ingredients in another, before blending the separate bowls together at the very end. This means that, unlike sugar, maple syrup goes with the "wet" ingredients.
Although a little more complex, you can also use coconut oil instead of butter. Every 1/2 cup of butter is 8 tablespoons — a.k.a. one standard stick of butter. This is also equal to 113 grams. So, for each stick of butter, you would substitute roughly 3.5 ounces coconut oil, plus slightly more than 1 tablespoon milk.
Healthy Recipes for Banana Bread
Need a little more instruction? A great healthy recipe for banana bread can still taste top-notch. One of our favorites calls for the following:
- 1/3 cup coconut oil (you can also use vegetable oil or olive oil)
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (equal to two to three medium-sized bananas)
- 1/4 cup milk or water
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
- Optional: 1/2 cup of mix-ins like chopped nuts or carob chips
To start, preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, mix the oil and maple sugar together with a whisk. Next, add the bananas, milk or water and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, slowly. If you're adding mix-ins, toss them in last. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes. You’ll know the bread is ready when a toothpick, which you’ll insert (and promptly remove) near the center of the bread, comes out clean.
Another good hint to keep in mind? Use overly ripe (brown or black) bananas. This will sweeten the bread naturally without adding extra sugar — and it’ll give you a reason to use those bananas you're about to throw away. You can also substitute honey for maple sugar if you'd like.
How to Make Vegan or Gluten-free Banana Bread
If you'd like to make vegan or gluten-free banana bread, there are some delicious options. To make gluten-free banana bread, simply use gluten-free flour in place of whole-wheat or white flour. Thankfully, that’s the only problematic ingredient.
If you’re looking to make a vegan banana bread, use coconut oil or another type of plant-based oil instead of butter. When the recipe calls for milk, use water or a non-dairy milk, like oat or almond, instead. Of course, if you’ve baked vegan treats before, you might know that one of the most common ways to replace eggs is with bananas — but that won’t work here. Instead, use either flax eggs or 1/4 cup applesauce for every one egg your recipe requires.