10 Easy Ways to Make Guilt-Free Pastries

We all love the sweet indulgence of buttery, sugar-packed, carb-loaded pastries. Alas, they’re not always the healthiest choice (bummer).

Blueberry Pastry

But no one should have to give up dessert entirely. After all, it feeds the soul, connects you with family and friends, and has the power to make you happy. That’s emotional nutrition that simply can’t be ignored!

That’s why we’ve assembled some easy ways to make your pastries a little healthier, so you can have your cake and eat it (without feeling guilty), too! Try these tips and let us know which one you like best, or leave a comment with your own favorite tip for lightening up your favorite sweet treats.

1. Make smaller portions.

Mini Cupcakes


This might sound dismissive at first read, but stay with me here. Making your portions mini-sized can be an effective way to make pastries less indulgent without sacrificing one bit of the buttery or rich flavor. For instance, try cutting brownies into 1-inch squares rather than the usual 2 or 3 inches. Or, instead of full-sized cupcakes, go for minis. You’ll still get the full flavor fix without breaking the calorie bank. And bonus: Mini pastries are adorable! 

2. Consider your fillings.

When it comes to making pastries, filling can make a big difference. For example, a Danish filled with cream cheese and fruit preserves is going to be far more indulgent than one with fruit preserves only. Little swaps like this can make a big difference in recipes. 

3. Replace the base.


Photo via CakeSpy

Buttery pastry crusts and doughs are big-time offenders when it comes to fat and calorie content. To make baked goods healthier, consider a naturally lower-fat base. Pavlova, for example, is a naturally low-fat egg white pastry base making it a much healthier choice than a buttery pastry dough. Why not try your favorite fruit pie filling recipe on top of this delicious and light meringue-like base? 

4. Stick to egg white–only recipes.

Certain pastries or cake recipes call for egg whites, sans yolk. In general, this is a good indication that the finished goods will be lower in fat than those that call for yolks, or even the whole egg. Seek out recipes that call for egg whites only, such as angel food cake, macarons or other types of sponge cakes or cookies.

5. Choose an alternate fat.

Many pastries seem to abide by the memo that butter is better. But this doesn’t always have to be the case! In many recipes, you can substitute part or even all of the butter for a heart-healthier substitute. Think olive oil or coconut oil. Check out our recipe for olive oil cake and our roundup of butter substitutes in baking to get started with replacing the fat in your baked goods.

6. Rethink the top crust.

Lattice crust

Lattice crust via Craftsy instructor Nancie McDermott

Everyone loves pie, but if you’re trying to keep things lighter, reduce the crust on top. Instead of making a double-crusted pie, keep it open faced; you’ll instantly reduce the amount of fat and calories in the dessert. Or, try reducing the amount of crust on top by making it into a decorative lattice crust. This is an easy and effective way to lighten many pie recipes without making alterations to the ingredient list.

7. Use less sugar.

A pastry chef once told me that in most recipes, you can reduce the sugar by up to 1/4 cup with little consequence. Anecdotally, I have found this to be true. Making a slight reduction in sugar over time can add up to health “savings.” 

Additionally, in the case of fruit fillings and sauces, it’s possible to reduce the sugar even further (or even omit entirely!) because the added sugar isn’t necessarily contributing to the structure of the recipe. 

8. Use part whole wheat flour.

An easy way to “health” up your baked goods is to substitute part whole wheat flour. It can not only add a nice flavor to baked goods, but also increase the health factor. And while it might not necessarily reduce the caloric content, the added protein and fiber will help you feel full faster, which may make you satisfied with a smaller serving.

9. Make the most of the drizzle.

Drizzling chocolate on cookies

Thick icings and glazes are delicious, but they can also contribute to a high indulgence level in baked goods. As an easy alternative, use a simple powdered sugar glaze or melted chocolate and drizzle (not drench!) your goodies with it. You’ll still get that touch of sweetness, but won’t overdo it. 

10. Replace eggs with fruit.

Replacing eggs or butter with fruit can be an easy way to make baked goods less indulgent, so try  using a fruit puree or mashed fruit. This post details some of the ways you can swap fruit for vegan baking, and the best part is that they can carry over to any type of baking! 

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