This whole wheat banana nut bread is lightened up by swapping half of the oil for unsweetened applesauce, reducing the amount of sugar, and subbing in whole wheat flour– just enough changes to help you feel good about eating it for breakfast without sacrificing the flavor.
Of all the delicious, carb-y foods in the world, banana bread holds an extra special place in my heart. Growing up, my mom always made us a delicious healthy breakfast before school, and we rotated through things like oatmeal, smoothies, scrambled eggs, and muffins. My personal favorite, though, was always a thick slice of whole wheat banana nut bread. Banana bread was actually one of the first things I learned how to make at age 8 or 9, and that’s when I quickly found out that a bunch of speckled bananas sitting on the counter was a veryyyy good thing.Now, in general, I’m completely against “healthifying” sweet treats. I’d rather eat a plateful of raw Brussels sprouts for dessert than a hard, tasteless cookie or dry brownie. And, when I’m cooking for other people, I keep in mind that many people would rather eat the real deal than some trying-too-hard-to-be-healthy version. But in a small number of recipes, such as quick breads like banana bread, I’ve found that some simple healthy swaps really do work well and don’t sacrifice the flavor. Plus, it helps me feel better about eating banana bread from time to time for a breakfast or snack since its nutritional stats no longer resemble straight-up cake.
First, I cut back on the amount of sugar in the recipe since ripe bananas are already so sweet naturally. Second, I sub in whole wheat pastry (or spelt/kamut) flour for the white flour to add some extra fiber and staying power to the bread. Third, I use a healthier oil like olive oil, coconut oil, or grapeseed oil.
Finally, I swap half of the oil for unsweetened applesauce to cut back some of the calories. I’ve found that using more than half applesauce for the oil does change the texture of the bread, so I prefer to stick with half applesauce and half oil rather than all applesauce. I like using lunchbox-size cups of applesauce so I don’t have an entire jar of applesauce open in the fridge afterwards. The result is a perfectly moist, healthier whole wheat banana nut bread with a great texture and just the right amount of sweetness. If you have leftover bread after the first day or two, you can wrap it in aluminum foil, freeze it, and defrost it in the fridge overnight for breakfast the next morning. It freezes perfectly!
Somehow, it didn’t cross my mind to blog about the recipe until the banana bread was already out of the oven, and at that point, I had my priorities in order: eat banana bread first, blog second. I actually almost didn’t post the recipe since I just ended up with just a couple measly, unfocused shots of banana bread, but it’s still delicious. And that’s what we care about most…right?
- 3 cups whole-wheat flour*
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup olive oil or coconut oil, measured in liquid state or grapeseed oil
- 1/2 cup applesauce (unsweetened is best)
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 6 over-ripe bananas
- 1/2 cup walnut pieces, chopped
Preheat oven to 350. Optional: toast walnuts in the preheated oven for 6-7 minutes on a small baking sheet, or until slightly darkened and fragrant.
While the walnuts are toasting, mix flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add oil, applesauce, eggs, and vanilla and stir until flour is just barely incorporated into the wet ingredients, being careful not to over mix. Add mashed bananas and nuts and stir until incorporated.
Grease 2 9x5 loaf pans and fill, making sure they are filled with the same amount of batter for even cooking. Bake at 350 for 55-65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out mostly clean. Tent tops of the loaves with aluminum foil during the last 15-20 of baking if necessary to prevent them from becoming overly browned.
Wrap loves in foil and keep in refrigerator for up to 2 days. To freeze, wrap loaves or individual slices of banana bread in aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months in a freezer-safe bag. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or unwrap foil, wrap in a paper towel, and defrost in microwave.
*Regular storebought whole-wheat flour may make the loaves a bit denser than you're expecting. I used a mixture of half spelt and half kamut flour, but storebought whole wheat pastry flour is another good option for maintaining a good texture.
Alternatively, you can use half unbleached white flour and half 100% whole-wheat flour.
Nutrition info for one slice (1/12 of a loaf):
Calories: 185 Fat: 5g (1g saturated) Carbs: 31g Sugar: 16g Protein: 3g
Questions for you:
What was one of the first things you learned how to cook or bake?
What’s your favorite oil to cook and bake with?
I’ve always been familiar with olive oil and primarily used that, but I’ve recently been introduced to the health benefits of coconut oil and grapeseed oil (which has a very neutral flavor) and have started experimenting with those.