Saturday, February 15, 2014

healthy classic banana bread

I wouldn't say that I use baked goods to bribe people, but I do think there is a certain incentive to agree to a favor when there are, let's say, cookies involved. That's what happened a few weeks ago when I had the opportunity to photograph the National Cathedral and hoped to borrow some extra equipment from a friend. I generally shoot with a light body and a short lens, but I wanted a few back up options, knowing that I probably wouldn't get the chance to shoot from the rafters of the building again. In return, I promised a loaf of banana bread.

To be honest, my Mom is kind the banana bread guru in my life and I rarely make it myself. Nevertheless, I decided that having a healthy version in my arsenal wouldn't hurt, especially given how comforting a warm slice can be in the dead of winter when I'm dreaming of picking fresh fruit and dressing in less than three layers.

I took advantage of the snow day (fellow D.C.-ers, are you dug out yet?) and the super ripe bananas I had been waiting on to test out this lightened-up version of a classic quick bread. Embarrassingly, I doubled the butter needed to get this recipe started and decided it was a sign to just make a double batch! I ended up with a full loaf and twelve muffins, which means I've got snacks for the week. I believe the term "happy accident" would be appropriate here.

Quick tip: I keep my baking bananas in a brown paper bag with the top folded over. Science tells me that helps them ripen faster than just sitting on your counter due to gases being emitted and the concentration of said gases and other concepts that I just don't have room in my brain for. All I know is, it works.

Banana bread is great on its own, but walnut and chocolate chips really take it to the next level. I pulled out some unbroken walnuts to decorate the top and give it that professional "did YOU make this?" quality.

Once I had all my dry ingredients ready to go, I added the walnuts and chocolate and gave it a good toss in the flour mixture. I find the coating helps suspend them in the batter and helps avoid having a bottom layer consisting of chocolate and nuts. 

Also, since I live on the wild side, while most recipes call for you to really mash the bananas well, I like to be a little more gentle to I get pieces of fruit throughout the bread. (Okay, maybe I just really like mix-ins! You never want to share a pint of ice cream with me, unless plain vanilla is your thing.)

Since the loaf was a gift, you'll have to trust that the muffins adequately represent the perfect texture of this bread. (For those of you going the muffin route, they only take about 14-17 minutes in the oven!) 

The best part about banana bread? It really does get better over time. I find that it's best the second or third day, which makes it a great bake-ahead project.

Healthy Classic Banana Bread
Adapted from Cooking Light
Yields 14 servings


1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/2 mashed ripe bananas (about 2 bananas)
1/3 cup 0% plain Greek yogurt (feel free to use honey, banana, or vanilla flavors)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Optional: 1/2 to 3/4 cup mix-ins


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cream butter and sugars together on medium speed, about one minute. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
3. Add banana, yogurt, and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until blended.
4. Sift or whisk together flours, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
5. Add dry mixture to wet mixture and combine on low until just blended. Do not over-mix! (I avoid this by letting my stand mixer do about 50% of the work, then mixing it the rest of the way by hand. Over-mixing leads to tough breads, which no one likes!).
6. Spoon batter into a loaf pan that has been greased with cooking spray and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a knife speared through the center comes out clean.
7. Cool on wire rack for ten minutes, remove from pan, and let cool completely. 

Nutritional Information:

Calories: 165, Fat: 3.85g, Cholesterol: 39mg, Carbs: 28g, Fiber: 2g, Protein: 4.5g

(For comparison, Starbucks' Banana Bread has nearly 500 calories a slice!)


  1. Both muffins and loaf look fanfreakingtastic! For 165 calories, I sure would eat at least two at one go! Yum!

    1. Angie, so glad you think so! (I'm totally guilty of doubling down too, so you're not alone!)

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