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Healthy cake baking for dieters

How to have your cake and eat it while losing weight

For those looking to lose weight, you may have thought that cake of any kind is off-limits. They’re high in sugar and unhealthy fats, with tonnes of potential for ruining your calorie limit for the day.

However, by making ingredient switches and baking from scratch, it’s possible to enjoy a piece of cake without compromising your weight loss goals.

Keep reading to find our healthy cake recipes and how, by moderating portion sizes and being aware of calories, you can eat cake and continue to lose weight.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana Written by Silvia Fonda Last reviewed 20-02-2024

Top tips for eating sweet treats when trying to lose weight

You don’t have to cut out all the foods you love when losing weight. The following tips can help you enjoy your favourite foods in moderation without ruining your progress.

A woman choosing between a healthy plate of fruit and a serving of cakes

What’s more, they’re also approved by our Nutritionist.

Be aware of calories

The first tip involves being aware of calories. To lose weight, you have to eat fewer calories than you burn. High-sugar foods like cake are often very calorie-dense - even one piece could take you from a calorie deficit to a surplus.

If you want to continue enjoying cake on your weight loss journey, you may want to consider tracking your food and calories.

To make things easier, you might consider using a mobile app to track everything you eat. That way, you can gain an understanding of how many calories you consume.

A display of food products with their calories labelled

By reducing your portion sizes and doing more physical activity throughout the week, you can indulge in a sweet treat (on occasion) without going over your calorie limit.

Avoid major glucose spikes

When you eat sugary or starchy foods like cake, you undergo a sharp rise in your blood sugar levels (called a glucose spike).

As well as being damaging long-term, frequent glucose spikes can slow down weight loss. Therefore, you need to be tactical about when you’re eating cake to help reduce this spike.

Recent research has shown that:

It’s best to consume sweet treats after a meal containing fibre and protein, as these components help to control blood sugar levels.

The worst time to consume cake would be when your stomach is empty, such as in the morning or mid-afternoon. Equally, eating cake in the evening can have negative effects by affecting your sleep quality.

To continue achieving your weight loss goals, eat your sweet treat after a high-fibre, high-protein meal.

Add nutrient-dense foods

It’s important to eat a diet that’s rich in nutrients if you want to regularly indulge in sweet treats like cake.

Because cakes are mostly made up of unhealthy fats and carbohydrates, they should be paired with a diet that’s rich in fibre, protein and vitamins.

Good fibre sources Good protein sources
  • beans
  • broccoli
  • berries
  • avocado
  • chia seeds
  • whole grains
  • apples
  • organic, pasture-fed meat from a butcher
  • wild fish (like salmon, cod, bream, tuna)
  • free-range eggs
  • tofu or tempeh
  • cottage cheese

That way, you know you’re getting everything you need from your diet - not just empty calories.

Stick to occasional treats

Some diets that cut out all of your favourite foods can leave you feeling deprived and even taint your relationship with food.

Therefore, it’s good to indulge in the occasional treat as it can help you stick to your new eating habits. By knowing that you can have cake on occasion, you’re not as restricted and more successful in the long run.

Treating yourself is good. But remember, this shouldn’t be a daily activity. If you wish to lose weight and keep your blood sugars stable, aim to indulge about once a week.

Buying shop-bought vs making your own

It can be tempting to opt for convenience by buying cakes from the supermarket. However, when it comes to losing weight, this isn’t your best option.

Shop-bought cakes are:

  • packed with sugar and preservatives
  • ultra-processed
  • often misleading when it comes to portion sizes

If you still plan on getting your treats from the shops, take some time to check the ingredients and nutritional information label. Opt for a product with fewer ingredients that has the lowest amount of sugar.

Unfortunately, sugar is often disguised in the foods we buy. All of the following ingredients are simply another word for sugar:

brown sugar, cane juice, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit nectars, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, maple syrup, maltodextrin, molasses, raw sugar, and sucrose

If you want to eat cake and continue to lose weight, it’s a better idea to do some home baking.

Ingredient swaps for home baking

When baking from scratch, you control exactly what goes into what you eat. You can also make diet-friendly swaps that add nutritional value.

An infographic showing what drugs can’t be taken with Lansoprazole

For example:

  • Swap milk chocolate for dark (85%) chocolate, fruit or nuts: This will reduce the sugar and fat content and help to increase natural sweetness, fibre and other essential nutrients.
  • Swap regular flour for a gluten-free alternative: Replacing traditional wheat flour with coconut, almond or oat flour increases the nutritional value of your baking. This will also add healthy fats and protein (if using nut flour).
  • Swap oil or butter for apple sauce: Apple sauce can be purchased or made by slow-cooking apples on low heat. This swap majorly reduces calories and fat content while adding natural sweetness and moisture.
  • Add additional protein sources: Protein helps to maintain lean mass and keeps you fuller for longer. Consider adding more eggs, nuts, seeds, nut butter or even beans to your baking. Silken tofu can also be blended to add creaminess or as a base for a dessert.

When home baking, you can also reduce the amount of sugar used in your recipe. The results will help you to achieve weight loss and keep your blood glucose levels stable.

Smarter choices when eating out

Eating at restaurants can be challenging for people trying to lose weight. However, lots of places now list calories on their menus. You can use this to guide you towards a sensible and healthier choice. The following tips may also help you:

Get dessert after a nutrient-dense meal

As mentioned above, if you plan on having dessert while dining out, you should pay attention to timing. It is always best to avoid having cake on an empty stomach. Instead, it should follow a fibre-rich, high-protein meal.

An example meal that’s nutritious and low in sugar and carbs

To reduce a significant glucose spike, ensure that your main meal is balanced. You might even opt for a salad or something lighter if you are planning to indulge in a dessert afterwards.

Aim for one good source of protein and plenty of vegetables - not just a pizza, burger or fries.

Look at the menu in advance

When losing weight, looking at the menu in advance can help you plan ahead and decide which choices are sensible options.

This takes the pressure off your decisions while you are out. It also minimises the risk of impulsively ordering and going over your calories for the day.

Some menus specify the amount of calories in each dish. If this is the case, choose between the three lowest options. Remember that any alcohol you drink will also add to your calories.

Choose the right item

When it comes to dessert, most menus have a decent variety - including vegetarian and vegan options.

By choosing the vegan option, you’re likely to get more protein and healthy fats. This is because they are often nut or soya-based.

If you don’t want to be plant-based, choose something that’s lower in sugar and fat (such as sorbet instead of ice cream).

Eating cake for breakfast

While it is best to consume cake after a meal containing fibre and protein, it is possible to make your own ‘healthy’ cake that’s higher in protein and lower in sugar.

Protein mug cake

Because this recipe can be cooked in the microwave, it’s really quick to make. It contains Greek yoghurt, apple sauce, almond flour and protein powder. It’s also gluten-free and can be made vegan by using dairy alternatives.

Ingredients: Greek yoghurt, apple sauce, almond flour, vanilla protein powder, milk, xantham gum, baking powder

Recipe for a healthy, high-protein chocolate cake

Xantham gum is a type of thickener that can be added to baked goods. If you don’t have access to this, you can substitute it with any of the following:

  • psyllium husk
  • chia seeds soaked in water
  • ground flax seeds soaked in water
  • cornstarch
  • egg whites

Protein banana bread mug cake

Our next healthy bake is another high-protein mug cake in the style of banana bread. This recipe works even better when you have overripe bananas that need using.

Ingredients: Egg, vanilla extract, coconut flour, chocolate protein powder, sweetener, baking powder, milk, banana

Recipe for a healthy, high-protein chocolate cake

As well as swapping regular flour for coconut flour, this recipe has additional protein with the inclusion of protein powder.

Carrot cake

If you’re a lover of carrot cake, try this healthier recipe while on your weight loss journey. This recipe serves 8 and is slightly more indulgent than our other recipes - making it great for special occasions or birthdays.

Ingredients: Coconut sugar, apple sauce, vanilla extract, eggs, almond flour, baking powder, cinnamon, sea salt, grated carrots, chopped pecans

Recipe for a healthy, high-protein chocolate cake

It’s packed with protein and healthy fats and much lower in carbs than a traditional recipe. Taste, however, isn’t compromised.

Chocolate protein cake

Lastly, we have a high-protein chocolate cake recipe to share. This recipe serves two and is cooked in the oven like a traditional cake.

Ingredients: Egg, Greek yoghurt, vegan protein powder or whey protein, cocoa powder, baking powder, milk

Recipe for a healthy, high-protein chocolate cake

This recipe substitutes refined white flour for oat flour (which you can choose to make yourself by blending oats). It’s lower in fat, higher in protein and just as delicious.

Overall, the best way to eat cake while meeting your weight loss goals is to make it yourself.

Shop-bought cakes are packed with sugar, preservatives and unhealthy fats. Serving sizes are often misleading, making it easy to eat more calories than you may realise.

Baking from scratch is a much better option. As well as knowing exactly what goes into your cake, you can make healthier swaps to reduce calories and increase protein and fibre.

Want to read more tips from our Nutritionist?

Click here

Further reading

What are glucose spikes?

Understanding food cravings and how to tackle them What are glucose spikes?

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
A complete guide to binge eating: what you need to know

Understanding food cravings and how to tackle them A complete guide to binge eating: what you need to know

Reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana
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