A Healthy Banana Bread Recipe This Registered Dietitian Swears By
Forgot about the bundle of bananas sitting on your counter? Put them to good use with this healthy banana bread recipe from a registered dietitian.
When life gives you overripe bananas, make banana bread. That’s how the saying goes, right?
While the baked good may seem like a way to turn an otherwise healthy fruit into a quasi dessert, it doesn’t have to be bad for you.
With a few twists on a classic, your overly ripe bananas can be fully transformed into a healthy treat. Not only is this banana bread recipe healthy, but it even includes chocolate chips.
Whether you got too busy to eat them, totally forgot about them, or simply bought too big of a bunch, there’s a good chance at least a few of your bananas ripened too fast. Realizing you don’t have to throw out food or money makes banana bread even sweeter.
I love being able to repurpose food that would otherwise get tossed.
Unripened bananas are green and have a high starch content. As they ripen, they turn from green to yellow to brown, and the starch gets converted to sugar. With a lower percentage of starch and higher percentage of sugar, the flesh of the fruit sweetens.
So while they may look less appealing than their bright yellow siblings, brown-spotted bananas are extra sweet and perfect for turning into warm bread.
Is banana bread healthy?
Generally speaking, banana bread isn’t the healthiest breakfast treat.
Standard recipes often use white flour, a lot of processed sugar, and saturated fat-laden butter. They’re not the healthiest of ingredients.
They are associated with high blood sugar, inflammation, and related diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
But banana bread doesn’t have to be so unhealthy. What makes the baked good so great is its versatility. It’s easy to alter the recipe so it qualifies as healthy banana bread.
It has four basic building blocks: flour, sugar, fat, and eggs. You can swap out different ingredients within those four categories to better fit your own health and taste preferences. The bread will still bake properly, but you’ll end up with a more-nutritious loaf.
Why you should try healthy banana bread
There are a lot of reasons to love this healthy banana bread recipe, not the least of which is the ease of baking.
Beyond that, there are health qualities you won’t find in traditional recipes. I use whole wheat flour instead of white flour, maple syrup in place of sugar, and olive oil instead of butter.
These substitutions will give your bread some added nutritional value and lower the calorie count. You likely have many of these ingredients on hand already. If not, you can find them wherever you buy your groceries.
Another reason to love my healthy banana bread recipe: it calls for minimal equipment.
No electric mixer or kneading is necessary to whip up the batter. With just a little measuring and stirring, you can quickly go from, “Ugh, I have too many ripe bananas!” to, “Mmm, I have a fresh loaf of banana bread!”
Thanks to the star of the show, banana bread has high potassium levels and offers fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin B6.
The whole wheat flour provides many of the remaining B vitamins, including B1, B3, B5, riboflavin, and niacin. Compared with white flour, whole wheat flour is more nutrient dense and contains more iron, calcium, and protein.
This recipe uses olive oil, a monounsaturated fat that’s been linked to anti-inflammatory benefits and lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, according to studies like one published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The use of Greek yogurt in this recipe also gives an extra boost of protein.
I include chocolate chunks in my banana bread recipe as an added treat. But I make sure they are at least 70 percent cacao—that’s what gives the chocolate its health benefits, like antioxidants and minerals, according to The Journal of Nutrition.
The substitutions in this healthy chocolate chip banana bread recipe result in a slice that contains about 175 calories.
Courtesy Vanessa Rissetto MS, RD, CDN
Healthy chocolate chip banana bread
Makes 12 servings
2.5 ripe bananas
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup 2 percent plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
2.5 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt (about 1/2 tsp)
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips/chunks (at least 70 percent cacao)
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Stir in the eggs. Add in the olive oil, Greek yogurt, maple syrup, and vanilla extract.
- In a separate bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
- Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until blended, careful to not overmix. Add the remaining dry ingredients and stir until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
- Grease an 8.5-inch-by-4.5-inch loaf pan. Pour in your batter. Sprinkle cinnamon and brown sugar on top. Swirl if desired.
- Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until fully cooked through (you can check this with a toothpick).
- Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before removing from the pan and slicing.
How to make your banana bread recipe healthier
Not into whole wheat flour? Try substituting gluten-free flour, almond flour, or whatever else floats your boat. If you don’t want 100 percent whole wheat bread, you can use 1 cup whole wheat and 1/2 cup white flour.
And if you do not want to use any brown sugar, you may use 1/3 cup of maple syrup instead of 1/4 cup.
But if both maple syrup and brown sugar aren’t your things, or if you don’t have any on hand, you can use honey as a natural sugar substitute.
Personalize your bread by including (or omitting) chocolate chips; nuts like almonds, pecans, or walnuts; and spices like nutmeg or clove.
How to eat banana bread
First, admire your healthy creation. This bread is good enough to eat as is. You can also spread your favorite nut butter on it and enjoy it with coffee or tea.
Try a grilled slice, warming it on the grill or in a pan or skillet on the stove. You can serve with a little bit of butter.
Banana bread alternatives
We know that old bananas lead to banana bread, but what happens when your banana bread starts to get old? Don’t trash it!
In yet another way to repurpose this food, you can use some of the ingredients from my banana bread recipe to transform it into cake pops.
Banana bread cake pops
Ingredients (as needed):
Leftover banana bread
- Crumble your leftover banana bread into a bowl. Add in a little Greek yogurt until you are able to scoop and form a tight ball.
- Scoop and roll the mixture into tight cake pop balls. Place them on a plate or baking sheet. Sticks are not necessary, but if you want the full cake pop effect, place a toothpick or cake pop stick into each ball. Place the balls in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes.
- While they cake pops are in the freezer, melt some leftover dark chocolate chunks in the microwave. Dip and coat the cake balls into the melted chocolate, sprinkle with sea salt, and let cool until the chocolate has hardened.
No matter how you choose to eat your banana bread, take a moment to enjoy it and relax. You saved food from the fate of the trash can, and you did it in a healthy way.
Next, check out what doctors eat for breakfast.
- BMJ: "Associations of cereal grains intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality across 21 countries in Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiology study: prospective cohort study"
- Nutrients: "Relationship between Added Sugars Consumption and Chronic Disease Risk Factors: Current Understanding"
- Nutrients: "Quality of Dietary Fat Intake and Body Weight and Obesity in a Mediterranean Population: Secondary Analyses within the PREDIMED Trial"
- BMJ Open: "Health and economic benefits of reducing sugar intake in the USA, including effects via non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a microsimulation model"
- International Journal of Molecular Science: "Monounsaturated Fatty Acids in Obesity-Related Inflammation"
- Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases: "The Evidence for Saturated Fat and for Sugar Related to Coronary Heart Disease"
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Monounsaturated fats from plant and animal sources in relation to risk of coronary heart disease among US men and women"
- The Journal of Nutrition: "Cocoa Flavanol Intake and Biomarkers for Cardiometabolic Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Bananas, overripe, raw"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Flour, whole wheat, unenriched"