Have Your Brownie and Eat It Too! Here's How to Slash Calories in Your Favorite Foods

Cinnamon buns, barbeque ribs and chicken parmigiana all pack on the pounds.

However, nutritionist Joy Bauer says you can have your brownies and eat them too in her latest book, From Junk Food To Joy Food, where she slashes calories in some of your favorite comfort foods.

First up? Those irresistible cinnamon buns.

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“The junk food version is 880 calories,” she said. “The joy food version is just 150 calories. In fact, you could eat this entire plate and still clock in at just half the calories of the junk food version.”

She changes the recipe by making whole wheat cinnamon pancakes with pumpkin puree. She then ices them with a mixture of maple syrup and reduced-fat cream cheese, and then tops them with heart-healthy pecans.

“You have the most delicious cinnamon bun for just 150 calories,” she said.

See below for the full recipe.

Cheesy chicken parmigiana clocks in around 1,000 calories before you add pasta, but Bauer said there is a way to make it healthy.

“The Joy Food version is only 310 calories. It's unbreaded grilled chicken, smothered in that same yummy sauce and then covered in part-skim mozzarella cheese,” she said.

And what about those saucy ribs?

“When you order a full rack of ribs out at a restaurant, it'll cost you about 1,200 calories and about 70 grams of fat, and 20 of those grams of fat are saturated. That's like your arteries' worst nightmare,” she said.

To cut calories, she marinates strips of lean pork tenderloin, rather than fatty ribs, in barbeque sauce and grills them. Her entire portion of ribs is 208 calories.

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“You could eat six times this amount for the same amount of calories as the junk food version,” she said.

A decadent brownie can be 300 calories. To make them healthier, Joy adds a secret ingredient.

“Instead of adding the oil and the eggs that the directions will typically call for, you're gonna take a can of black beans, and don't tell anybody because you won't taste it," she said. "Put them in blender with 3/4 cup water, then puree them."

Then add that mixture to the box mix and bake them.

Want to give it a go? Try out this recipe From Junk Food To Joy Food.


Makes 8 servings

“I guarantee this will soon become one of your favorite recipes and probably the messiest page in this book. I’ve relied on two secret ingredients to slim down this fattening favorite: pumpkin and nonfat yogurt (please trust me on this one). Whip up a batch and you can enjoy sweet, cinnamon-y goodness anytime you’re in the mood.”


½ cup whole-wheat flour

½ cup all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt

1 tablespoon cinnamon

3 egg whites

¾ cup canned 100% pumpkin puree

¾ cup nonfat plain yogurt

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract


4 ounces light or reduced-fat cream cheese at room temp

¼ cup maple syrup

¼ cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped (optional)

Cinnamon (optional)

To make the “buns”: Whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl until well combined. Set aside. In a second large mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until blended. Add the pumpkin, yogurt, brown sugar, and vanilla, and whisk until combined. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir gently until just combined and smooth (no dry streaks should remain), taking care not to overmix. If time allows, let the batter rest for 10 minutes.

Liberally coat a large skillet or griddle with nonstick oil spray and warm over medium heat. When the pan is nice and hot, ladle about 1 tablespoon of batter onto the skillet to form a mini pancake, making a total of about 24 mini pancakes. The batter will be thick, so spread it out with the back of a spoon to make a circle. Cook until the bottom of each mini pancake is golden brown and bubbles start to form in the batter, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the pancakes and push down with the back of a spatula to flatten them out a little bit. This will help cook the middle.

Cook until the other side is golden brown, another 2 to 3 minutes. Recoat the skillet with nonstick oil spray periodically to prevent the pancakes from sticking.

To make the icing: In a small food processor, blend together the cream cheese and maple syrup until smooth. To serve, spread about 1teaspoon icing on a mini pancake, and then top with another pancake. Spread 1teaspoon of icing on top of the second pancake before adding a last pancake on top. Finally, spread about 2 teaspoons of icing on the top and garnish with 1 teaspoon chopped and toasted pecans and a sprinkling of cinnamon, if desired.

And enjoy!

For more recipes, find the book on Amazon here.

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