In my first semester of my program to become a Registered Dietitian (RD), one of the courses I took focused on the science behind cooking and food.  As someone who has always been fascinated with the way things work in the kitchen, this class was pretty darn interesting and amazing.

The BIG project for the class was to take a recipe for a baked good and make it healthier based on scientific research by modifying only ONE ingredient.  We had to make three different versions of the recipe, complete subjective and objective testing and write a report about our findings.

To the non-foodie/science nerd this may sound a bit boring…but I seriously loved every second of it!

Healthier Zucchini Bread Recipe Project via Treble in the Kitchen

I decided to make my mom’s zucchini bread recipe healthier by reducing the amount of sugar in it.  My goal was to optimize the level of sugar replacement in the zucchini bread recipe with banana puree without affecting the structural (how it looks, the amount it rises while baking, texture, density, moistness) and sensory (taste, smell, how it feels in your mouth) properties of the bread.

Now, some of you may be thinking “but you make healthy recipes all the time.  How is this any different?

While, yes I healthify recipes on the daily, after taking this class I realized that so often I jump into altering a recipe without truly looking at the original ingredients and WHY they may be there in the first place.  Believe it or not, ingredients aren’t always included in a recipe to make things “taste good.”

Let’s look at why sugar is even included in zucchini bread (or any quick bread for that matter):

  • Sweet flavor
  • Sugar slows down starch gelatinization during the baking process which allows vapor pressure from carbon dioxide and water to build up before the bread sets. This allows the bread to rise while baking.
  • Sugar affects air incorporation which creates a more stable bread structure.
  • Sugar also participates in the Maillard reaction, which gives baked products the golden brown color and contributes to flavor.

Now that we know why sugar is added to zucchini bread, let’s take a look at how excess added sugar may affect our health:

  • There is a significant relationship between the consumption of added sugar and increased risk for death caused by cardiovascular disease.
  • Added sugar consumption is linked to an increase in population-wide diabetes.
  • A diet high in refined sugar can also contribute to cognitive decline in aging.

Those reasons are all good enough for me as reason to reduce the amount of sugar I consume!

So, after I did the research I completed the testing…

Mashed banana

Healthier Zucchini Bread Recipe Project via Treble in the Kitchen

Healthier Zucchini Bread Recipe Project via Treble in the Kitchen

Comparing how high each bread rose while baking.

Healthier Zucchini Bread Recipe Project via Treble in the Kitchen

Taking a look at the inside “crumb” of each loaf of bread.

Healthier Zucchini Bread Recipe Project via Treble in the Kitchen

I had friends complete a taste test for me with samples of each bread.

Healthier Zucchini Bread Recipe Project via Treble in the Kitchen

And the winning recipe?

I substituted 50% of the sugar called for in the original recipe with a banana puree and the result was delicious (according to my taste-test panelists!).  This loaf of bread also yielded results most similar to the original zucchini bread when looking at objective measures.

So without further ado…here is the winning recipe!

Healthier Zucchini Bread Recipe Project via Treble in the Kitchen

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Healthier Zucchini Bread

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5 from 1 review

  • Author: Tara | Treble in the Kitchen
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 mins
  • Yield: 2 loaves 1x


This healthier zucchini bread doesn’t skip a beat. The sweetness from the banana replaces half of the sugar in the original zucchini bread recipe. The end result is a sweet, soft, and delicious loaf of zucchini bread that will have you coming back for seconds.


  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup melted coconut oil
  • 3 cups chopped zucchini
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup mashed banana puree
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 cups gluten free all purpose flour (can use regular all purpose flour if you tolerate gluten)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray two loaf pans with coconut oil spray.
  3. Combine the eggs, melted coconut oil, zucchini, vanilla and banana puree in the blender.
  4. Blend until completely combined.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
  7. Pour the batter evenly in the two prepared loaf pans.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean
  • Cook Time: 65 mins
  • Category: quick bread, breakfast, bread, snack

Question of the Day:

  • What classic recipes did you grow up with that you want to give a healthy makeover?
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  1. Love this! I totally am obsessed with zucchinis at the moment so this is perfect! I always try to make my moms double chocolate fudge, salted caramel brownies healthier…. but I think there’s going to be a point where I will have to admit defeat…

    • Thanks, Jamie!! 🙂 Double chocolate fudge, salted carmel brownies…now there’s a challenge that would be fun!

  2. My food science labs were so fun to me! Last semester I chose to replace the eggs in a brownie recipe with an equivalent amount of chia gel. It was very interesting to see how much eggs do for the product! The chia brownies weren’t “bad”, just totally different from the original brownies.

  3. Okay, a course like that would be so fun for me! I love the hands-on approach to modifying the recipe.
    I don’t often modify recipes (probably because I don’t have a lot of baking science knowledge) but I’d like to learn!

    • I honestly think the best way to learn about cooking/baking is getting in there and giving it a try! Even if you make a mistake, you still learn something 🙂

  4. The bread looks delicious! One addition to your sugar cons list: it feeds the bacteria that cause cavities:-(

  5. This is so cool, Tara! It seems like your nutrition classes are super interesting and fun, although I’m sure they aren’t fun alllll the time 🙂 I’d love to find a healthy alternative to any pasta dish like baked ziti.

    • Thanks, Sara! They are pretty darn interesting which makes studying not so bad! Healthy baked ziti…now there’s a challenge!

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