When reducing calories in a formulation, there are two main strategies: replacing carbohydrates or replacing fats. Choosing which strategy largely depends on the formulation in question, the baker’s end goals and how all the math shakes out in the end.

To simply reduce calories in a formulation, the math is fairly clear. With fat weighing in at 9 calories per gram, sugar at 4 calories per gram and the fiber replacing these ingredients at most usually 2 calories per gram, the biggest bang comes from replacing part of the fat with fiber. Insoluble fiber delivers even more calorie reduction at 0 calories per gram. However, if a baker is going for a specific claim on packaging, straightforward subtraction may not be enough.

“First, understand your goals,” said Rajen Mehta, Ph.D., senior director, specialty ingredients, Grain Millers. “It’s surprising how often people start formulating without understanding their goals. Start with what claim you’re going for.”

Bakers could be looking at claims of “25% reduced calories” or “excellent source of fiber,” “supports immune health” or “supports a healthy weight.” Each of these comes with its own requirements, and formulators may need to get creative to maintain the finished product quality.

“When you look at a 25% calorie reduction, it gets challenging,” Mr. Gilbert said. “You have to go after everything in the formula.”

He recalled one product where Cargill formulators replaced 20% of the flour with the company’s Actistar, 50% of the sugar and 50% of the fat.

“Those are some pretty broad changes,” he admitted. “But in some cases, you have to go after each major component to get a call-out of 25% calorie reduction.”

Knowing the particular claims a baker is after enables suppliers to recommend the right functional ingredient to reach those goals. As an example, Ricardo Rodriguez, marketing manager, confectionery and bakery, Ingredion Inc., offered the company’s HI-MAIZE 260 resistant starch. HI-MAIZE not only can replace up to 20% of flour in baked foods, thereby reducing calories, but it also supports balanced energy by reducing the body’s glycemic response in food. As the subject of an F.D.A.-authorized qualified health claim, HI-MAIZE 260 may help enable bakers to make a claim for reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes.

“Understanding your target market determines if you need to formulate in a way that can enable particular claims for your product,” Mr. Rodriguez said.

When deciding whether to replace a carbohydrate or a fat, formulators should consider the food systems, specifically how much fat, sugar or flour already exists in the formulation and what function they’re each serving. A good place to start is with the ingredient that makes up the bulk of the formulation.

“If you’re in a high-fat baked good, you still have a lot of fat left, even if you replace 50% of it,” said Andy Estal, director of customer technical service, Beneo. That still leaves half the fat in the formulation to provide the mouthfeel and structure to the finished product.

A product like bread doesn’t have much wiggle room to replace what little fat and sugar exists in the formulation, if any exists at all. For those formulations, bakers are better off replacing some of the flour for calorie reduction.

“It’s looking at the formulation holistically to see what would be the best strategy — or combination of strategies — to achieve the desired calorie reduction,” said Bill Gilbert, certified master baker, Cargill. “If you want a 10% calorie reduction, you’d go after the flour in breads because there isn’t much sugar or fat. Your biggest play item would be the flour. Cookies, sweet snacks and cakes, you’d want to look at fat because you’re at higher calories to start.”