Make recipes healthier with simple food swaps

Make recipes healthier with simple food swaps

We’re told to eat healthier and try to do so but what if certain ingredients in recipes are keeping you from meeting that goal. What if you could “swap out” a not-so-healthy food for a healthier substitute without compromising flavor or taste? 

 Healthy meal prep containers: Couscous with grilled chicken breast, salad, avocado, berry, apple, nuts and dry dates. Keto, ketogenic diet, low carb, healthy food concept. Top view

It is possible to do.  For instance, have you ever tried mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes?  How about chocolate cake made with black beans?  Probably not your usual method of cooking but making healthy swaps for the less than stellar ingredients is becoming more popular among health-conscious people wanting to eat good-tasting, yet nutrient-rich foods.   

These subtle yet unusual changes focus on taking basic recipes and using ingredients to help lower amounts of simple carbohydrates, sugar, salt and fats, while increasing fiber and protein that create satiety.  Here are some creative yet simple ingredient swaps to try at home taking recipes to a new height of healthiness yet still retaining their delicious taste:

1.  Replace butter with avocados – Avocados creamy texture and understated flavor is a perfect swap for butter.  Even though both are fats, avocados are rich in healthy monounsaturated fat while butter is full of unhealthy saturated fat.  When at room temperature, avocados have nearly the same consistency as butter and are best used to replace butter in recipes such as fudge brownies or dark chocolate flavorings.  Generally using 1 cup avocado puree for 1 cup butter will have good results. 

2.  Replace oil with mashed bananas – Bananas are another healthier food option in replacing fat in baking recipes such as muffins.  Like avocados, bananas are very suitable with their creamy, moist texture. One cup mashed bananas can be used in place of 1 cup butter or oil.  Using a banana will also provide a healthy dose of potassium , fiber, and vitamin B6 with 0 grams of fat.

3.  Replace sour cream with Greek yogurt – There is no healthier swap than using nonfat plain Greek yogurt in a recipe calling for sour cream.  There will be no taste difference when using Greek yogurt plus it provides no fat and about half the calories of sour cream.  In addition to saving fat and calories, there’s the extra bonus of lean protein Greek yogurt supplies. 

4.  Replace mayonnaise with Greek yogurt – Here’s another useful swap saving you calories and fat with that dose of lean protein Greek yogurt provides.  Get a little creative and add a dash of herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice to get a close taste match between mayonnaise and Greek yogurt. 

5.  Replace sugar with unsweetened applesauce – Want the sweetness without the extra calories?  Use unsweetened applesauce in place of sugar, particularly in baked goods.  One cup of sugar contains 770 calories while one cup of unsweetened applesauce contains about 100 calories.  That’s a huge calorie savings! They can be swapped one for one so a recipe calling for one cup sugar can be replaced with one cup applesauce.  However, be sure for every cup of applesauce used to reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup.   

6.  Replace white flour with whole wheat flour – Using whole wheat flour instead of white flour means more nutrients, flavor and texture.  Because whole wheat flour contains the outer shell of the grain, it has more fiber helping digestion. 

7.  Replace instant oatmeal with steel cut oatmeal – Steel cut oats are whole oat groats which have been diced into two or three pieces giving a more chewy and crunchy texture than instant oatmeal.  They provide a rich source of B vitamins, calcium, and protein and lack the sugar often found in instant varieties of oatmeal. 

8.  Replace potato chips with popcorn – If you love snacking on crunchy foods, popcorn is your go-to snack.  But not microwave popcorn – too high in unhealthy saturated and trans fats and too many calories.  Use natural popcorn either air-popped or use minimal oil in a popcorn popper to replace oily and overly salty chips.   Popcorn will provide fiber and is much lower in calories and fat.  Experiment with flavors by adding chili powder, parmesan, or cinnamon.   

9.  Replace whole or 2% milk with 1% or skim milk - I’ve never had a recipe turn out bad using this substitution.  One cup of skim milk has 90 calories with no fat while one cup of whole milk has 150 calories and 8 grams of fat.  The other good thing is the protein content is very similar whether it’s whole, 2% or skim – about 8 grams in one cup. 

10.  Replace pasta with spaghetti squash or zucchini – Looking for a way to skip the heavy high carb meal but without sacrificing taste?  Here’s the perfect solution – substitute spaghetti squash or zucchini spaghetti for a guilt-free pasta dish.  An added bonus of using spaghetti squash or zucchini in place of pasta is reaping the benefits of extra vitamin A, magnesium, folate, potassium, copper and phosphorus these veggies are loaded with.