Healthy Ingredient Substitutions

January 3, 2012

A friend recently asked me about cookbooks I would recommend and honestly, I have a ton of cookbooks, many in which were sent for reviews, but I don’t use them often. I cook based upon what’s in my fridge and then I ‘google’ a recipe and make a cleaner version of it. I know how to substitute a lot of ingredients so it makes it easier to create healthier recipes. I also know that the bottom line to eating healthy is always portion size. I have found that cooking makes me less hungry, so when it comes down to the actual eating part, I only eat a little bit.

In general, I use little oil, if I do, it’s usually olive oil. I make ‘brown versions’ of everything including rice, pasta and bread. I rarely touch anything that has a bone. Usually I cook with lean ground turkey, chicken breast, or a filet of fish. I don’t fry anything, I usually bake, grill, boil or sautee’. I always keep any type of sauce on the side. (as I have never been a big sauce person.) Putting things on the side allows others to make their meal heavier than yours, so remember that!

Lastly, whatever I eat, (especially if I’m on a restricted caloric intake like 1600 calories per day) I make sure my portion size equates to 200-300 calories/meal regardless of what the portion is for my family members. What I would recommend is that you not only familiarize yourself with healthy ingredient substitutions but also know the calories in every food.

Off the top of your head, do you know the calories are in an apple? slice of bread? cup of cereal?

I can tell you know that it’s 80-110 calories.

Here is a list of healthy substitutions I found online:


Bacon Canadian bacon, turkey bacon, smoked turkey or lean prosciutto (Italian ham)
Bread, white Whole-grain bread
Bread crumbs, dry Rolled oats or crushed bran cereal
Butter, margarine, shortening or oil in baked goods Applesauce or prune puree for half of the called-for butter, shortening or oil; butter spreads or shortenings specially formulated for baking that don’t have trans fatsNote: To avoid dense, soggy or flat baked goods, don’t substitute oil for butter or shortening. Also don’t substitute diet, whipped or tub-style margarine for regular margarine.
Butter, margarine, shortening or oil to prevent sticking Cooking spray or nonstick pans
Cream Fat-free half-and-half, evaporated skim milk
Cream cheese, full fat Fat-free or low-fat cream cheese, Neufchatel, or low-fat cottage cheese pureed until smooth
Eggs Two egg whites or 1/4 cup egg substitute for each whole egg
Flour, all-purpose (plain) Whole-wheat flour for half of the called-for all-purpose flour in baked goodsNote: Whole-wheat pastry flour is less dense and works well in softer products like cakes and muffins.
Fruit canned in heavy syrup Fruit canned in its own juices or in water, or fresh fruit
Ground beef Extra-lean or lean ground beef, chicken or turkey breast (make sure no poultry skin has been added to the product)
Lettuce, iceberg Arugula, chicory, collard greens, dandelion greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach or watercress
Mayonnaise Reduced-calorie mayonnaise-type salad dressing or reduced-calorie, reduced-fat mayonnaise
Meat as the main ingredient Three times as many vegetables as the meat on pizzas or in casseroles, soups and stews
Milk, evaporated Evaporated skim milk
Milk, whole Reduced-fat or fat-free milk
Oil-based marinades Wine, balsamic vinegar, fruit juice or fat-free broth
Pasta, enriched (white) Whole-wheat pasta
Rice, white Brown rice, wild rice, bulgur or pearl barley
Salad dressing Fat-free or reduced-calorie dressing or flavored vinegars
Seasoning salt, such as garlic salt, celery salt or onion salt Herb-only seasonings, such as garlic powder, celery seed or onion flakes, or use finely chopped herbs or garlic, celery or onions
Soups, creamed Fat-free milk-based soups, mashed potato flakes, or pureed carrots, potatoes or tofu for thickening agents
Soups, sauces, dressings, crackers, or canned meat, fish or vegetables Low-sodium or reduced-sodium versions
Sour cream, full fat Fat-free or low-fat sour cream, plain fat-free or low-fat yogurt
Soy sauce Sweet-and-sour sauce, hot mustard sauce or low-sodium soy sauce
Sugar In most baked goods you can reduce the amount of sugar by one-half; intensify sweetness by adding vanilla, nutmeg or cinnamon
Syrup Pureed fruit, such as applesauce, or low-calorie, sugar-free syrup
Table salt Herbs, spices, citrus juices (lemon, lime, orange), rice vinegar, salt-free seasoning mixes or herb blends
Yogurt, fruit-flavored Plain yogurt with fresh fruit slices

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