Make Your Favorite Recipes healthier – A Substitutions Guide

For many Junior League members, cooking has been a passion for years and hosting dinner parties has been an easy way to stay in touch with friends and to catch up over good food, wine and conversation.  It’s also a great way to relax at the end of a long day and to try fresh local ingredients.

So many amazing family recipes from our grandmothers and mothers are filled with yummy ingredients like butter, heavy cream, cheese, and did I mention butter? Although these recipes are delicious, when cooking for my friends and family, simple ingredient substitutions can help to make the meals just a little bit healthier without sacrificing the flavor or spirit of the dish.

There are a lot of great websites and resources to help us succeed at making these substitutions. The Mayo Clinic is a favorite resources. They have 5 quick tips on healthy substitutions, and an entire section of their site that focuses on Nutrition and Healthy Eating. Eat Better America is another site that has some great tips and tools and good education on overall health and nutrition.

If you don’t have a lot of time to do research on these sites – here are some key items from the Mayo Clinic that they recommend as substitutions you can make in your meals.

Your guide to ingredient substitutions for healthy recipes
If your recipe calls for this ingredient: Try substituting this ingredient:
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 fats

Note: 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 goods

Note: 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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