Healthy Substitute Ideas:
- Black beans for flour: Swapping out flour for a can of black beans (drained and rinsed, of course) in brownies is a great way to cut out the gluten and fit in an extra dose of protein, Plus, they taste great. When baking, swap out 1 cup flour for 1 cup black bean puree (about a 15oz can).
- Whole wheat flour for white flour: In virtually any baked good, replacing white flour with whole wheat can add new nutrients, flavor, and texture. Whole wheat includes the outer shell of the grain, it also provides an extra punch of fiber, which aids in digestion and can even lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease. For every cup of white flour, substitute 7/8 cup of whole-wheat.
- Unsweetened applesauce for sugar: Using applesauce in place of sugar can give the necessary sweetness without the extra calories and, well, sugar. While one cup of unsweetened applesauce contains only about 100 calories, a cup of sugar can pack in more than 770 calories! This swap is perfect for oatmeal raisin cookies. Pro tip: You can sub sugar for apple sauce in a 1:1 ratio, but for every cup of applesauce you use, reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup.
- Unsweetened applesauce for oil or butter: Don’t knock this one till you’ve tried it. The applesauce gives the right consistency and a hint of sweetness without all the fat of oil or butter. This works well in any sweet bread, like banana or zucchini, or in muffins- and even with pre-boxed mixes! On your first try, only try swapping out half the fat (so a recipe using 1 cup of oil would use 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup applesauce). If you can't tell the difference with that swap, try swapping a bit more of the fat next time around.
- Almond flour for wheat flour: This gluten-free switch gives any baked good a dose of protein, omega-3s, and a delicious nutty flavor. A word of advice: almond flour is much heavier than other baking flours, so when subbing go 1/4 cup at a time (so 1 cup wheat flour would become 3/4 cup wheat flour and 1/4 cup almond flour). Or, if it's all or nothing for your recipe, remember to increase the amount of rising agent (by about 1/2 teaspoon per cup of almond flour added) to account for the extra weight.
- Avocado puree for butter: They’re both fats (albeit very different fats) and have nearly the same consistency at room temperature. The creaminess and subtle flavor of the avocado lends itself well to the texture of fudge brownies and dark chocolate flavorings. It can take some experimenting to get this swap perfect, but generally, using 1 cup of avocado puree per cup of butter works.
- Brown rice cereal with flax meal for Rice Crispies: Brown puffed rice has the same texture as conventional white rice, but with half the calories. The flax adds extra fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and phytochemicals to the mix without compromising flavor!
- Natural peanut butter for reduced-fat peanut butter: While they may appear better than traditional Skippy or Jiff, reduced fat versions of peanut butter can actually have more sugar — and an extra-long list of artificial additives— than the classics. Natural peanut butter (preferably unsalted) provides the same sweetness without call the extra junk.
- Vanilla for sugar: Cutting sugar in half and adding a teaspoon of vanilla as a replacement can give just as much flavor with significantly fewer calories. Assuming the recipe originally calls for one cup of sugar, that’s already almost 400 calories cut out! You can't sub this one in equal ratios, but next time you're whipping up some cookies, try cutting 2 tablespoons of sugar and adding an extra 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
- Mashed bananas for fats: The creamy, thickening-power of mashed (ripe!) banana acts the same as avocado in terms of replacing fat in baking recipes. The consistency is ideal, and the bananas add nutrients like potassium, fiber, and vitamin B6. One cup of mashed banana works perfectly in place of 1 cup or butter or oil!
- Meringue for frosting: Made from just egg whites and sugar, meringue can be a great fat-free substitution for traditional frosting. Feel like going a step further? Take a torch to it. Lightly charring the edges of the meringue can add a nice caramelized flavor. (Not to mention a cool visual effect!)
- Evaporated skim milk for cream: It's the same consistency with a fraction of the fat. Evaporated milk tends to have a bit more sugar (only about 2 grams), but the major drop in fat content is well worth the switch. This substitute is an even swap, too (1 cup cream = 1 cup evaporated milk)!
- Flax meal for eggs: Mix 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds (aka flax meal) with 3 tablespoons of warm water and whisk with a fork to combine. Let it sit in the fridge for 5-10 minutes before subbing for 1 egg in any baked recipe.
- Brown rice for white rice: When white rice is processed, the "brown" bran layer gets stripped away, cutting out essential nutrients (like fiber). Opt for brown rice for a fuller nutritional profile.
- Quinoa for couscous: While couscous is made from processed wheat flour, quinoa is a whole-grain superfood packed with protein and nutrients. Bonus points: They have almost the exact same texture.
- Zucchini ribbons for pasta: Thin strips or ribbons of zucchini are a great stand in for carb-packed pastas. Plus, it’s one excuse to skip the boiling-simply sautee for a few minutes until soft.
- Turnip mash for mashed potatoes: While one cup of mashed potatoes made with whole milk racks up about 180 calories (and that's before the inevitable salt and butter), a cup of mashed turnip (which doesn’t need milk or butter to get that creamy consistency) has only 51 calories. Add some fresh herbs in place of the salt and it’s a much healthier stand-in for classic mash.
- Rolled oats for breadcrumbs: While breadcrumbs can pack extra sodium, using rolled oats seasoned with herbs is a great way to sneak another whole grain into any meal.
- Two egg whites for one whole egg: One egg yolk holds more than half the recommended daily cholesterol for the average adult. Trading out the yolk for a second white will cut out the cholesterol while doubling the protein. If making a dish that requires more eggs, keep one to two yolks for their rich vitamins A, E, D, and K content, but consider swapping out the rest.
- Ground Turkey for ground beef: Ground turkey (or chicken) is a great substitute for ground beef to cut down on saturated fat and calories. Reminder: Because of the lower fat content, ground poultry often ends up drier than beef, but a few tablespoons of chicken stock can solve the problem in a snap!
- Quinoa and ground turkey for rice and ground beef (in stuffed peppers): More protein and antioxidants in the quinoa and less fat in the ground turkey make this an all-around healthier option for this popular side dish.
- Coconut milk for cream: Coconut milk is a great substitute for heavy cream in soups and stews. And don’t be turned off by the word “coconut” — it doesn’t taste like the sweetened shredded kind!
- 1. Spaghetti squash for pasta: Roasted and pulled apart with a fork, spaghetti squash is a great low-carb and lower-calorie substitute for pasta. One squash will make between two and three servings.
- Greek yogurt for sour cream: Half the fat and calories, yet the taste and texture are virtually identical. Nonfat Greek yogurt offers an extra dose of lean protein.
- Arugula, romaine, spinach, and/or kale for iceberg lettuce: All greens are not created equal. Darker greens usually mean more nutrients like iron, vitamin C, and antioxidants.
- Pita for bread: One 4-inch whole-wheat pita runs around 80 calories and only 1 gram of fat (these vary from brand to brand). Two slices of whole-wheat bread typically comes in at around 138 calories!
- Greek yogurt for mayo (in salads): Add some herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice, and they’ll taste almost identical. This swap saves on calories and fat.
- Lettuce leaves for tortilla wraps: It's not a perfect swap, but forgoing the carbs for fresh lettuce is a fun (and easy) switch that can lighten up any wrap or taco dish.
- Cauliflower puree for egg yolks (in deviled eggs): For that devilish Southern favorite-deviled eggs-try replacing half the yolks in the filling with cauliflower puree. The taste remains the same, as does the texture, but without the extra dose of cholesterol.
- Quinoa for oatmeal: Cooked with milk (cow, almond, whatever’s on hand) and some cinnamon, quinoa makes a perfect protein-packed hot breakfast.
- Kale chips for potato chips: When lightly tossed in olive oil and some seasoning (salt and pepper, paprika, or chili powder) and baked, these greens turn into a delightfully delicate crunchy snack with less fat than the classic fried potato chip.
- Dark chocolate for M&Ms (in trail mix): Trail mixes are packed with sugar-filled, candy-coated chocolate and dried fruit. Instead, make your own with unsalted nuts and dark chocolate bits (lower in sugar), which are high in free-radical-fighting flavonoids.
- Popcorn for potato chips: Lower in calories and fat, natural popcorn without pre-flavored seasonings is a great snack alternative to replace those oily, super-salty potato chips. Try home made flavors by adding cinnamon, chili powder, or Parmesan.
- Banana ice cream for ice cream: No milk, no cream, no sugar… but the same, delicious consistency. It’s simple: freeze bananas, then puree.
- 7. Sweet potato fries for French fries: Opting for sweet potatoes rather than the traditional white adds an extra dose of fiber, and vitamins A, C, and B6. Plus, it cuts out roughly 20 grams of carbohydrates per one-cup serving. Just don't overdo it!
- Seltzer water with citrus slice instead of soda: Instead of sugary sodas, opt for a glass of sparkling water with a few slices of citrus-grapefruit, lime, orange, and lemon all work well — for a little extra flavor.
- Cinnamon for cream and sugar (in coffee): Cutting out the cream and sugar in favor of a sprinkle of cinnamon can cut up to 70 calories per cup.
- Unsweetened iced tea for juice or bottled teas: Bottled teas, juices, and sports drinks are packed with sugar and calories. When in the mood for something icy with a little flavor, opt for a home-brewed, unsweetened iced tea.
- 4. Americano for latte: Just by cutting the milk out of that daily latte in favor of hot water, the calorie count drops by more than 150.
- Red wine for white wine: While white wine is usually lower in calories, red offers health benefits unmatched by the white stuff, including cancer-fighting compounds and natural cholesterol checks.
- Soda water for juice (as a mixer): Rum and coke. Cranberry and vodka. Sure, these sugary mixers take care of the inner sweet tooth. But try mixing liquor with soda water and a slice of fruit (or even just a splash of juice) and cuts down the sugar and calories.
- Soda water for tonic water: It’s clear and bubbly, just like soda water, but tonic water is full of sugar. Adding plain soda water and a pinch of lime gives almost the same taste with 32 grams less sugar per 12 ounces.