No one can deny that in today’s super-sized fast-food crazy world that it’s important to make sure that the meals you cook at home are healthy and balanced. You might be surprised, however, by how easy it is. With just a few simple cooking substitutions, you can significantly cut down on the calories and get a full helping of the vitamins and nutrients you need — and most of the items you need are probably in your kitchen already!
Check out some of the suggestions below:
1. Applesauce instead of sugar. Applesauce may seem like a strange substitute, but it has the right sweetness and consistency and can actually be used instead of butter and oil as well as sugar! Compared to a cup of sugar, a cup of unsweetened applesauce has about 600 calories less. That makes a huge difference!
2. Bananas instead of butter or oil. Similar to applesauce, mashed ripe bananas can easily replace butter. Not only are they super creamy, but they will make your baking moist and add a punch of vitamins and nutrients. It’s a great way to trick your body into eating more healthfully without losing much taste.
3. Black beans instead of flour. If you’re looking to cut gluten from a recipe like brownies, 1 cup of black beans can be subbed for 1 cup flour. This could also work in zucchini or other vegetable breads. (great example are the Spiced Chili Chocolate Cookies which use black beans as a substitute to flour)
4. Cauliflower for rice. While rice — especially brown rice — can be a good source of fiber, if you’re looking to either cut down on your carbs or just incorporate more veggies into your diet, steamed and grated cauliflower is an excellent substitute. It mimics the texture so much that you’ll never know the difference.
5. Pureed fruit instead of syrup. Fruit is naturally sweet and a great addition to pancakes or waffles instead of sugary syrup. Strawberries and blueberries are also beautiful colors, a nice surprise for breakfast guests.
6. Citrus juice for salt. Skip the salt on your salad, rice and meat and add a splash of lemon, lime or orange juice for more flavor in a healthy way. Citrus also helps promote immunity to help keep sickness at bay.
7. Cottage cheese instead of sour cream. Sour cream is full of fat. Cottage cheese not only has protein, but healthy fats, and has the same creamy texture to add to any dish. It makes a great replacement on a baked potato. Tasty too! You can also try using plain Greek yogurt for a closer texture to sour cream, you won’t even be able to tell the difference!
8. Pancetta or prosciutto instead of bacon. Bacon is well-known for being not that great for you, but most people would say it’s too good to resist. However if you do want to try out a substitute for the smoky flavor in a savory dish, try it’s Italian cousins, pancetta and prosciutto. For the same weight, their about half the calories and fat content.
9. Dark greens instead of iceberg lettuce. Dark greens include romaine, spinach, kale and arugula. While iceberg lettuce could still be considered healthy, darker greens are much higher in antioxidants, Vitamin C and iron. They will keep you full and aid your digestive system in staying regular.
10. Whole wheat bread instead of white. Whole wheat or Ezekiel bread can be subbed for the white especially when used for your kid’s lunch sandwiches, grilled cheese or French toast. Some grocery stores sell raisin cinnamon versions too that are great for breakfast or dessert.
As a bonus, here are a few healthy changes you can make to your favorite snacks that will still deliver the great midday flavor and satisfaction.
- Carrot sticks or kale chips instead of potato chips. Carrot sticks have that sneaky little crunch that most people crave when they want potato chips. You can also cut up small pieces of kale and bake it, add a tiny bit of salt and have a low-fat, low-calorie alternative.
- Dark chocolate instead of packaged candy. Let’s be honest, we all have sweet cravings sometimes. Dark chocolate increases blood flow in the body, which is good for your heart and brain. It may increase brain function too. A small piece of dark chocolate is a great treat on a stressful afternoon.
- Banana instead of ice cream. Blended frozen bananas have a secret super power of turning into an awesome ice cream. Add a few chocolate chips for fun!
About the author:
Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer in the Los Angeles area. Her writing focuses on online marketing, technology, as well as healthy living. Her New Year’s Resolution is to learn to cook healthier, more eco-friendly meals for her family.