When it comes to food, we tend to have polarizing thoughts. One part of us wants to eat healthy, but the other part of us just really wants that brownie. Well, I have good news for our polarized brains: you can have it all.
By using recipe substitutions, you can have your cake and eat it too (literally). The following are some substitutions you can use in your baking and cooking to turn a “splurge” food into a healthier food!
- Black beans for flour - This swap is great for getting in extra protein and fiber. When baking, swap out 1 cup flour for 1 cup black bean puree (about a 15 oz can)
- Unsweetened applesauce for oil or butter - Use this swap to lower saturated fat and calories. Use in a 1:1 ratio
- Avocado puree for butter - Lowers artery clogging saturated fat and increases healthy monounsaturated fat. 1 cup of avocado puree per cup of butter
- Vanilla for sugar - Cut sugar and calories. Cut 2 Tbsp. of sugar per recipe and add an extra 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- Mashed bananas for fats - Add potassium, fiber, vitamin B6 and cut fat. One cup of mashed banana in place of 1 cup or butter or oil.
- Zucchini ribbons (or spiralized zucchini) for pasta - Adds fiber and skimps on calories and carbs
- Turnip mash for mashed potatoes - 1 cup mashed potatoes made with whole milk (no butter) = 180 calories. 1 cup of mashed turnip (no butter) = 50 calories
- Grated steamed cauliflower for rice - Cut both calories and carbs with this switch
- Rolled oats for breadcrumbs - Add whole grains and fiber. Spice up the oats with herbs
- Crushed flax or fiber cereal for bread crumbs - Use for a higher fiber, lower sodium dish. Mix with herbs
- Spaghetti squash for pasta - Great low-carb and lower-calorie substitute for pasta. One squash will make between two and three servings. Roast and pull apart with a fork
- Lettuce leaves for tortilla wraps - Lower carbs and calories.
- Two egg whites for one whole egg - Cuts the cholesterol and reduces calories in half
- Greek yogurt for sour cream or mayo - Half the fat and calories, extra lean protein. 1:1 exchange ratio. Add herbs and lemon juice if using for mayo
- Herbs or citrus juice for salt - Increase antioxidants and decrease sodium.
- Cinnamon for sugar - Can cut calories and add antioxidants. Try cutting sugar in half and adding 2-3 tsp extra cinnamon
The following are recipes which use some of the above food substitutions:
Black Bean Brownies
- 1 15 oz. can black beans, well rinsed and drained
- 2 large eggs
- 3 Tbsp canola oil (or sub other oil of choice)
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1.5 tsp baking powder
- Optional toppings or add-ins: crushed nuts or semisweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Lightly grease an 8x8 pan.
- Combine all ingredients (besides toppings or add-ins) in food processor and puree - about 3 minutes - scraping down sides as needed. Blend until completely smooth.
- Optional: Stir in add-ins.
- Pour into prepared pan.
- Optional: Sprinkle top with crushed nuts or chocolate chips.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the edges start to pull away from the sides.
- Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before cutting.
- Refrigerate in an air tight container.
Calories: 165 Fat: 7 g Carbohydrates: 24 g Sugar: 11 g Sodium: 108 mg Fiber: 6 g Protein: 6 g
2 Ingredient Cookies
- 3 ripe bananas
- 1 3/4 cup rolled oats
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
- 1/4 cup chocolate chips or cacao nibs (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Mash bananas in a large bowl until you achieve a smooth consistency.
- Add in oats (and any of the other optional ingredients).
- Mix well and spoon onto greased cookie sheet.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes or until browned and cooked through.
Servings: 12 (without chocolate chips)
Calories: 70 Fat: 1 g Carbohydrates: 15 g Sugar: 4 g Sodium: 0 mg Fiber: 2 g Protein: 2 g
- 1 medium sized cauliflower
- 4 Tablespoons flour of choice (I used chickpea flour)
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease pan or lay silpat or parchment paper onto pan.
- Cut cauliflower into large florets and pulse in food processor until rice consistency. Do this in batches until all has been pulsed.
- In a bowl, combine the rest of ingredients.
- Make 4-5 evenly sized balls and place onto prepared pan. Press each down slightly.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes. Let cool before slicing in half.
- Broil on high, sliced side up, for 3-5 minutes to ensure that they are crispy and better stick together.
- Serve with filling of your choice (or just eat it by itself!).
Calories: 100 Fat: 3 g Carbohydrates: 12 g Sugar: 5 g Sodium: 93 mg Fiber: 5 g Protein: 7 g
- 1 + 1/2 ripe California Avocado, peeled and flesh removed from pit
- 1/3 cup quality cocoa powder (100% pure cacao)
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup or honey
- 1/4 cup light coconut milk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.
Calories: 220 Fat: 13 g Carbohydrates: 35 g Sugar: 25 g Sodium: 390 mg Fiber: 7 g Protein: 3 g
- 1 cup yellow onions, small dice
- 1 cup carrots, large dice
- 1 cup red bell pepper, large dice
- 1 cup summer squash
- 8 ounces chicken breast, cubed
- 1 T fresh garlic, minced
- 1 T. fresh ginger, minced
- 2 T. Thai yellow curry paste
- 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken both
- 1/2 cup fat-free yogurt
- 2 t. coconut extract
- 2 t. arrowroot (mixed with 2 t. cold water)
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
- 1/4 cup fresh basil
- 1 cup kale
- 1 cup spinach
- 2 cups cooked brown rice
- In a medium greased sauce pot, add chicken, garlic and ginger and cook for 5 minutes.
- Then, add the onions, carrots, bell peppers and squash. Sauté until onions become translucent and other veggies become tender.
- Add curry paste and cook for 5 more minutes stirring frequently.
- Deglaze with vinegar, reduce by half.
- Add chicken broth and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Whisk in arrowroot and finish with yogurt, fresh basil and cilantro.
- Serve over rice with a side of greens, or mix greens into rice and serve hot!
Calories: 130 Fat: 3 g Carbohydrates: 14 g Sugar: 1 g Sodium: 147 mg Fiber: 1 g Protein: 10 g
Lauren Ott, RD is a registered dietitian at the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. Check out her website www.thedessertdietitian.com or follow her Facebook page and Instagram @thedessertdietitian for nutrition tips!