Switch Ingredients to Cut Calories and Boost Nutrition
By Carolyn Richardson
When you’re cooking at home, there are ways you can substitute ingredients to improve your diet without sabotaging your taste buds. If you are trying to get to 100% for the essential vitamins and minerals in your Calorie Count Nutritional Analysis, then you have to eat smart. These ten ingredient replacements will help you get there.
Replace Sour Cream with Fat-Free Greek Yogurt
If you have yet to go Greek, now’s the time. There’s no huge difference in taste between the two (except that Greek yogurt actually tastes better) but, of course, the high fat content of sour cream gives it the smooth texture we don’t want to give up. Have both taste and texture by simply replacing that dollop of Daisy with twice as much non-fat Greek yogurt. You just subtracted 5 grams of fat from your daily diet.
Replace a Portion of Meat with Lentils
While protein is great, the truth is many of us eat more than the recommended daily 3-4 ounce serving. To fill up that taco or round out those meatballs, add half a cup of steamed lentils to your ground beef or turkey mixture and add 7 grams of iron and 8 grams of fiber to your recipe. By foregoing ground beef for about the same amount of lentils, you saved 111 calories and almost 15 grams of fat.
Replace Enriched Pasta with Whole Wheat Pasta
Sure it’s infused with most of the vitamins and minerals it loses when processed, but enriched pasta can’t hold a candlestick to whole wheat pasta. With 4 more grams of fiber per serving and 50 less calories, whole wheat wins the ‘what’s more healthy debate’ hands down. The naturally occurring selenium and magnesium in whole wheat pasta is an added bonus.
Replace White Rice with Quinoa
Just because you can’t pronounce it doesn’t mean it’s not good for you. Replacing processed white rice with quinoa will afford you a balanced set of amino acids making it one of only a few vegetable sources of complete protein. It is higher in iron, calcium and phosphorus than white rice as well. To get your quinoa mojo in gear, try this New York Times recipe for stir-fry vegetables with quinoa.
Replace Light Cream with Evaporated Skim Milk
There’s nothing light about light cream or what many of us know as coffee cream. Even if you only use a tablespoon or two, about 30 to 60 calories respectively, opt to make your bitter black coffee creamier by using evaporated skim milk instead. Evaporated skim milk adds calcium, potassium and Vitamin D to soups, sauces, casseroles, and desserts. For every tablespoon you exchange, you’ll save 3 grams of fat and add 2 grams of protein.
Replace Shortening with Applesauce or Prune Puree
Instead of butter, margarine, shortening, or oil in baked goods, use applesauce or prune puree for half of the called-for fats. Fruit purees have no fat and no unhealthy trans fats. And while butter gets a bad reputation, consider the fact that hydrogenated margarine has trans fats too. You’re better safe with the fruit. Sunsweet’s Lighter Bake, a product found in the baking aisle at the grocery store, can replace ALL of the fat and oil in baked goods recipes. And trans fat aren’t the only thing you’ll lose by making the switch. Take the bonus 79 calories per tablespoon and save them for another meal.
Replace Butter with Olive Oil
Many of you know better, but this is for those who are getting an F when they add butter to their food log. While the calorie count and fat grams are virtually the same, the saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol in butter makes it better left on the shelf. Olive oil’s antioxidants, Vitamin E and phenols make it even better. Here’s a great substitution chart to ensure your recipes come out right the first time.
Replace Cheese with Avocado
Homemade sandwiches, salads, pizzas, and eggs no longer have to be a slave to cheese. Look up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane! No, it’s avocado, coming to save the day. A refreshing replacement for cheese, it’s a healthy fat that has become a not-so-guilty pleasure. Whether you replace it entirely or mix in avocado to lessen the amount of cheese in a recipe, you are doing yourself a favor. The sodium and unacceptable amount of saturated fat are a big stop sign. But the green thing with a big seed is a go with its potassium and fiber. And so you know, it’s half the calories.
Replace Fruit Juice with Green Juice
Even fresh-squeezed juice in excessive amounts can pack a sugar overload that your body would do better without. Instead go for green juice. One cup of Trader Joe’s Organic Carrots and Greens Juice has a third less carbs and calories than a cup of apple juice. But the big draw is potassium. One green drink blend has 750 mg of potassium, almost 20% of your daily intake. To get a good start, check out these green juice recipes.
Replace Potato Chips with Whole-grain Pita Chips
Opt for baked whole grain pita chips instead of the quick snack staple of potato chips. While many have similar flavors to potato chips, they also carry less calories and sodium. Be careful however, all pita chips are not created equal. Go for whole-grain and baked pita chips. The extra 4 grams of fiber will keep you regular.
Modifying Existing Recipes
Not sure what to change out of a recipe to make it healthier? Use the Calorie Count Recipe Analyzer to get the numbers where you need them. Simply list your ingredients and the number of servings it yields, and voila, your grandmother’s pound cake has an accurate calorie count. By always looking for nutritional value in each ingredient, you can’t go wrong.
What foods and ingredients do you swap for healthier versions?