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Ingredient substitutions: Make the switch for healthier recipes
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You stock healthy foods in your pantry, but what do you do with them? And how do you modify favorite family recipes so that they're more in line with your healthy-eating plan? It's not as hard as you may think. The key is to incorporate healthier alternatives into your daily eating routine.

Fat and cholesterol

To reduce the amount of fat and cholesterol
If your recipe calls for: Try substituting:
Bacon Canadian bacon, turkey bacon, smoked turkey or lean prosciutto (Italian ham)
Butter, margarine, shortening or oil in baked goods

Applesauce or prune puree for half of the called-for butter, shortening or oil

Note: To avoid dense, soggy or flat baked goods, don't substitute oil for butter or shortening, and 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
Creamed soups Fat-free milk-based soups, mashed potato flakes, or pureed carrots, potatoes or tofu for thickening agents
Eggs Two egg whites or 1/4 cup egg substitute for each whole egg
Evaporated milk Evaporated skim milk
Full-fat cream cheese Fat-free or low-fat cream cheese, Neufchatel or low-fat cottage cheese pureed until smooth
Full-fat sour cream Fat-free plain yogurt, or fat-free or low-fat sour cream
Ground beef Extra-lean or lean ground beef, chicken or turkey
Mayonnaise Reduced-calorie mayonnaise-type salad dressing or reduced-calorie, reduced-fat mayonnaise
Oil-based marinades Wine, balsamic vinegar, fruit juice or fat-free broth
Salad dressing Fat-free or reduced-calorie dressing or flavored vinegars
Whole milk Reduced-fat or fat-free milk


To reduce the amount of sodium
If your recipe calls for: Try substituting:
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 garlic, celery or onions
Soups, sauces, dressings, crackers, or canned meat, fish or vegetables Low-sodium or reduced-sodium versions
Soy sauce Sweet-and-sour sauce, hot mustard sauce or low-sodium soy sauce
Table salt Herbs, spices, fruit juices or salt-free seasoning mixes or herb blends


To reduce the amount of sugar
If your recipe calls for: Try substituting:
Fruit canned in heavy syrup Fruit canned in its own juices or in water, or fresh fruit
Fruit-flavored yogurt Plain yogurt with fresh fruit slices
Syrup Pureed fruit, such as applesauce, or low-calorie, sugar-free syrup

Other nutrients

To increase the amount of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and fiber
If your recipe calls for: Try substituting:
All-purpose (plain) flour Whole-wheat flour for half of the called-for all-purpose flour
Dry bread crumbs Rolled oats or crushed bran cereal
Enriched pasta Whole-wheat pasta
Iceberg lettuce Arugula, chicory, collard greens, dandelion greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach or watercress
Meat as the main ingredient Three times as many vegetables as the meat on pizzas or in casseroles, soups and stews
White bread Whole-wheat bread
White rice Brown rice, wild rice, bulgur or pearl barley

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  • A course on cookbooks: How to select one that suits your needs
  • November 17, 2006

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