Eight Healthy Cooking Substitutions to Jump Start a Healthy Diet

Changing cooking habits can be a bit intimidating.  You mean I have to read the recipe to find out how to do it?  What in the world is that ingredient?  What if I don’t like it, or what if the kids don’t like it??  My head might explode if I have to learn a new habit!

Vegetables add color, nutrition, and flavor to meals.

Vegetables add color, nutrition, and flavor to meals.

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

No, really, your head won’t explode.  If you are trying to move toward a healthier diet, the first baby step to take is exchanging unhealthy ingredients for healthier alternatives.  Here are a few healthy substitutions you can make and start to feel good about what you’re eating.

  1. All flours are not created equal.  There isn’t anything of redeeming value in white flour, so begin with substituting wheat flour.  There are different kinds of wheat flour, but for baking start with White Whole Wheat Flour.  King Arthur is a good brand found in many stores or online.
  2. Sugar does more than sweeten the pot.  It decays your teeth, spikes your blood sugar, and inhibits your immune systems.  Substitute sugar in baked goods with unsweetened applesauce.  It adds a little extra moistness to baked goods with no change in flavor.
  3. Brown rice has more fiber than white rice and a better flavor.  When used in a recipe, you won’t be able to tell the difference.
  4. Use rolled oats or Rice Krispies, rather than breadcrumbs, as a filler for things like meatloaf.  Both are lower in sodium than bread.  I also use crushed Rice Krispies as a coating for chicken tenders.
  5. Ground turkey is lower in fat than ground beef and is less expensive.  In most recipes, you cannot tell the difference, though there is a nominal change in texture.  Make sure you season the turkey as you’re browning it.
  6. Pick any other kind of lettuce over iceberg.  The darker green of spinach, kale, arugula, and leaf lettuce indicates a better nutrient content.  Iceberg is pale and has a high water content.
  7. Plain yogurt serves as an excellent substitute for sour cream in just about anything.  Less fat and calories but the same taste and texture.
  8. Use olive oil or coconut oil for butter or margarine.  Both are lower in unhealthy saturated fats and higher in healthy fatty acids than butter or margarine.

I have made many changes in our diet over the years, and we eat vastly different than we did 10 or even five years ago.  I started with making substitutions in our normal recipes, then moved on to more challenging changes, like adding new foods and axing bad (as in unhealthy) recipes.  Every change has not been a winner, but it’s important to keep trying.

Don’t get discouraged with trying to eat healthier or overwhelmed at all the new food choices.  Just start somewhere and make a change today.



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