Easy, Healthy Ingredient Substitutions

Healthy cooking can be easy and delicious! Try these simple substitutions to turn your favorite recipes into healthy foods your whole family will love (and likely not notice any difference!).

1. Black beans subbed for flour
Substitute equal amounts of white flour for cooked black beans that have been rinsed, drained and pureed. This will save you a bunch of calories while giving you an extra boost of protein and fiber to make your recipe more satisfying. This recipe substitution works particularly well in brownies.

Wheat-Flour2. Whole wheat flour subbed for white flour
There is no nutritional purpose for white flour besides providing empty carbohydrates. Whole wheat flour offers more fiber and protein compared to all-purpose flour but can make your baked foods denser and heavier. Try these tricks to become a whole wheat fan:

  • Use 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour to replace 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Reduce the butter by one-fifth when making cookies with whole wheat flour
  • Add 1-2 tablespoons of liquid when baking a cake with wheat flour
  • Add 1/4 cup of liquid to prepare whole wheat bread
  • Try white whole wheat flour to add fiber and maintain a similar texture to all-purpose flour

3. Unsweetened applesauce subbed for butter or oil
It is often best to combine applesauce with buttermilk to replace oil. Substitute 1/2 cup of vegetable oil with 1/4 cup applesauce and 1/4 buttermilk for the perfect consistency. This is an excellent way to add moisture and flavor to baked goods while decreasing the calories and fat!

mashed bananas

4. Mashed bananas subbed for fat
Swap out 1 cup of oil or butter for 1 cup of creamy, mashed bananas. This consistency is spot-on and provides your recipes with some thickening power and added nutrients like fiber, potassium and vitamin B6.

5. Vanilla subbed for sugar
Most baking recipes are not hindered by cutting the sugar in half. Using 1/2 cup sugar instead of 1 cup will save your waistline 400 calories. If you’re worried about the taste suffering a tad from the sugar shortage, then add a teaspoon of vanilla to bring back some flavor without the calorie cost. Try other flavor enhancers like cinnamon or nutmeg.

greek yogurt6. Greek yogurt subbed for sour cream or mayonnaise
The consistency of nonfat Greek yogurt compared to sour cream or mayonnaise is practically the same. Use this substitute in baking recipes and start using Greek yogurt on top of baked potatoes, soups and in dips. Swap out the mayonnaise in salads like tuna, potato and chicken salad for the much healthier and equally creamy Greek yogurt. Nonfat Greek yogurt will save you from those unwanted calories and grams of saturated fat while providing some extra protein, calcium and probiotics!

7. Pureed Prunes or fruit puree subbed for fats
Replace butter, oil or margarine with pureed prunes to turn batter into a dark chocolate shade with less calories and more fiber. This ingredient swap works best in dark quick breads and brownies. Prunes will make your baked product more dense and moist. Try replacing only half of the oil with pureed prunes and then work your way up to get accustomed to the flavor.

chia seeds

8. Chia seeds subbed for butter OR eggs
It’s easy to make some recipes vegan by substituting the eggs with chia seeds. For a 1-to-1 egg substitute try combining 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 1 cup of water and let it sit for 15 minutes to reach the perfect consistency. It is also possible to substitute half of the fat in a recipe with chia seeds by mixing 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 9 tablespoons of water. This mixture forms the perfect gel in about 15 minutes that can easily replace half of the fat. For optimal results, don’t substitute BOTH eggs and butter for chia seeds in the same recipe!

9. Flax meal subbed for eggs
A tried-and-true vegan trick is to whisk together 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds with 3 tablespoons of warm water. Let the mixture sit in the refrigerator 5-10 minutes before adding it your recipe in place of one egg. Add more flax meal and water according to the number of eggs in the recipe.

10. Brown sugar blend subbed for brown sugar
Cut your calories and carbohydrates in half by swapping regular brown sugar with Splenda’s brown sugar blend. Your oatmeal and cookies won’t notice the difference. This brown sugar blend provides the same browning, rising, chewiness and molasses-like flavor as brown sugar but with half the calories and carbohydrates. Just use 1/2 cup of the brown sugar blend to replace one cup of regular brown sugar.


11. Stevia subbed for sugar
This no-calorie sweetener can be used in beverages, baked goods and other recipes to add sweetness without the guilt. Stevia is 300 times sweeter than regular sugar and doesn’t spike your blood glucose levels. However, this marvelous sweetener may induce sticker-shock since it often costs up to five times more than other sugar substitutes (look for coupons!). Luckily it can last for months, and it’s sweeter than sugar so you don’t have to use quite as much.

mini chocolate chips

12. Mini chocolate chips subbed for chocolate chunks or chips
Using smaller chips allows you to cut the amount in half while still tasting the sweet chocolaty flavor in every bite. Choose dark chocolate chips (with at 70% cocoa) to add in some antioxidant-rich flavonoids to your recipe.

13. Marshmallow crème subbed for butter
Switch out the butter in a frosting recipe for marshmallow crème. Two tablespoons of marshmallow crème has no fat or cholesterol and only 40 calories, while the same amount of butter provides over 200 calories and 23 grams of total fat.

14. Oatmeal or crushed cereal instead of breadcrumbs
Bread crumbs are often used as coatings for fish, chicken and casserole dishes. Substituting breadcrumbs for oatmeal or crushed cereal will give you a crunchier coating with fewer calories and more fiber. Bran flakes or shredded wheat are perfect cereals to crush and coat.

15. Fat-free evaporated milk subbed for heavy cream
Canned unsweetened skim milk provides a similar consistency to heavy cream but with 620 less calories and 88 grams less fat per cup – definitely a no-brainer substitute. This is best used in desserts and custard recipes. Do not use this recipe substitute for whipped dessert toppings since evaporated milk doesn’t double in size compared to cream.

skim milk

16. Skim milk subbed for whole milk
Skim off 70 calories and 5 grams of saturated fat by switching from whole milk to nonfat milk. Your taste buds are less likely to notice the difference when making this switch in recipes despite the noticeable difference of these two types of milk when drinking it straight from the carton. Though this swap may slightly affect the richness of your recipe, the skim milk substitute will give you a little more protein and calcium for less calories.

Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.

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