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reviewed 7/19/2018

Recipe Makeover

Healthy substitutions for common ingredients

Cooking healthy doesn't always mean giving up the foods you like. Try these simple substitutions in your favorite recipes.

All-purpose flour

The refining process removes dietary fiber and other nutrients. Replace with:

  • Whole-wheat flour (make at least half your grains whole grains).

Chocolate chips

To reduce saturated fat and calories, replace with:

  • Chopped dried fruit.
  • Half the amount of chocolate chips called for—try using minis.
  • Salt

To reduce sodium, replace with:

  • Herbs and spices.
  • Citrus juice.
  • Flavored vinegars.

Sugar

To reduce added sugar and calories, replace with:

  • Low-calorie sugar substitutes, such as acesulfame K.
  • Almond, vanilla, orange or lemon extract.
  • Ginger, allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg.

Whole eggs

To reduce calories and cholesterol, replace with:

  • 2 egg whites.
  • ¼ cup liquid egg substitute.

Pastry pie crust

To reduce saturated fat, replace with:

  • Phyllo crust.
  • Graham cracker crust.

Regular butter

To reduce saturated fat, replace with:

  • Nonfat cream cheese (for baking).
  • Applesauce (for baking).
  • Mashed bananas (for baking).
  • Chicken or vegetable broth (for sautéing).

Ground beef (less than 90% lean)

To reduce saturated fat and calories, replace with:

  • Extra-lean (more than 95% lean) ground beef.
  • Ground turkey.

Sour cream

To reduce saturated fat and calories, replace with:

  • Plain low-fat yogurt.
  • Reduced-fat or fat-free sour cream.

Cheddar cheese

To reduce saturated fat and calories, replace with:

  • 2 tablespoons grates Parmesan (per 1 ounce).
  • Low-fat cheddar.

Heavy cream

To reduce saturated fat and calories, replace with:

  • Evaporated fat-free milk (try it in baked goods and soups).

Whole milk

To reduce saturated fat and calories, replace with:

  • Low-fat, reduced-fat, or fat-free milk.
  • Fat-free milk with 1 tablespoon liquid vegetables oil (per cup of milk).

Coffee creamer or nondairy creamer

To reduce saturated fat and calories, replace with:

  • Low-fat or reduced-fat milk.
  • Fat-free dry milk powder.

Check the label

Experimenting with recipe substitutions is one way to pursue a healthier diet. Another method: Compare the nutrition labels on different brands. You might find that one is healthier than the other.

How to read a food label

Sources: American Heart Association; American Institute of Cancer Research; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Agriculture

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