Want to eat healthier, but don’t want to sacrifice taste? You are not alone. As a Fitness professional, also being a Foodie presents a challenging balancing act. However, countless hours of work in the kitchen and a ravenous passion for reading and then experimenting, has helped me develop skillful food substitutes to balance out taste and nutrition.  Here are my top cooking and baking substitutes:

Greek Yogurt: The versatility of Greek Yogurt as a food substitute is powerful. Greek Yogurt provides a healthier alternative to Heavy Cream or Sour Cream from dessert recipes (think Cheesecake and Pumpkin Pie) to Appetizers and Main Dish Recipes including Soups, Dips, and Mashed Potatoes.  In baking, it can help as a substitute for Butter in Muffins, Loaves, and even Cookies.  

Apple Sauce: Primarily used as a substitute in baking, Apple Sauce can cut down on the amount of Butter and Sugar you may require in various Muffin, Loaf, Cake, and Cookie recipes. It can also act as a substitute for oil in the same type of recipes.

Lean Meat Cuts: To be successful at this substitute it is extraordinarily helpful to become friendly with your local butcher. Any leaner cut of meat can allow you to balance flavor, texture, and nutrition, and your butcher can likely highlight pointers on preparing such leaner cuts. This is a simple example, but Lean Ground Turkey is my favorite substitute for even Lean Ground Beef when it comes to prepping Tacos, Chili, or even Tex-Mex style salads. Even the leanest choices of Beef are approximately 50 calories per serving higher than Lean Ground Turkey.

Herbs and Spices: To cut down on Salt, try flavoring food with a variety of Herbs and Spices such as: Rosemary, Oregano, Basil, Paprika, Chili Powder, Cayenne Pepper, Ginger, Nutmeg, and countless others. Moreover, fresh grated or minced Garlic provides numerous health benefits, while adding excellent flavor to Vegetables, Meat, Poultry, Sauces, Soups, and other main or side dishes.

Lemon and Lime Juice: Yes, it is true that there are a variety of Oils (think Olive Oil, Flax Seed Oil, etc.) that contain healthy fats in the form of Omega-3 fatty acids, but one must remember that although it is a healthy fat, the calories still count. As such, when making salad dressings, sauces, and marinades both Lemon and Lime juice can cut down on the amount of oil you need to use to achieve the amount and flavor that is desired.

It is important to have an open mind when experimenting with food substitutes and recognize that recipes may not taste exactly the way they would with higher fat, salt, and sugar content. Let’s face it, frankly butter, oil, sugar, and salt do help food taste good; however, over the long-run it is not worth the unhealthy side effects that can result from an excess of these types of ingredients. Try substitutes, play with your recipes and keep notes on what works and what doesn’t. Bon appetit!

Banana Bread Made with Applesauce and Greek Yogurt
Credit: FitGroove Fitness
Spaghetti Sauce with Lean Ground Turkey
Credit: FitGroove Fitness