Easy Healthy Recipe Substitutions

Easy Healthy Recipe Substitutions

With these quick and easy ingredient substitutions, cooking heart-healthfully doesn't have to be a chore.

By Mindy Hermann, R.D., and Sara Broek

Use Baby Prunes, Not Butter

When your recipe calls for: butter, margarine, or oil 

Use this ingredient instead: baby prunes 

Best used for: brownies, dark quick breads

Why substitute? Substituting baby prunes for oil and butter cuts more than half the fat and calories.

Tips on making the switch: The color of the prunes will change the batter color, so use this swap when baking dark breads or brownies. The recipe will bake up denser and have more moisture. Also, be sure to snip the tips of the prunes and finely chop them for the recipe.

Use Mini Chocolate Chips, Not Chocolate Chunks

When your recipe calls for: milk chocolate chunks 
Use this ingredient instead: 1/2 the amount of mini milk chocolate chips or finely chopped dark chocolate 

Best used for: baking

Why substitute? Using mini chocolate chips means that every bite still has the sweet flavor, but by using less overall you cut the calories. If you sub dark chocolate (with 70 percent cocoa and cocoa powder) you gain flavonoids that help keep blood vessels clear and flowing. Dark chocolate also can increase levels of HDL, or "good" cholesterol, by up to 10 percent, according to a 2006 study in Finland.

Use Low-Fat Yogurt and Cottage Cheese, Not Sour Cream

When your recipe calls for: sour cream
Use this ingredient instead: equal parts low-fat yogurt and low-fat no-salt-added cottage cheese 

Best used for: dips, salad dressings

Why substitute? The combination of the yogurt and cottage cheese gives your recipe lower fat content with the same consistency. If you choose the no-salt added cottage cheese, your dip will also be lower in sodium.

Tip on making the switch: Puree the yogurt and cottage cheese in a blender for a smooth consistency.

Use Marshmallow Creme, Not Butter

When your recipe calls for: butter or margarine 
Use this ingredient instead: marshmallow creme 

Best used for: Frosting

Why substitute? One serving of marshmallow creme has no fat or cholesterol, compared with the 11.5 grams of fat and 31 mg of cholesterol in one serving of butter. Using the marshmallow creme will also give your frosting a sweetened taste and thicker consistency.

*Note: The marshmallow creme will significantly sweeten the recipe. Add the creme gradually and taste it as you go. You may not need the entire measurement of creme.

Use Lean Ground Turkey, Not Ground Beef

When your recipe calls for: ground beef 
Use this ingredient instead: lean ground turkey breast or meatless crumbles 

Best used for: meat sauces, burgers, meat loaves, tacos

Why substitute? Ground turkey breast has less fat than beef. Meatless crumbles are a great vegetarian substitution; they also have four times less fat and zero cholesterol.

Burgers will pack more tightly and are less likely to crumble when using a 1/2 ground beef, 1/2 lean ground turkey breast ratio.

Use Evaporated Skim Milk, Not Heavy Cream

When your recipe calls for: heavy cream 
Use this ingredient instead: evaporated skim milk 
Best used for: custards, desserts 

Why substitute? Use evaporated skim milk to remove the fat and calories of heavy cream while maintaining the consistency.

Use Applesauce and Buttermilk, Not Butter

When your recipe calls for: vegetable oil, butter, or margarine 
Use this ingredient instead: 1/2 applesauce and 1/2 buttermilk 
Best used for: muffins, quick breads, cakes from mix 
Why substitute? According to the USDA, 1/2 cup of salted butter contains roughly 900 calories and 92 grams of fat, while a 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce contains about 50 calories and zero grams of fat. 

Tips on making the switch: Use a standard liquid measuring cup and add the applesauce with the liquid ingredients. Reduce the amount of added sugar in the recipe if the applesauce is sweetened. Try not to overbake recipes; low-fat recipes tend to dry out when overbaked. 

Use Fat-Free Ricotta Cheese, Not Cream Cheese

When your recipe calls for: cream cheese
Use this ingredient instead: fat-free ricotta cheese or yogurt cheese* 
Why Substitute? Fat-free ricotta cheese has less sodium than cream cheese. Yogurt cheese has the tang and texture of a soft cream cheese, but it's a healthier option. A tablespoon of cream cheese has 50 calories and 5 grams of fat. A tablespoon of yogurt cheese (made from nonfat yogurt) has 11 calories and no fat. And it can be easily made at home. 

*To make yogurt cheese:

1. Line a coffee filter or strainer with cheesecloth.
2. Spoon in plain low-fat or fat-free yogurt.
3. Place over a bowl and refrigerate for several hours.
4. The whey will drain off and yogurt will thicken—the longer you leave it in, the thicker it will become. 

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