Health Plus

With a few easy substitutions, any recipe can be reduced in unhealthy fats, added sugars, and calories, while being increased in vital nutrients the body needs. Your favorite recipes can be healthier, while keeping their delicious flavor. Some substitutions may even enhance the flavor!

General Cooking Tips

  • Instead of frying, try baking, grilling, or boiling
  • Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products
  • Choose salad dressings and condiments that are low in saturated fat and sugar
  • Choose lean meats like turkey or chicken without skin, or trim the skin and fat before cooking
  • Choose whole grain products over more processed and refined products
  • Use healthy oils while cooking, such as olive oil, canola oil, nut, and seed oils
  • For canned items and broths, choose low-sodium or no salt added

Baking & Cooking Substitutions

Instead of:

Substitute (choose one option):

1 cup heavy cream 1 cup evaporated skim milk ½ cup plain Greek yogurt ½ cup plain low-fat cottage cheese
½ cup butter (1 stick) ½ cup canola oil ¼ cup mashed avocado + ¼ cup butter ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce + ¼ cup butter ½ cup mashed banana
1 egg 2 egg whites ¼ cup liquid egg substitute 1 tablespoon flax meal + 3 tablespoons water (microwave for about 20 seconds and let mixture rest to thicken)
1 cup all-purpose white flour ½ cup whole-wheat + ½ cup white flour
Sugar Reduce by ½ and add cinnamon, nutmeg and/or vanilla Replace sugar with equal amounts fruit (pureed dates or prunes) Applesauce (1:1 ratio and reduce other liquid by ¼ cup)
Syrup Pureed fruit No sugar added fruit jam Applesauce Sugar-free syrup
Pasta Spaghetti squash Zucchini ribbons
Breadcrumbs Whole grain rolled oats Crushed whole-grain cereal
Rice Grated, steamed cauliflower
Flour tortilla Corn tortilla Lettuce/collard leaves
Table salt Herbs, spices, lemon juice, rice vinegar, salt-free seasoning mixes & blends
Heavy cream in soups Pureed beans Tofu Pureed carrot, broccoli, cauliflower

Not all substitutions work perfectly, especially the first time you experiment. Making substitutions should be a trial and error process that allows you to find what works best for you. Substitutions can also change the consistency and texture of a recipe, so don't be alarmed if the product doesn't look exactly like the original.

Go Meatless!

Another easy substitution to cut back on saturated fat and extra calories (as well as cost) is to go meatless for at least one meal each week. Using beans and lentils as your primary protein sources is a great place to start. Example: Red and Black Bean Burgers Recipe by: Alice Randall (from Soul Food Love) Serves: 6 Ingredients 1 medium red onion, chopped 1 garlic clove, chopped 1 (16 ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained 1 (16 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained 1 cup rolled oats ½ tablespoon dried oregano 1 teaspoon chili powder 1 teaspoon paprika Salt and pepper, to taste Directions

  1. In a small skillet, cook the onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, mix together the red and black beans, rolled oats, oregano, chili powder, and paprika in a large mixing bowl, using a heavy wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Make sure the spices get evenly distributed throughout, then start smashing enough of the beans so that the mixture will hold together to form a patty.
  4. Incorporate the onion mixture into the bean mixture. Form into 6 (3/4-inch-thick) patties.
  5. To cook the burgers, slick the skillet with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and heat over medium-heat heat. Cook the burgers until the oats begin to crisp, about 6 minutes per side. Serve hot.

Nutrition information per serving (1 patty):

  • 222 calories
  • 2 g total fat (0 g saturated fat)
  • 579 mg sodium
  • 43 g total carbohydrate
  • 13 g fiber
  • 8 g sugar
  • 11 g protein


Select one of your favorite recipes this week and prepare it using a healthy substitution for one ingredient. Was the substitution a success? If so, make the edit on your recipe card! If not, write down the difference the substitution made and consider another healthy option to try.

Bonus Challenge

If you are feeling especially scientific, prepare the original recipe as it is written. While you have your ingredients out, prepare the recipe again using your healthy substitution. Compare the two products side by side and evaluate their appearance, texture, and taste. Record any differences you observe.