Simple Substitutions to Improve Unhealthy Recipes

February 15, 2015 - 5 minutes read

Healthy Recipe Substitutions

We all have that favourite family recipe that’s been passed down from our grandma’s grandma’s grandma that calls for a heaping cup of sugar and more shortening than you know how to legally get your hands on; but wouldn’t it be great if Granny’s legacy could live on without you having to jump up a pant size just from reading the recipe?

Fortunately, we’ve come across some simple tips that can help you substitute out those high-calorie ingredients in exchange for healthier, less stomach-bulging ones:

1) Reduce the fat, salt and sugar content

Lower the fat
Try halving the amount of butter, oil or shortening and replacing the remaining amount with a mashed up banana or unsweetened applesauce to keep the recipe moist without the added fat content. The baking aisle of your grocery store may also carry fruit-based fat replacers that you can use as a substitute.

Reduce the salt
You can typically reducing the suggested amount by up to half as long as you aren’t baking with yeast; in that case, don’t alter the salt as it is required for leavening and without it, your baking will become dense and flat.

Tone down the sugar
Studies have concluded that you can reduce the amount of sugar by as much as 1/3 without affecting the taste. Add back some of the sweetness by including vanilla extract or almond flavouring.
*Try to avoid sugar substitutes that contain aspartame or other similar “sweetening” compounds.

2) Substitute in healthier and better quality foods

Whole wheat instead of white
Boost fibre content and reduce empty calories when it comes to pasta, rice and bread by trying Smart or whole wheat pastas, quinoa or wild rice and whole grain or high fibre breads.

Egg whites rather than the entire egg
Eggs are very high in cholesterol due to the properties of the yolk (one large egg contains approximately 186 mg of cholesterol — all of which is found in the yolk) so separate out the whites and use a comparable amount to the entire egg; you can also use a low-cholesterol egg-substitue, which is made with egg whites.

Healthy oils
Canola and olive oils are way more heart-healthy than some of the other options. While the calorie-count and fat content may not be reduced using this method, you’ll at least be helping your heart out.

3) Make some ingredient cuts

Individual ingredients
Figure out which ingredients don’t make the “healthy list” and cut back on those. Cheeses, sauces, dressings; these all add up very quickly. Use a bit less to greatly reduce the calorie count.

Overall
Make sure you’re eating slowly to allow your body to realize when it’s actually full.  Your body relies on stretch receptors in the stomach to signal to your brain that it’s full so give yourself time to get to that point, rather than shovelling food in.

4) Switch up your cooking technique

Avoid Frying
Pan-frying and deep-frying can add loads of calories and fat to a meal. While this isn’t often thought to be relevant, consider the fact that every tablespoon of oil that is added to the pan can add more than 100 calories to the meal. Healthier methods include baking, grilling, sautéing, steaming, broiling, stir-frying, and poaching.

Keep the Nutrients
Try steaming rather than boiling vegetables as the latter method can cause nutrients to be lost in the surrounding water, whereas they’re conserved with steaming.

Use Non-Stick Cookware
Using either non-stick pans or spraying the pan with a non-stick spray can greatly reduce the need for fats and oils.

It may take a few tries to get your recipe right but once you do, it will be well worth the trouble and your mid-section will thank you for it.