This week, I’ve been looking at different ways in which we can make cooking healthier. Specifically looking in terms of how we make our food, and what we can add to it or subtract from it to make it healthier.
Cooking Substitutions for Healthier Meals
• Egg whites or egg substitute instead of whole eggs.
– Although eggs in themselves are a better choice for breakfast protein than meat, making your recipes or egg dishes with egg whites instead of egg yolks, or an egg substitute can further lower the fat and cholesterol content. Note: Substitute two egg whites for each egg yolk.
• Real cheese instead of processed cheese.
– Instead of using processed cheeses (which are loaded with nasty preservatives and salt) in your cooking, use the all-natural varieties either brick or shredded. Note: try using natural cheese in place of processed cheese, in a healthier version of grilled cheese. Visit this A Better Grilled Cheese post for ideas.
• Brown rice for white rice
– When white rice is processed, the “brown” bran layer gets stripped away, cutting out essential nutrients (like fiber). Opt for brown rice for a fuller nutritional profile.
• Quinoa for couscous
– While couscous is made from processed wheat flour, quinoa is a whole-grain superfood packed with protein and nutrients. Bonus points: They have almost the exact same texture.
• Olive oil for butter
– when cooking eggs, subbing in oil for butter is a simple switch and is a great way to cut down on saturated fats while getting a healthy dose of essential omega-3 fatty acids.
• Turnip mash for mashed potatoes
– While one cup of mashed potatoes made with whole milk racks up about 180 calories (and that’s before the inevitable salt and butter), a cup of mashed turnip (which doesn’t need milk or butter to get that creamy consistency) has only 51 calories. Add some fresh herbs in place of the salt and it’s a much healthier stand-in for classic mash.
• Mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes
– Just like the turnip mash, mashed cauliflower has only a fraction of the calories of potatoes and it’s nearly impossible to taste the difference. Got picky eaters at the table? Try mixing half potato, half cauliflower.
• Rolled oats for breadcrumbs
– While breadcrumbs can pack extra sodium, using rolled oats seasoned with herbs is a great way to sneak another whole grain into any meal.
• Dry beans for canned beans
– Canned beans are convenient, sure, but they also tend to have excess sodium and plenty of preservatives. Plus, even though the canned versions are dirt cheap, dried beans are even cheaper! It may take a little more work (just some simple soaking and boiling), but this switch is still well worth it.
• Whole wheat pasta for regular pasta
– Just as with bread, whole wheat pasta beats regular with a higher fiber content and about 50 fewer calories per serving (depending on the brand).
• White-meat, skinless poultry for dark-meat poultry
– The biggest chicken debate to date: white meat vs. dark meat. And the white meat has it beat — lower in calories and fat, higher in protein and iron.
• Olive oil spray for olive oil from the bottle
– Oil glugs out of the bottle, leading to overly-greasy dishes. Using a spray bottle is a great way to cut down on oil while still getting the non-stick benefits. A little mist is all that’s needed!
• Bison for beef
– Higher in B vitamins and lower in fat, bison is a great substitute for the ol’ beefy standard. (When available, of course.)
• Ground poultry for ground beef
– Ground turkey or chicken is a great substitute for ground beef to cut down on saturated fat and calories. Reminder: Because of the lower fat content, ground poultry often ends up drier than beef, but a few tablespoons of chicken stock can solve the problem in a snap!
• Coconut milk for cream
– Coconut milk is a great substitute for heavy cream in soups and stews. And don’t be turned off by the word “coconut” — it doesn’t taste like the sweetened shredded kind!
• Greek yogurt for sour cream
– Half the fat and calories, yet the taste and texture are virtually identical. Plus, nonfat Greek yogurt offers an extra dose of lean protein.
• Arugula, romaine, spinach, and/or kale for iceberg lettuce
– All greens are not created equal. Darker greens usually mean more nutrients like iron, vitamin C, and antioxidants. Sorry, iceberg’s just not cutting it anymore — go out and get some grown-up greens.
• Pita for bread
– One 4-inch whole-wheat pita runs around 80 calories and only 1 gram of fat (though there is some variation from brand to brand). Two slices of whole-wheat bread typically comes in at around 138 calories!
• Greek yogurt for mayo
– Great in chicken or tuna salad, add some herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice, and they’ll taste almost identical. Plus, this swap will save on calories and fat, and provide an extra dose of protein.
• Plain yogurt with fresh fruit for flavored yogurt
– Pre-flavored yogurts often come packed with extra sugar. To skip the sugar rush without sacrificing flavor, opt for plain yogurt (or better yet, plain Greek yogurt) and add fresh fruit and/or honey or agave for a hint of sweetness.
• Nuts for croutons in salads
– Every salad needs that extra crunch. But rather than getting the extra carbs (and often fat and sodium) that come with croutons, try some lightly toasted slivered almonds, pecans, or walnuts.
• Whole wheat bread for white bread
– You’ve heard it all before, but it’s just that important! Whole-grain wheat beats out processed white with a complete nutrition profile and better flavor and texture.
• Mashed Avacado for mayo
– Half a mashed avocado is a great substitute for mayo on any sandwich. Both give some moisture, but avocado packs a big dose of vitamin E and cholesterol-checking monosaturated fat. And while a typical two-tablespoon serving of mayonnaise has about 206 calories and 24 grams of fat, half an avocado has only 114 calories and 10.5 grams of fat.
• Steel-cut oatmeal for instant oatmeal
– Chewy and a little crunchy, these guys are nothing like their instant oatmeal cousins. While rolled oats are — literally — rolled into a flat grain, steel cut oats are diced whole grains that
• Sweet potato fries for French fries
– Opting for sweet potatoes rather than the traditional white adds an extra dose of fiber, and vitamins A, C, and B6. Plus, it cuts out roughly 20 grams of carbohydrates per one-cup serving. Just don’t overdo it!
• Low-fat cottage cheese for sour cream
– They both add a creamy texture to many dishes, but sour cream is packed with fat while low-fat cottage cheese is packed with protein.
• Pureed fruit for syrup
– Both sweeten flapjacks or a nice whole-wheat waffle, but pureed fruit warmed on the stove-top with a bit of honey packs much less sugar than classic maple. Plus, it provides an extra dose of antioxidants and vitamins.