Healthy Cooking Substitutions

In a world where we’re all trying to be healthier and watch what we put into our bodies, it can be tricky if you don’t know where to begin.  There are an endless number of options in the grocery store and so many voices and opinions in today’s age of the internet, social media and television.  While we are one of those voice’s as well, we don’t want to overwhelm you. We’ve compiled a list of great cooking substitutions for anyone who wants to make a change.   These healthy substitutions can help you cut down on sodium, trans fat, saturated fats, cholesterol, and sugar.  While okay in moderation, you do want to make sure that your diet isn’t rich in the items above.  Whether you are new to healthy eating or have been doing it your entire life, you can’t go wrong with our tips below.


Snack Substitutions


  • Ice Cream - try other options such as sherbet, frozen yogurt, fat-free or low-fat yogurt.
  • Ice Cream Bars - frozen fruit bars or frozen yogurt bars. 
  • Tortilla chips, Potato Chips, Corn Chips - baked low sodium tortilla chips, low fat potato/corn chips, popcorn or low sodium pretzels can be another great substitute. 
  • Pudding - substitute whole milk with fat-free or low-fat milk. 
  • Baked Goods - try to find cookies, cakes and pie made with unsaturated oil and soft margarines, egg substitutes or egg whites, and fat free milk. 
  • Cookies and Crackers - graham crackers, rice cakes, fruit bars or fig bars, ginger snaps or molasses sweetened cookies are all great options still packed with flavor. 
  • Dips - swap out dips such as onion dip for fiber dense hummus.  Not only is this great with chips, it goes great with veggies as well!

Cooking Substitutions


  • 1 tablespoon of butter can be substituted for 1 tablespoon of soft margarine or ¾ tablespoon liquid vegetable oil. 
  • 1 ounce of unsweetened baking chocolate can be substituted for 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder or carob powder plus 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil or soft margarine.  If you do use carob powder, reduce the sugar in the recipe by 25% as carob is sweeter than cocoa. 
  • If a recipe calls for sour cream, use low-fat unsalted cottage cheese along with low-fat or fat-free yogurt.  Or you can also use fat-free sour cream.
  • 1 cup of heavy cream can be substituted with 1 cup evaporated skim milk or ½ cup low-fat yogurt and ½ cup of plain low-fat unsalted cottage cheese. 
  • For whole milk if a recipe calls for 1 cup you can replace that with 1 cup of fat-free or low-fat milk, with one tablespoon of liquid vegetable oil.
  • If a recipe calls for cream cheese, use 4 tablespoons of soft margarine blended with 1 cup of dry, unsalted low-fat cottage cheese.  If needed you can add a small amount of fat-free milk. 
  • If you’re a meat lover try cooking with Grass Fed Beef, this type of beef is naturally leaner and contains fewer calories than conventional beef. 
  • In place of rice try riced cauliflower.  Not only is it low carb and low calorie, it is nutrient packed and easy to use in other dishes such as pizza crust, mashed potatoes, and fried rice. 

Breakfast Substitutions


  • Oatmeal - swap flavored, pre-sweetened oatmeal with unsweetened oatmeal.  To add flavor and keep the sugar content down great substitutes can be cinnamon, nuts, fruit, and a light drizzle of honey.
  • Toast - replace pre-made jam with fresh smashed fruit or go for the ever popular avocado toast.  Half of an avocado contains fiber and healthy monounsaturated fats, perfect for keeping you full and satisfied when starting your day.  Top the avocado with fresh veggies and eggs for an even better breakfast!
  • Omelets - swap out cheese for a veggie packed omelet, eliminating the cheese reduces sodium, fat, and calories.
  • Creamers - replace your presweetened coffee creamers with whole milk.  Not only will this reduce your sugar intake it will also help boost your levels of calcium, and vitamins A,D, and B12.
  • Bagels - swap out bagels for the smaller and less calorie dense English muffin.  If possible try to find a whole-grain English muffin.  They tend to be less calories and have a higher fiber content, making them a great option to keep you filled and fueled. 
  • Muffins - if you like a sweet treat to kick start your day with, try replacing muffins with a croissant.  On average you will save about 250 calories by having a croissant over a muffin. 

Restaurant Substitutions


  • Chicken Wings -  instead of fried wings try baked wings or if you like seafood a shrimp cocktail is a great option as well. 
  • Fried Chicken Sandwich - try a grilled chicken sandwich and maybe even substitute the bun/bread for a lettuce wrap.
  • Burgers - substitute the bun for a lettuce wrap.
  • Cream Based Soups - try a broth based soup packed with protein and veggies. 
  • French Fries - try a baked potato, brown rice or steamed/sautéed/roasted veggies.
  • Soup and Sandwich - try a soup and salad, again try to stick with a broth based soup and go for an oil based salad dressing.  
  • Creamy Coleslaw - try sautéed/steamed vegetables or a tossed salad.  If the cole slaw has an oil based dressing then you’re good to go!
  • Tortillas - replace a flour tortilla with a corn tortilla. They are half the calories and have twice the fiber.
  • Sushi Rolls - try ordering Sashimi the next time you go out for sushi.  Because it is raw fish served without the rice, you cut the calories in half and lose all those carbs!
  • Pizza - restaurants everywhere are starting to offer cauliflower crust, if you see this on the menu don’t hesitate to try it!  It keeps your calorie and carb count low while also allowing you to still enjoy pizza.  But if you are really craving traditional pizza opt for a thin crust pizza over a regular, deep dish, or stuffed crust pizza. 
  • Drinks - try to skip the soda and stick with water.  If you want a cocktail stay away from mixed drinks as they usually contain a high sugar content, and stick with a glass of wine, a light beer, a vodka/tequila and tonic, or a classic martini. 

Last but not least whether you are eating out or looking to cook a new recipe at home below we have listed some key words to either stay clear of or lean towards when weighing your food options. 

  • Stay away from anything including these words, pan-fried, crispy, dipped, scalloped, breaded, cream, or alfredo.  
  • Steer towards dishes that use the words grilled, steamed, baked, roasted, braised, broiled, and seared. 

At the end of the day whether you eat clean 24/7 or allow yourself a cheat day every once in a while, don’t forget food is something that should be fun and that you should enjoy.  A dish with a higher calorie count or with a bit of sugar won’t hurt you if it’s all in moderation.


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