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Easy Healthy Recipe Substitutions

With these quick and easy ingredient substitutions, cooking heart-healthfully doesn¿t have to be a chore.


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    • 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.

      Recipe Idea:

    • 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.

      The switch has been made in these recipes:

    • 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.

      Make the switch in this recipe:

    • 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 Reduced-Fat Cheese, Not Regular Cheese

      When your recipe calls for: cheese

      Use this ingredient instead: 2% milk, low-fat, or fat-free cheese

      Best used for: sandwiches, salads, melting

      Why substitute? Choosing low-fat cheese will save you fat and cholesterol. Be sure to look for a low-fat cheese that's also low in sodium.


    • Use Fresh Herbs, Not Seasoning Salt

      When your recipe calls for: seasoning salt

      Use this ingredient instead: salt-free dried herb blends, fresh herbs, garlic, or fresh peppers

      Best used for: entrees, side dishes, dips, sauces

      Why substitute? Seasoning salt is high in sodium, which can increase your blood pressure. Add salt-free blends and fresh herbs to enhance the flavor of your dish without worrying about your numbers.


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      Use Trans and Saturated Fat-Free Margarine, Not Shortening

      When your recipe calls for: shortening

      Use this ingredient instead: trans and saturated fat-free shortening or margarine

      Why substitute? Having a diet high in trans and saturated causes total cholesterol blood levels and LDL ("bad" cholesterol) levels to go up.

      Tip for making the switch: Trans fat-free margarine may not last as long as shortening made with artificial trans fat. Be sure to check the packaging for proper storage and for the product's expiration.


    • 11 of 16

      Use Cooking Spray, Not Butter

      When your recipe calls for: butter

      Use this ingredient instead: cooking spray and/or nonstick cookware

      Best used for: baking, sautéing

      Why substitute? When making this substitution, you're cutting out the fat from the butter.

      Tip to make the switch: Add a flavor-booster like garlic when sautéing vegetables, or marinate your meat in an apple cider or fruit juice to bring back some of the taste lost without butter.


    • 12 of 16

      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.


    • 13 of 16

      Use Egg Substitute, Not Whole Egg

      When your recipe calls for: a whole egg

      Use this ingredient instead: 1/4 cup egg substitute or 2 egg whites

      Best used for: baked goods, omelets

      Why substitute? Whole eggs are high in cholesterol, containing 2/3 the daily recommended total. Choose an egg substitute that contains no fat or cholesterol. For baked goods, check to see that the substitute contains added lecithin, which can act as an emulsifier or thickener.


    • 14 of 16

      Use nonfat plain yogurt, not sour cream

      When your recipe calls for: sour cream

      Use this ingredient instead: nonfat plain yogurt

      Best used for: sauces, some baked goods

      Why substitute? Nonfat plain yogurt has no fat, plus has nearly no cholesterol per serving. The consistency remains the same as sour cream for your cooking needs.


    • 15 of 16

      Use skim milk, not whole milk

      When your recipe calls for: whole milk

      Use this ingredient instead: fat-free (skim) or low-fat milk

      Best used for: beverages, sauces, baked goods

      Why substitute? Skim milk has more calcium and protein and less than 1 gram of fat. However, making the switch can change the richness of your beverage and sauces.


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      Next Slideshow How to Make a Healthy Sandwich

      How to Make a Healthy Sandwich

      These low-calorie sandwich solutions help you enjoy your favorite lunch the healthy way, without sacrificing taste or satisfaction. We'll help you start a sandwich from scratch and give you recipes for making quick and easy sandwiches.
      Begin Slideshow »

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