Healthy eating is recently all the rage—and for good reason: it’s been proven to help you feel more energized and prevent obesity, which can lead to several chronic illnesses. Luckily, for those who appreciate good (and unhealthy) food as much as I do, there are a few simple ingredient substitutions that will easily produce more health-friendly versions of our favorite indulgences. Turns out you can, in fact, have your cake and eat it, too, if you make these simple swaps while cooking or baking:
1. Egg whites for whole eggs:
This isn’t a tip to always follow, as whole eggs are a great source of healthy fats and contain many important vitamins, although sometimes, it pays off to make the swap for just egg whites. If you’re baking, for example, using whites instead of whole eggs reduces fat content in your final dessert. Egg yolks are also high in cholesterol, so for some people, whites are always a healthier alternative. Personally, I recommend a combination of whole eggs and egg whites for any creation, from a cake to an omelet. That way you get the health benefits of the yolk without overdoing it.
2. Cottage cheese for cream cheese:
These two ingredients are actually similar already, but cottage cheese is full of protein while cream cheese is higher in fat. If you’re a fan of the creamy cheese texture, puree your cottage cheese, then stick it on your bagel or sub it into your recipe and you won’t notice the difference.
3. Applesauce for oil, sugar or butter:
Okay, this might sound a little crazy, but applesauce has many uses in addition to being a great snack. Even unsweetened applesauce, the healthiest version, adds sweetness to recipes and its texture makes it a good butter substitute. Applesauce can be substituted in a 1:1 ratio, according to Greatist, but be sure to reduce other liquids to compensate for applesauce’s thin consistency.
4. Stevia for sugar:
A natural sweetener, stevia is lower in calories and 300 times sweeter than sugar, according to Greatist. While stevia’s price can get pretty steep, it’s definitely worth it for baking purposes. One cup of sugar is approximately equal to 1 teaspoon of liquid stevia or 2 tablespoons of powder.
5. Almond flour for white flour:
As you might have guessed, because of the health benefits of almonds, almond flour is much healthier than its white alternative. Though it can be higher in calories, it contains all-important nutrients. Almond flour is high in healthy mono-saturated fats and is also cholesterol-free and contains several vitamins, as opposed to white flour, which is primarily a simple carbohydrate.
6. Avocado for butter:
By subbing avocado for butter, you’re maintaining the fat in your baking, but in a healthier form. Try pureeing the avocado to match the consistency of butter for baking purposes. Though the proportions can get a bit tricky, there are many recipes online that can help you out.
7. Bananas for ice cream:
While this might not sound like an equal switch, trust me, it’s worth a try. Bananas are naturally high in sugar, with a thick consistency that, when blended with ice and milk, mocks the texture of ice cream. Not only is this creation all-natural, but it’s also free of the added fats and sugars in typical ice cream. To sweeten your treat even more, add cocoa powder or nut butter. Try this recipe for starters.
8. Spaghetti squash for pasta:
Spaghetti squash is a winter squash that, when cut in half and cooked, reveals a heap of pasta-like strands that can be added to any dish. Since it’s a vegetable, it’s much lower in calories and higher in vitamins than traditional pasta. Learn how to cook it here, and then try your hand at this cheesy broccoli spaghetti squash boat recipe.
9. Plain Greek yogurt for sour cream:
With half the fat and calories of typical sour cream, plain Greek yogurt is a great replacement since it has the same creamy texture and a similar taste. Greek yogurt is also higher in protein than sour cream.
10. Pureed fruit for syrup:
Whether it’s for pancakes, waffles or any breakfast treat, pureed fruit is a perfect replacement for sugary, artificial pancake syrup. It has far fewer calories and many more vitamins, and when sweetened with honey, tastes just as good.
11. Coconut oil for cooking oil:
Coconut oil is the ideal superfood. Filled with a combination of healthy fatty acids, it has the same texture as any other cooking oil and the same effect on a dish, so you can bake or fry foods the way you normally do, while improving your cholesterol levels and reducing your risk for heart disease.