How to make healthy substitutions

March 20, 2014 Sarah Lawson, RD

This week for National Nutrition Month, we featured how to make healthy substitutions to your cooking techniques. Easy swaps can help reduce calories, fat, sugar, and sodium from your diet without noticing a change in flavor.

We demonstrated this by featuring our Low-Sodium/Low-Fat Banana Bread recipe. Many of you loved the taste better than higher sugar, higher fat versions! You can halve this recipe to make 1 loaf. I have made this recipe using 1 cup Greek yogurt in place of the buttermilk and vegetable oil. You could make this gluten free by using a brown rice flour or gluten-free flour blend!

Also, see below for some other tips on how to slim down your favorite foods without sacrificing flavor.

Low-Fat / Low-Sodium Banana Bread

Recipe adapted from Epicurious. Yield: 2 loaves

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 cups smashed ripe bananas (about 6 medium)
  • ⅔ cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Lightly grease two 8.5in x 4.5in standard loaf pans; dust with flour.
  3. Using electric mixer; beat eggs and sugar in large bowl until thick and light, about 5 minutes. Mix in smashed bananas, buttermilk, oil and vanilla.
  4. Sift flour, baking powder and baking soda over mixture; beat until just blended. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
  5. Bake bread until golden brown on top and tester comes out clean, about 1 hour.
  6. Turn bread out onto rack and cool

Nutrition per serving: 250 calories, 5 grams protein, 2.4 grams fat, 52 grams carbohydrate, 157 mg sodium, 2 grams fiber

Sneaky ways to slim down your favorite foods without losing flavor

1. Swap In: Applesauce or Banana. Ditch: Sugar, Butter and Oils.

  • Naturally-sweet applesauce and bananas add moisture as well as sweetness without breaking the calorie bank. Using 1 cup of mashed banana or applesauce provides a mere 100 calories compared to ~770 calories in a cup of sugar! For baking recipes, substituting equal parts for sugar produces great results. Decrease the liquid (like oil) in your recipe by ¼-½ cup, which helps further decrease the calorie and fat content!

2. Swap In: Rolled Oats. Ditch: Breadcrumbs.

  • Store-bought commercial breadcrumbs are filled with extra sodium, sugar, trans fats and common allergens (ie soy, milk, egg, tree nuts), due to processed stabilizers. Instead, make your own using by grinding rolled oats seasoned with dried herbs in a food processor until fine consistency. You will also be adding a source of whole grains to your meal!

3. Swap In: Steaming or Roasting. Ditch: Boiling and Frying.

  • Steaming and roasting rule the cooking world for preparing meats and vegetables. These cooking techniques prevent major loss of the water soluble Vitamin C and the B complex vitamins that occurs through boiling. Additionally, avoid adding extra fat and calories with frying foods. Bump up the flavor factor while steaming or roast by adding herbs, spices, and citrus juices!

4. Swap In: Spaghetti Squash. Ditch: Pasta Noodles.

  • Cut the carbs and the calories by using steamed or roasted spaghetti squash for refined flour processed pastas. Using a fork, shred the pulp of the squash into spaghetti like threads. This sneaky swap increases your vegetable intake providing fiber, Vitamins A and C, folate, potassium, and for only 42 calories per 1 cup serving!

5. Swap In: Greek Yogurt. Ditch: Sour Cream, Oil

  • Greek yogurt has become the secret ingredient in recipes from savory casseroles to sweet desserts. With creamy consistency and stellar nutritional facts, Greek yogurt can improvise for sour cream, mayonnaise, cream cheese, heavy cream, butter, and oil, all while increasing protein and calcium and reducing calories and fat.

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