Wednesday, August 21, 2013

In the Kitchen: Healthy Substitutions

Swap melted butter for applesauce.
Swap melted butter for applesauce.
Image:Shutterstock
These days, everyone knows that if you want to get fit and healthy, you’ve got to eat clean. For some (AKA the Super Fit), that means very few exceptions to the no-grain, no-sugar, no-whatever they’ve committed to. But for the Regular Joes (and Jills) of the world, eating clean likely comes down to a general habit of choosing healthier foods than we would have before.

A great example for me is pasta. I love it, and I hate it. I used to eat it way too much. These days, I eat pasta rarely, often substituting other things in its place—such as spaghetti squash, zucchini, and quinoa. When it comes down to it, pasta is really just a vehicle to get to the sauce, right? It doesn’t have much flavor, so substituting it isn’t difficult.

Eating healthier really comes down to making these healthy substitutions, at least for me. Here are some suggestions for those of you who are looking to gradually change your lifestyle without totally switching up your diet.
Use walnuts in place of croutons.
Use walnuts in place of croutons.
Image: Shutterstock
  1. Swap out melted butter for canola oil or applesauce. For softened butter, try avocado!
  2. Mayonnaise may be delicious, but it’s certainly not healthy. Instead, use avocado or fresh pesto basil spread. These will enhance your sandwich or salad with a healthier, yet still delicious, flavor.
  3. Salt. Most people could do with far less of it. Instead of using the full amount of salt in recipes, try cutting back on it and adding more of other spices or herbs in its place. You’d be surprised how quickly your palate will adjust to less salt—and your body will thank you for it.
  4. Croutons are loveable, certainly. But they’re not exactly full of nutrients. To get that crunch in salads, instead try adding your favorite nut. Walnuts are wonderful, especially if you toast them just a little bit.
  5. Breadcrumbs are another of those things that are merely there to create a texture or transfer a flavor. The great thing is, they don’t have to be bread to do that. Instead, use food-processed rolled oats or almond meal.
  6. All-purpose flour. If you live in Seattle, at least, you may have noticed that when you go down the flour aisle at the grocery store, there are literally dozens of types to choose from. They certainly won’t all work for every purpose, but check out some of these alternative flours for baking and cooking. My favorite substitutes are almond flour and whole-wheat flour. If you don’t like the chewiness that comes with whole-wheat flour, try white whole-wheat flour. 
  7. White rice is perhaps the easiest substitution to make—there are just so many options! You can use brown or wild rice instead, but my favorite is quinoa. It’s super healthy and super delicious. It’s a little pricey, but I’ll give you a hint: they sell it in bulk at Costco.
  8. Tomato sauce is SO full of sodium that it’s terrifying. Have you ever checked the back label of one of those cans? When I’m making spaghetti sauce, I always use crushed tomatoes instead. They have far less sodium, and the ingredients list consists of 2-3 items: crushed tomatoes, water, and (sometimes) salt.
Quinoa is a great sub for rice.
Quinoa is a great sub for rice.
Image: Shutterstock
What are some other healthy substitutions that you all make in your foods?
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