Recipe Substitutions

By Denise Albert

As a dietitian one of the most frequently asked questions I am asked is what food substitutions would you recommend to help control fat and calories. I think the better question is show me your recipe hacks to make a recipe tasty and increase its nutritional value. You see, its really the nutrition density of a food or foods that makes it healthy.

Most often when we replace one ingredient for another we are replacing something that is high in fat for something that is high in carbohydrates. The saved calories are minimal and there is no meaningful increase in nutritional value. So finding the right replacements is key, for example roasted mixed vegetables, vegetable soups, and fruit are all high in nutritional value.

Here are some of my recipe life hacks to help save calories and boost nutrition!

Hack #1, portion sizes. Use smaller plates and follow the recommended portion breakdown. It seems like a simple common sense thing, but so many of us don’t follow this tip. And think about who is eating what-- for example, the calories in an apple that fits in the palm of your hand is very different than an apple that is the size of your child's hand.  A two ounce pork chop has fewer calories than a six or even 10 ounce pork chop.

Photo by: Making Thyme for Health

Hack #2: I love wine! And I especially love it when I'm in the kitchen cooking dinner. But alcohol is very high in calories. In fact, it has the same calories per gram as fat. Darn, darn, darn! So I’ve made a deal with myself, twice a week I have the real deal then the rest of the week I have what I call a “pom spritzer” without the alcohol. In a wine glass I pour in two ounces of pomegranate juice and fill it up with a sparking water. It's that simple!

Hack #3: Sodium in foods can be a real nutritional problem for many. Being mindful of sodium in recipes is helpful but the real culprit is the salt adde

Photo by: Love and Lemons

d at the table. Salt enhances the flavor of foods that's why it’s so tasty and useful. At home, I add citrus fruit zest to everything I can to cut down on the sodium in cooking. Lime and lemon zest are some of the best salt substitutions I've found because the citrus flavor sits on the same taste buds as salt. I LOVE to finish off my meal with citrus. So pull out your microplane and get zesting.

Hack #4: I have gotten in the habit of diluting calorie rich foods so I still get the flavor without all the calories. For instance, I will add water to dilute my salad dressing. The flavor is there but I've cut the calories in half.  When it comes to high calorie foods, a little goes a long way! Love bacon? Use less. Same for cheeses. These flavorful and pungent foods pack huge flavor, but using two strips of bacon instead of four or ½ the cheese in a recipe usually doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor, just calories.

Hack #5: The best recipe hacks are those that add more nutritional value. Try having a vegan or vegetarian meal once or twice a week. Cut down on the portion sizes of meats and high calorie meal items and add nutritionally dense foods such as roasted vegetables, vegetable soups, and fruits.

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