For some of us, eating healthier isn’t always easy. Healthy food substitutions in meals that are regularly unhealthy has gotten pretty popular but there are those of us that still feel the idea of a ‘Tofu Burger” isn’t very appealing. When a substitution fails, it tends to do so spectacularly (I cannot emphasize enough how much I dislike soy pancakes) and once you experience a bad one, it’s hard to stay motivated to try other new things. It’s always a risk to our palate, but when you find something that you truly enjoy that’s healthier, it really is worth it. To that end, we’ve compiled 5 substitutions that you may not have tried that really deserve a shot.
1. Quinoa as Your Carb.
If you haven’t tried Quinoa yet, we’ve created entire articles about how awesome this stuff is. If you have any dish that uses rice or couscous, for example chicken and rice, try searching for the recipe with quinoa. Chicken and quinoa is a great dish, tastes nearly identical and is much healthier for you.
Stir fries or curries make an easy substitution (though you usually want to boil it in a stock rather than water for additional flavor). Try cooking quinoa flakes then preparing them with milk, honey, cinnamon or raisins like you would oatmeal.
Quinoa Flour is a gluten-free flour that can work great for some items like cookies and pancakes. However, yeast needs gluten in order to rise. So quinoa flour shouldn’t be used in baking that requires yeast unless it is mixed with wheat flour (1:1 ratio works well).
2. Turkey for Red Meat.
Turkey is growing in popularity as a red meat substitute. Turkey burgers, turkey bacon, and turkey pepperoni can all be found at your local grocer…so which of these are worth a second glance?
Turkey Burgers can definitely be a great alternative to regular red meat, but there are a few caveats. Turkey contains much less fat and therefore quite a bit less natural flavor so you definitely want to spice it up. A little salt and pepper might work for you, but by far my favorite has been ½ cup of chopped bell peppers and bbq sauce. Check on line for some recipes on this one and choose one that appeals to you.
Turkey Pepperoni: I was actually pleasantly surprised by this one when I tried it. Turkey pepperoni has a similar look (which is nice) and taste to regular pepperoni. It also has 75% less fat than regular pepperoni. Throw this on a pizza and even your pickiest eaters won’t notice the difference.
Turkey Bacon: Turkey bacon was admittedly my least favorite of the substitutions. It doesn’t look very much like pork bacon and the flavor is different enough that I couldn’t picture myself eating this with regularity. It wasn’t bad, but it certainly didn’t satisfy my craving for bacon.
3. Unsweetened Applesauce for Sugar/Oil/Butter:
This is a baking tool and while it sounds a bit weird, it’s definitely worth a try. Applesauce gives the right consistency without the fat found in oil or butter. It works great in any sweet bread like banana nut or zucchini. It’s also a great substitution in muffins, and works even with the pre-boxed mixes.
As for sugar, Applesauce gives the necessary sweetness to cookies at about 1/8th of the calories of sugar. Try this with your oatmeal raisin cookies and I guarantee you will not be disappointed. Unless you dislike oatmeal raisin cookies, then I take back my guarantee.
4. Greek Yogurt for Sour Cream/Mayonnaise.
We’ve certainly given Greek Yogurt it’s time in the spotlight on other recipe suggestions and it really is a great addition to a healthy lifestyle. If you plan on eating healthier put some of this in your fridge!
If you’re making a tuna/chicken salad try substituting the mayonnaise for Greek yogurt with some herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice. You will not be disappointed and you’re definitely lowering your calories and getting an extra dose of protein.
Greek Yogurt has a very similar taste and texture to sour cream so almost anytime you would use sour cream, you can use this instead. I know it sounds crazy, but I tried it in my tacos and honestly couldn’t tell the difference.
5. DIY for Store-Bought Salad Dressings:
Not so much a substitution but a suggestion. When it comes to salad dressings substitutions are hard. Most health articles will tell you to use vinaigrette dressing instead of Ranch or Thousand Island. On one hand, that’s definitely a legitimate suggestion as vinaigrettes are healthier, but it’s not really much of a substitution. When I want a thick and creamy dressing like ranch or thousand island, vinaigrettes just won’t cut it. The stuff that claims to be ‘Light’ versions of the fatty dressings–for me–just never meet my expectations.
But here’s the thing, salad dressings are actually fairly simple to make yourself and when you do, a whole lot healthier. When you can make a vinaigrette dressing, go for it because that’s a great way to keep your salad healthy. When you need a creamier dressing, you’re going to add quite a few calories, but the homemade is going to be healthier and taste better than anything you buy off the shelves.
So there you have it, 5 substitutions that aren’t going to extremely alter the flavor of your food, but add some definite nutritional value. If you have any favorite substitutions be sure to post them in the comments, we love new ideas to work with.