Healthy Food Substitutions for Everyday Cooking Recipes

Recipe Modifications that Use Ingredients You Can Find at the Local Grocery Store

Healthy recipe modifications zero in on unhealthy pantry favorites. This guide details 10 common cooking ingredients and healthy substitutions that can be used instead; cook up something that's tasty and healthy! Who says living well has to taste like cardboard?

Substitute Table Salt with Fresh Herbs and Spices
Reaching for the salt shaker is so simple, but sodium -- in excess -- is hard on the body. In cooking, simple recipe modifications allow for the use of freshly ground spices and fresh herbs that offer a zesty taste without the white stuff. Try freshly ground pepper in the mashed potatoes next time; the taste will wow you.

One caveat: this food substitution does not work well for baking; think of baking recipes as chemical formulas. Salt is needed there (in moderation).

Butter vs. Applesauce
Speaking of baking, substitute applesauce for butter or shortening. One half cup of applesauce equals one cup of butter/shortening. Do not keep the baked goods in the oven too long; they tend to dry out quicker than their butter-laden cousins.

Easy Food Substitution: Soy Sauce
Little more than liquid salt, substitute soy sauce for its low-sodium cousin. You won't be able to tell the difference. Experiment with hot mustard instead of the soy sauce altogether but be careful: it carries quite a 'bite!'

Eggs from a Carton?
If cholesterol is a problem but the recipe calls for eggs, reach for the egg substitute instead. As a general rule of thumb, ¼ cup of carton-egg substitute counts as one whole egg. Who knew egg recipe modifications were this easy?

Meat Substitution
Ground beef is tasty, fatty and messy; it is also a center ingredient in a host of recipes. Recipe modifications call for ground turkey, but there are those who cannot warm up to the taste of this much drier meat.

Check out meatless crumbles (usually in the health food freezer section) instead. They are more expensive but they're vegetarian and made to taste like ground beef. If you just can't make the beef substitution, consider going half and half.

Cooking Spray: In a Class of its Own
Cooking spray is a versatile replacement for the times when it is tempting to put a dollop of butter in the pan to prevent the eggs from sticking.

Vegetable Stock for Sautéing
Another butter related food substitution is vegetable stock. Sautee mushrooms and veggies in stock rather than butter.

Roasted Nuts and Seeds
Substitute lower quantities of slightly roasted nuts and seeds for raw versions of the treats. Although healthy, they can be high in fat. Roasting them slightly brings out more of the nutty flavor, which in turn allows the chef to cut down on the quantity and still adequately flavor the dish.

No More Regular Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is a favorite for baking, but recipe modifications that tackle the fat and sugar content can also make this into a healthier snack. Take a look at low-fat natural peanut butter (usually in the health food section) and be amazed. Your taste buds might need a bit of time to make the adjustment to the healthier substitution, but they'll come around.

Beer, anyone?
Alcohol is bad for you but bratwurst needs to take a boiling beer bath before grilling; sure, the grill will burn off any leftover alcohol, but the odds are good that you're serving a cold one with the finished dish. Substitute non-alcoholic beer - may I suggest Becks? - and serve it in a frosted mug. Your friends will never know the difference - until you let them have their car keys back.

Food Substitution Warning
It is tempting to institute all recipe modifications overnight. This may add frustration to the learning curve that a recipe substitution requires. Consider making one food substitution each week, perfecting its use and then adding more modifications as time goes on.

Chef's Resources
Purdue University. "Top 20 Healthy Recipe Ingredient Substitutions" (accessed March 4, 2010)
Hearth Healthy Living. "Substitutions for your fridge!" (accessed March 4, 2010)

Published by Sylvia Cochran - Has been freelance writing full-time since 2005.

Sylvia Cochran works out of sunny Southern California and has been freelance writing -- full-time -- since 2005. SEO-optimized Internet copy includes news analysis, political Op/Ed and parenting, gardening a...  View profile

  • Recipe modifications that use ingredients you can find at the local grocery store
  • Food Substitution Warning
  • Chef's Resources
Healthy recipe modifications zero in on unhealthy pantry favorites. This guide details 10 common cooking ingredients and healthy substitutions; cook up something that's tasty and healthy! Who says living well has to taste like cardboard?