There is so much yummy food out there — it can be hard to make good healthy decisions without giving up your favorite dishes. But what if you didn’t have to?
Instead of giving up your favorite meal for a salad, you can still eat what you want. All you need to do is make a few modifications.
Here are healthy food substitutions to consider when preparing your next meal.
Substitute cauliflower for potatoes
Baked, mashed, fried — we love potatoes in all forms. Potatoes are naturally low in fat, cholesterol-free, low in sodium and a great source of fiber. They also have many vitamins and minerals such as potassium, Vitamin C and B vitamins. However, they are not low in calories and carbohydrates like many other vegetables.
For a nutritious vegetable that is lower in calories and carbohydrates, try cauliflower. A cup of cauliflower only has 25 calories and about 5 carbs. It’s also loaded with vitamin C and is a good source of vitamin K.
Try boiling some cauliflower until it’s soft and using it in place of mashed potatoes. You can even try a mixture of potatoes and cauliflower. This way you get the flavor and textures of the potato but with the overall dish lower in calories and carbohydrates.
To keep your toppings healthier, try substituting nonfat plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream and fresh chives instead of bacon bits.
Cauliflower or quinoa instead of rice
As it turns out, cauliflower has more than one talent. Not only does it make a good substitute for potatoes, but when chopped up in small pieces, you can use it in place of rice too.
Additionally, while brown rice and quinoa are both gluten free whole grains, quinoa offers much more protein, fiber, iron and magnesium.
Replace pasta with healthier options
Pasta is another food that many people are trying to cut back on to lose weight or control their blood sugars. Fortunately, there are many lower calorie alternatives such as spaghetti squash, spiralized vegetables, such as zucchini, and tofu pasta.
While not lower in calories or carbohydrates, there are also some options that offer more nutrition and, due to their higher protein count, may help stave off hunger. They also keep blood sugars in check better than the regular white pastas. These options include bean-based pastas (such as lentil pasta, edamame pasta and chickpea pasta), quinoa pasta and whole wheat pasta.
You can find most of these healthy substitutions for pasta ready to use in your local supermarket or health food store.
Jackfruit is a meat alternative
If you’re trying to cut back on how much meat you eat, but you worry about the unusual ingredients in some of the substitutes available, consider jackfruit.
Grown in Asia, jackfruit has a texture that makes an especially good substitute for barbecue or pulled pork. It takes on whatever flavors you add to it. It’s lower in calories than meat and has more potassium, fiber and vitamin C.
While jackfruit is healthy and has a similar texture to meat, it is not a good source of protein. Better sources of plant-based protein can be found in beans and tofu.
Say no to sugar, yes to monk fruit
By now, you know that sugar just isn’t good for you. Although a little sugar here and there might not hurt, it is a source of empty calories and most of us consume far too much compared to that which is recommended for good health.
Consider trying monk fruit instead. Monk fruit sweeteners are made from the juice of the monk fruit, a small, round fruit native to China. Substituting foods and beverages using a low-calorie sweetener alternative, such as monk fruit, for their full-sugar counterparts can play a role in weight loss or weight management.
Bake with applesauce instead of butter
Do you love to bake? Try making your breads, cakes and pastries a little healthier by cutting out the high saturated fats found in butter. All you have to do is substitute applesauce for half of the butter the recipe calls for.
For example, if you need a cup of butter, just use half a cup of applesauce. Also, for replacing oils, which are healthier than butter but still high in calories, use a one to one ratio. So, for a cup of oil use a cup of applesauce instead.
Because applesauce has some natural sweetness to it, you can also try reducing any added sugar in the recipe saving additional calories per serving too.
Popcorn in the place of potato chips
Everyone loves a crunchy snack now and then. But potato chips that are high in fat and calories aren’t the best option.
Next time, you’re tempted to grab a bag of chips, reach for the popcorn instead. The average serving of potato chips is about 15 chips. But you can eat 4.5 cups of popcorn and still have fewer calories. Plus, when you make your own popcorn, you can control the amount of salt, butter and other ingredients that go into it. Finally, popcorn is packed with healthy amounts of fiber and protein.
Use seeds or crushed nuts instead of breadcrumbs
From meatballs to chicken parmesan, so many of our favorite recipes call for breadcrumbs. But if you want to cut back on your carbs or add more fiber to your dish, try using seeds or crushed nuts instead.
Flax seed meal, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and crushed almonds, walnuts, peanuts and pecans all make great options. They’ll add both flavor and nutrients, like magnesium.
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