Lately, for a myriad of reasons, our family has had to re-evaluate a few of the nutrition choices we make. Overall, we’re trying to cut down on the amount of fat we consume, bulk up the naturally fermented foods (and probiotics), add some variety to the types of foods we eat, and make every calorie count as fuel for our bodies. This process has not been an overnight change; it’s slow, but intentional. In our efforts, we’ve discovered these 15 Healthy Recipe Hacks that I want to share with you!
Oil → Applesauce
You can swap the amount of oil called for in most baking recipes for unsweetened applesauce instead. The swap is on a 1:1 ratio, so if your muffin recipe calls for 3/4 c. Oil, you can use 3/4 c. Applesauce instead (or any combination of the two: 1/2 c. Applesauce + 1/4 c. Oil). This works well for cakes, breads, muffins, brownies, etc (not cookies). Be sure you reduce your cooking time by a few minutes, or at least check your goodies a few minutes before they’re usually done.
Note: Applesauce is not normally a recommended as a substitute for butter, unless the recipe says you can use oil instead of the butter.
Oil → Greek Yogurt
Another option for replacing traditional oil in baking recipes is to use Greek yogurt instead. Rather than a 1:1 ratio like applesauce, though you’ll only use 3/4 c. Greek yogurt for each 1 c. oil.
Egg → 1 tsp Baking Soda + 1 tsp Vinegar
If you’re trying to cut out more eggs (possibly due to an allergy or to reduce cholesterol), you can replace each whole egg with 1 tsp Baking Soda + 1 tsp Vinegar in most baking recipes. Alternatively, you can also replace each whole egg with 2 egg whites (note: this will reduce the cholesterol, calories, and may be the answer if your allergy is to the yolk – yes, the egg allergies are distinct to either egg whites and/or egg yolks).
Breadcrumbs → Rolled Oats
Next time your recipe calls for breadcrumbs (especially as a binder or filler, like in meatballs or meatloaf), use rolled oats instead! Oats are about half the calories of breadcrumbs and will add more fiber. The trick is to use rolled oats (not instant) and to use them “as needed” (meaning, until you reach the consistency desired). It is a little trickier than a standard 1:1 ratio, but really not complicated (most often you’ll use fewer oats than breadcrumbs).
Mayo → Avocado
Avocado for the win! Skip the mayonnaise and use a mashed avocado instead! This is such a better option (healthier and tastier) for spreads, dips, and “dressings”. My personal fav is a BLT with avocado replacing the traditional layer of mayo!
Heavy Cream → Half & Half
Did you know that you can use half & half instead of heavy cream in just about any recipe?? ‘Tis true! Use it in a 1:1 ratio (equal parts for equal parts) to cut down on calories and fat!
Sour Cream → Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt boasts fewer calories, less fat, fewer carbs, more protein, and the added benefit of probiotics over sour cream. Plus, it has a smoother, creamier taste. We opt for Greek yogurt over sour cream as a topping (like for this Taco Pie or Cuban Pork Stew) and just about anytime sour cream is called for in a recipe (whether sweet or savory). It’s a 1:1 ratio, so easy-peasy (1 c. Greek Yogurt to replace 1 c. Sour Cream, for example).
Potatoes → Cauliflower
Trying to cut down on the starches, or just want to diversify your diet more? Replace your favorite potato with mashed cauliflower. It is SO easy: just steam until tender, drain well, & mash (just like potatoes) with butter/milk/cheese/seasonings as desired! Growing up in PA, we like our chili eaten over a scoop of mashed potatoes – cauliflower is a great alternative!
Spaghetti Noodles → Spaghetti Squash
Skip the grain & use its namesake veggie instead! Replace spaghetti squash for your normal spaghetti noodles for a lighter, more unique meal. Here’s how: half your squash length-wise, scoop out the seeds, drizzle with oil/salt/pepper, place face down on a prepared baking dish, & roast in 375° preheated oven for 35-45 mins. Allow it cool before using a fork to scrape the inside to resemble “noodles”. Serve as-is or with your favorite spaghetti topping (I highly suggest the alternate sauce option explained below).
Rice → Cauliflower
Let another veggie take the place of a common grain: rice. This is a great option not just as a side-dish, but for when you’re using rice as a “bed” for something else: like this Cuban Pork Stew, stir fry, Asian dishes, or Mexican foods.
Here’s how to do this: trim, wash, & dry your head of cauliflower. Quarter the whole thing, then grate over a cheese or box grater (leaving larger chunks of stems out). Press with a paper towel to absorb extra moisture, and then saute on the stove (med heat, a little oil in the pan, 5-8 mins covered until tender).
Icing → Marshmallow Icing
Store bought icing is nasty! Even if you can stand the taste, it is packed with disgusting ingredients like soy, high fructose corn syrup, and weird things you can’t pronounce. Trust me, try this recipe for Marshmallow Icing, and you’ll be hooked! Don’t want to home-make it? That’s ok. You can use Marshmallow Fluff instead, too.
Spaghetti Sauce → Fresh Add-ins
Skip the sauce next time you have noodles and instead, top your spaghetti with some freshly diced tomatoes, freshly grated parmesan cheese, a light drizzle of oil, and salt/pepper to taste. Even my kids love this option!
Salad Dressing → Lemon Juice + Grated Parmesan Cheese
I’ve been doing this forever! I’m just not a big fan of regular salad dressing. Instead, I squeeze about half a lemon over my lettuce, top with some freshly grated parmesan cheese, and toss lightly. It is so refreshing and delicious!
Ice Cream → Frozen Yogurt
Okay, okay, just give me a minute to explain. I have always enjoyed frozen yogurt over regular ice cream (truthfully, due to the digestive benefits), but now even my husband (who is a card-carrying ice cream addict) is now choosing fro-yo! The flavors, options, and novelties available these days make it so much easier to enjoy over ice cream. Frozen yogurt has fewer calories, fewer calories from fat, more protein, and the added benefits of probiotics! Personally, I love the Yasso products. They have everything frozen yogurt has been lacking: popsicles, frozen cookie sandwiches, frozen candy bars, etc. They come in delicious flavors like Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Salted Caramel Swirl, S’mores, and so many more. For regular pints, Publix brand has a plethora of flavors – Mint Cookie being one of our favorites!
Soda → Sparkling Water or Dry Soda
This may seem very obvious, but I wanted to share a few of my favorite alternatives to traditional soda. These days, I reach for a La Croix Sparkling Water rather than a sugar-heavy beverage. They come in incredible flavors like Passion Fruit, Apricot, and Mango, and are available pretty much everywhere. We usually grab them at Costco or at the local grocery store when they’re B1G1 Free.
For a touch of sweet with my carbonation, I love DRY Sparkling. Have you tried these yet?! They’re incredibly light and refreshing!! They come in the most delicate and sophisticated flavors like Lavender (my personal fav), Rhubarb, Blood Orange, and so many more. While they’re definitely a bit pricier than traditional soft drinks, they are worth every penny! I buy mine from Target (and use an Ibotta, of course). Since I’ve given up alcohol, this is my go-to when everyone else is enjoying an adult beverage.
Even if I’m grabbing a calorie-rich beverage, I opt for “pure cane sugar” or a mix of real sugar with stevia. I can’t quite enjoy the taste of full stevia options, but Coke Life (the one in the green can), manages to reduce its calories to only 90 for a 12/oz serving by mixing cane sugar and stevia for a perfect balance. We buy the cans at Lowes Foods Stores or Publix.
And if going for the full-throttle sugar rush, I usually prefer my own Homemade Cream Soda (which is a healthier option over store-bought because of the lack of added sodium, colors, preservatives, and the like).