Healthy and Inexpensive Ingredient Substitutions

Eating healthy doesn't have to cost more money or take more time!  Never fear, substitutions are here!  You can trade less healthy ingredients for healthy ones.  This will help reduce calories, fat, salt, sugar, while increasing vitamins, minerals and fiber.  These changes are easy and your favorite foods will still taste great.

One strategy to start with can be swapping a food for its low fat version. Dairy foods make a great example.  Most types of cheese, milk and yogurt come in a low fat version.  Some products come fat free, and could work well depending on your dish.   Often, these cost the same and taste just as good as the full fat version.

When baking, substitutions can get a little tricky.  Baking is a science.  We must be careful when making changes to a recipe so that the food still bakes right.  Here are some swaps that will keep your baked goods looking and tasting great, while adding some nutrients too!
  1. Instead of using white flour, try using a black bean puree in a 1 to 1 ratio.  If your recipe calls for a cup of flour, try using a cup of black bean puree.  It sounds strange, but when used in brownies and cakes, it adds fiber, protein and has fewer calories than flour.  The taste of the beans is subtle so it doesn't change the flavor of your food. If you don't have a way to puree the beans, whole wheat flour is another great replacement. 
  2. Replace butter with mashed avocado in a 1 to 1 ratio.  Butter is used as a fat when baking and is filled with saturated fat and calories.  Avocados have healthy fats as well as protein and fiber.  It may tint your dish green, but you can hide that with darker colors, or feature it for a festive occasion such as St. Patrick's Day!  When avocados are not in season, replace half of your butter with unsweetened applesauce to reduce calories and fat while adding some fiber.
  3. Swap mayonnaise for Greek or traditional yogurt in a 1 to 1 ratio.  Yogurt can come in low/non-fat varieties to cut down on fat and calories, while adding plenty of protein.  Purchase in large tubs, rather than individual containers to save money.  Yogurt can be used in many dishes including chicken salad, spinach artichoke dip, and tuna salad.  Experiment with this replacement, you may be surprised at how often you can cut out the mayo.
All of the substitutions listed above are about the same price of the original ingredients.  This way, eating healthy has never been easier, or more affordable.  Making a few of these changes in your cooking on a regular basis can go a long way for the health of you and your family!
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© Eat Smart, Be Fit Maryland!Maira Gall