Healthy Substitutions for the Usual Suspects

Substitutions are an interesting topic for me because they can really make a difference when you are trying to lose those extra 5 lbs for good or just looking out for better everyday health.  Honestly, you won’t be able to tell the difference and so much food has sugar and fat that it would be nice to add some vitamins and minerals for a change.  These simple everyday substitutions are easy to incorporate and the payoff will make it worth the permanent switch.

Sour cream is great on potatoes, burritos, or even toppings for fish and soup.  A great substitute is fat-free yogurt.  Fat-free plain yogurt is great for hiding in recipes such as beef stroganoff or certain cake recipes that call for sour cream.  Same taste, but way less fat and calories.  Yogurt can replace mayo too: just add a teaspoon of mustard and sprinkle with salt and pepper and you’ve literally saved yourself ten times the calories (9 versus 99 per tablespoon).  Do you love dip, but want to do without the guilt?  Mix half yogurt and half cottage cheese in the processor and then flare it up with herbs.  The consistency is usually what does it for people, so this should be an easy transition.

Salt is a staple for my husband, sitting in its own spot at the dinner table.  I remember picking up his plate and it being surrounded by a flurry of salt formation.  Did you know there is such thing as salt substitute?  I had no idea until I started looking for one.  We currently use No-Salt Salt but I know there are others such as Morton’s Lite Salt and Cardia Salt Substitute.  These are lower in sodium but contain potassium chloride, which can be harmful if you are taking high blood pressure medication or have kidney problems.   My solution for salt has been adding herbs and spices.  For instance on vegetables I usually sprinkle on dill before cooking.  No salt added.  If you want to make your own salt substitute, Reader’s Digest came out with their Savory Salt Substitute in their “Great Recipes for Good Health” issue.  I’m looking forward to trying it myself:

Savory Salt Substitute

1 tbsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. celery seeds
1 tbsp. onion powder
2 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp. powdered orange peel
1 1/2 tsp. arrowroot
1 1/2 tsp. sugar or sugar substitute
3/4 tsp. sour salt (powdered citric acid)
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. dill weed
1/2 tsp. dried thyme, crumbled
1/4 tsp. plus a pinch of powdered lemon peel
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Place ingredients in a coffee or spice grinder; insert into salt shaker and store the rest in a dry, cool area.  This recipe makes about 1/2 cup.

PAM cooking spray has saved me at least a 100 calories every time I’ve used it.  Before PAM in my life I didn’t bat an eye throwing a square of butter in my pan or have a problem with eye-balling what I thought to be a tablespoon of oil (which now looking back on it I’m sure it was more).  The point is the 3 seconds I spray the stuff, whether it’s in my pan, my baking dish, or on my food itself, I know I am only going to consume 20 calories and 3 grams of fat.  And since most of us cook in some fashion almost every night, this guarantees a healthier way of doing it.  And if you are concerned about taste, PAM comes in butter and olive oil flavor too!

If you are a butter lover like I am but are looking to tame the expense it has on your cholesterol or fat intake then I have a solution for you.  Unsweetened applesauce is the answer.  One cup of oil can be substituted with one cup of applesauce in baking recipes in cakes, muffins, and bread.  You can also substitute 1/3 cup of applesauce for an egg too!  To get off the butter addiction may I suggest Smart Balance?  My dad turned me on to this marvel last Thanksgiving.   It has a sweet taste and if you can open  your heart to scooping your butter with a spoon instead of cutting it with a knife then it will be worth the payoff.  Loaded with Omega-3 ‘s (the good fats) and no cholesterol Smart Balance is a no-brainer.

These are just a few substitutions you can use exchange with the usual ingredients you use on a daily basis.  These substitutes can be easy to transition to and can really make a difference for the long-term effect of your health.

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