Do you crave the creamy, dreamy taste of mashed potatoes but don’t want to indulge because you are looking to eat healthier? Or are you more of a sweet tooth type, thinking of the decadent sweetness of a brownie but can’t bear the thought of all that refined sugar?
Well, with a few quick and easy substitutions, you can still relish your favorite foods without totally falling off the health wagon.
When it comes to making things taste good, fat does a really good job. Let’s take a look at some substitutes you can use when trying to reduce the impact of fat in your weight loss journey.
1. Plain Greek Yogurt
Many people don’t yet realize the versatility of this particular dairy product. Thick, creamy and high in protein, nonfat or low fat plain Greek yogurt is an excellent substitute for sour cream on your baked potato or in your mashed potatoes. In casseroles, replacing cream of chicken soup with Greek yogurt really knocks down the calorie count without sacrificing the creamy texture or taste.
2. Unsweetened Applesauce
This humble food is a terrific substitute for fat when making baked goods like brownies. Most brownie and other bake mixes call for at least a 1/3 cup of oil in the recipe. That’s over 330 calories just in the oil itself – not to mention the whopping 34 grams of fat. When replacing oil with applesauce, measure 1/4 cup of applesauces for every 1/3 cup of oil. The best part of this substitution is that your baked goods – either cakes or brownies – won’t have any flavor of the applesauce whatsoever.
3. Low fat and non-fat Cheese
Who doesn’t love a little cheese? But that cheesy goodness comes with a price – high fat and calories. Thankfully, the dairy industry has risen to the call of the dieters and has come up with tasty, lower fat versions of its usual fat-filled fare. Substitutions are easy: use the low fat cheese exactly the same as you would normal cheese in your casseroles, eggs, and other foods. One word of caution: nonfat cheese doesn’t melt nearly as well as low fat cheese and is best used for sprinkling in salads and on top of soups and stews.
4. Mashed Bananas
Mashed ripe bananas can add a creamy, thickening consistency to recipes. Not to mention the banana nutrients potassium, fiber, and vitamin B6 they will add. Try one cup of mashed banana in place of 1 cup or butter or oil.
5. Avoid Substitute Sweeteners
Synthetic substitutes may tempt you when it comes to replacing sugar with something lower calorie. Read this first. Sucralose was discovered in 1976 by scientists working with researchers Leslie Hough and Shashikant Phadnis at Queen Elizabeth College (now part of King’s College London). While researching ways to use sucrose and its synthetic derivatives as an insecticide, Phadnis was told to test a chlorinated sugar compound. Phadnis thought Hough asked him to “taste” it, so he did, and found the compound to be exceptionally sweet.
The success of sucralose-based products camefrom favorable comparisons to other low-calorie sweeteners in terms of taste, stability, and safety. Common brand names of sucralose-based sweeteners are Splenda, Sukrana, SucraPlus, Candys, Cukren, and Nevella, which are not all that different form insecticide names if you think about it long enough.
Aspartame has the same sweetness level as saccharin and sucralose and can be used in recipes, but they must be custom-made for aspartame use. The majority of the existing scientific evidence indicates that aspartame is safe at current levels of consumption as a non-nutritive sweetener. The key word here is non-nutritive.
Instead of synthetics, try Stevia. It has been widely used as a natural sweetener in South America for centuries and in Japan since 1970. Due to its unique characteristics of zero glycemic index and zero calories, it is fast becoming popular in many other countries.
7. Complex Carbohydrates
There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are easily absorbed and provide quick energy to the body. Examples of simple carbohydrates are honey, breakfast cereals, breads and biscuits made with white flour, fruit juice, and most crackers.
Complex carbohydrates aren’t as quickly digested as your body since they usually contain fiber and as a result, don’t cause the spikes in blood sugar, and also carry a lot more nutrients than simple sugars. Some examples of complex carbohydrates to swap into recipes include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
Brown rice makes a great substitute for refined white rice in almost all cases. Whole wheat pasta can replace regular pasta, whole grain breads beat refined white flour breads and corn tortillas have less calories and more nutrients than flour tortillas.
8. Ricotta cheese
In recipes that call for 1 cup cream cheese, try using 1/2 cup ricotta cheese pureed with 1/2 cup fat-free cream cheese.
9. Spices instead of Salt
Include a variety of spices, seasonings, herbs and vegetables in recipes rather than table salt. For example, try chives, dill, garlic or vinegar on cucumbers; serve green beans with lemon juice or sautéed onions; top potatoes with parsley; try bay leaf, fresh mushrooms, onion or thyme on beef; season poultry with lemon juice, marjoram, fresh mushrooms, paprika, parsley, sage or thyme; or season fish with bay leaf, curry powder, lemon juice, fresh mushrooms or paprika.
What about those Carbs?
There has been a lot of talk about carbohydrates and how they hinder weight loss. To a certain extent that is true – if you eat too many carbs, then your body will end up storing them as fat. In addition, when you continue to go overboard on carbs, you become sluggish, overweight and retain water.
But here’s the thing: you body needs carbohydrates to fuel your brain, to create red blood cells (a key component of blood) and to repair wounds. So how much is too much?
Recent scientific studies show that daily carbohydrate intake between 100 grams and 150 grams per day is right where you want to be; enough carbs to run your body in a healthy, efficient manner but not get in the way of weight loss.
Of course, if you are exercising strenuously on a daily basis, are recovering from illness or surgery, or have other health issues like diabetes, your optimum carbohydrate intake level may be different – and in some case, dramatically different. It’s best to check with your doctor to be sure.
Oh, and those mashed potatoes? Wait until you try mashed cauliflower.