Cincinnati Children's Blog

Small, Healthy Food Substitutions Can Make Big Difference

Small, Healthy Food Substitutions Can Make Big Difference

Eating healthier can feel a little overwhelming and many families don’t know where to start. We often recommend that our HealthWorks! families begin by making small changes here and there that can collectively make a big difference.

One way to do that is to substitute some foods for healthier alternatives. Our dietitians have created a handy food substitutions chart, which can take the guess work out of making general food substitutions as well as exchanges in recipes. Try swapping a few of these out throughout the day and see how they add up!

[vc_tta_accordion active_section=”999″ collapsible_all=”true”][vc_tta_section title=”Dairy” tab_id=”dairy”]
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Egg whites (usually 2 egg whites for every egg) or 1/4 cup of egg substitute.
Whole milk, 2% milk, half & half or evaporated milk
Skim milk, 1% milk, evaporated skim milk, fat-free half & half or plain soymilk fortified with calcium.
Whole fat cheese
Reduced fat or fat-free cheese but add it at the end of the baking time. Can also use part-skim mozzarella cheese but read the label for fat content.
Full-fat cream cheese
Low-fat or nonfat cream cheese. Neufchatel or low-fat cottage cheese pureed until smooth.
Full-fat sour cream, Full-fat cottage cheese, Full-fat ricotta cheese
Nonfat or reduced fat sour cream or fat-free plain yogurt (yogurt is not heat stable). Use 2% or fat-free cottage cheese. Use part-skim ricotta.
Cream, whipping cream
Evaporated skim milk. Non fat whipping topping or cream (pay attention to serving size).
[/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Fruits and Vegetables” tab_id=”fruits-vegetables”]
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Iceberg lettuce
To increase fiber: Try romaine lettuce, endive and other leafy lettuces or baby spinach.
Peeled fruits and vegetables
To increase fiber: Add extra fruits and vegetables, such as adding grated carrots to spaghetti sauce, leaving apple peels in apple crisp, zucchini bread, etc. Add extra fruits and vegetables to recipes and include the peel when possible.
Canned or frozen fruits with sugar
Decrease or eliminate sugar when canning or freezing fruits. Buy unsweetened frozen fruit or fruit canned in its own juice, water or light syrup.
[/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Meat and Fish” tab_id=”meat-fish”]
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To increase fiber: Use more dried beans and peas. Add legumes and lentils to many different dishes. Try adding lentils to your spaghetti.
Ground beef or ground chuck
Ground round or ground sirloin. Ground lean turkey and chicken can also be used. Be sure to check the label for the fat content.
Fatter cuts of meat – skin on
Leaner cuts of meat or ground meat. Remove skin before cooking.
Canned fish in oil
Water-packed canned fish.
[/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Grains” tab_id=”grains”]
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White rice, enriched grains
To increase fiber: Use whole grain, brown rice, wild rice, whole cornmeal, whole barley, bulgur, kasha, quinoa, or whole wheat couscous.
All purpose flour
To increase fiber: Substitute whole wheat flour for up to 1/2 of the flour.
Pasta, crackers, cookies, cereals
To increase fiber: Use whole grain pastas, crackers, cookies and cereals.
White bread
To increase fiber: Use 100% whole grain bread and 100% whole wheat bread (look for wheat as first ingredient).
[/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Fats and Condiments” tab_id=”fats-condiments”]
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Shortening, butter, margarine or lard
Using 1/2 less liquid oil or solid fat called for in the recipe. If recipe calls for 1 cup, use 3/4 cup. If recipe uses 1/4 cup shortening, use 3 tablespoons oil. Use equal amounts of oil for melted shortening, margarine or butter.
Shortening, butter or oil for baking
Use applesauce or prune puree for half of the butter, shortening or oil. May need to reduce baking time by 25%.
Butter, shortening, margarine or oil to prevent sticking. Fat to sauté or stir-fry
When frying foods, use cooking spray, water, broth or non-stick pans. Try to change cooking method to bake, broil, grill, poach, roast or microwave.
Regular mayonnaise or salad dressing
Use low-fat, reduced or nonfat mayonnaise or salad dressing.
[/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Sweeteners/Other” tab_id=”sweeteners-others”]
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Reducing sugar by 1/4 to 1/3 in baked good products and desserts. (If recipe calls for 1 cup, use 2/3 cup). Cinnamon, vanilla and almond extract can be added to give impression of sweetness. Use sugar substitutes according to package directions. Some may not work for baking.
Pureed fruit, such as no sugar added applesauce or sugar-free syrup.
Fruit-flavored syrup
Pureed fruit, such as no sugar added applesauce or sugar-free syrup.
Pudding, gelatin and soda pop
Most brands offer a sugar-free variety.
If you’re looking for more ways to promote healthier eating habits at home, visit our website to learn more about our Healthworks! program.

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