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10 Simple Substitutes for Healthy Eating

Contributor: Kathy McManus, MS, RD, LDN
3 minute read
Top view of a delicious pumpkin cream soup in bowl on wooden background

When it comes to healthy eating, small changes can make a big difference.

“Many people become overwhelmed when thinking about changes in their diet,” says Kathy McManus, MS, RD, LDN. McManus is a Mass General Brigham dietitian and director of the Department of Nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“The fact is that simple food substitutions can have major benefits, including fewer calories, less cholesterol, and more stable blood sugar levels. These changes often lead to weight loss and lower your risks for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases.”

Tips for healthy food substitutions

To make recipes healthier for you and your family, try these 10 simple substitutes:

1. Use applesauce instead of oil when baking.

Try substituting applesauce for half the oil requested in cake and brownie recipes. You’ll cut down on calories without losing flavor or texture.

2. Eat brown rice instead of white rice.

Brown rice has more fiber and nutrients than white rice. The fiber also makes it more filling.

3. Use egg whites instead of whole eggs.

Swap ¼ cup of egg substitute or two egg whites for each egg in a recipe to cut calories and cholesterol.

4. Choose multigrain or whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta.

Some pastas also have omega-3 fatty acids, an added benefit.

5. Select low-fat cheese over full-fat cheese.

There are many delicious reduced-fat cheeses that reduce calories and saturated fat without compromising flavor.

6. Use fat-free yogurt instead of sour cream.

Plain, fat-free yogurt—especially Greek yogurt—is a great way to cut calories and saturated fat while maintaining a tangy flavor. It’s sure to leave you feeling better about your meal.

7. Try fresh herbs and spices instead of salt and salt-based herbs.

You’ll leave behind the sodium and add new flavor to your meals. If you can’t use fresh herbs, dried herbs, spices, and acids (such as vinegar or lemon juice) are great alternatives.

8. Choose skim or low-fat milk over cream.

You can opt to use lower-fat milk for cream-based soup recipes or when baking to reduce calories and fat.

9. Select whole wheat flour over all-purpose flour.

Whole wheat flour is an easy way to increase fiber in your recipes.

10. Use ground turkey, ground chicken, firm tofu, extra-lean ground beef.

Those are just some of the many alternatives to full-fat beef you can use to save on calories and fat in chili, burgers, meatballs, meatloaf, and lasagna.

Headshot of Kathy McManus, MS, RD, LDN