Healthy Substitutions for Cooking

Smart Substitutions

Looking for ways to substitute healthier ingredients?

Try our easy tips to include
better-for-you foods.

Focus on Fat

Focus on fat
  • Start by cutting the fat in half; work down from there. Fats are calorie heavy with 9 calories per gram, while carbohydrates and protein have just 4 calories per gram.

  • Read labels to find low-fat and fat-free options for favorites like milk, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, half-and-half, ice cream and whipped topping. To adjust more easily, make a gradual switch from reduced-fat to low-fat and then on to fat-free ingredients.

  • Use part-skim cheeses instead of their higher fat counterparts, or use sharper-flavored cheeses like Parmesan, feta or Gorgonzola since their more pungent flavors allow you to use less.

  • Canola, soybean and olive oils are good fats to use for stir-frying, cooking and some baking because they have less saturated fat than many other options.

  • Egg substitutes can replace eggs at a savings of 5 grams of fat each (1/4 cup = 1 large egg).


  • Choose lean and extra-lean ground meats or ground turkey breast.

  • Choose loin and sirloin meats and skinless white-meat poultry.

  • Trim fat from meats before cooking.

  • Cut bacon or sausage amounts in half, or switch to turkey bacon, low-fat sausages or vegetarian alternatives.

  • Cut meat amounts in chilis and casseroles in half; add beans for extra protein and fiber.

  • Blend or process 1/4 to 1/3 of a soup to make it creamy instead of adding cream or thickeners.


  • Replace butter with no-trans-fat vegetable oil spread. Or, replace half with canola oil.

  • Replace half the fat with applesauce. Next time, go further if you like the results.

  • Cut chocolate chips in half and use miniatures to make the flavor go further.

  • Toast nuts for fullest flavor, then use half the amount and finely chop.

  • Use cooking spray to grease pans; spray cupcake liners to release muffins easily.

Punch up the Flavor

Punch up the flavor
  • Fat carries flavor. When fat is reduced or removed, foods can become bland. It’s important to increase flavorings and/or seasonings to compensate for that lost fat.

  • Use grated or shredded lemon, lime or orange peel, or squeeze fresh juice to heighten flavor.

  • Add high-flavored ingredients like Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, garlic, gingerroot, chili peppers, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, hoisin sauce or other full-flavored condiments.

  • Sprinkle or stir in chopped fresh herbs just before serving to enhance flavors.

  • Double or triple the amount of vanilla, and increase spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg when baking.

Check the Sodium

Check the sodium
  • Buy low- or reduced-sodium instead of regular chicken broth, soy sauce, canned foods and prepared pasta sauces.

  • Rinse canned veggies and beans before using.

  • Cut added salt in half or leave it out completely.

  • Instead of salt, use a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice or a splash of high-flavored vinegar.

  • Check the ingredient list on dried herb mixtures to avoid added sodium.

Add Fiber

Add fiber
  • Double the amount of veggies and/or legumes in stir-fries, casseroles, soups, stews and salads to help fill you up.

  • Switch to whole grain pasta, rice and grains.

  • Mix oatmeal or other cereal into burgers and meatballs.

  • Crush high-fiber cereal such as Fiber One® to coat chicken breasts and fish fillets or use as a topping for baked dishes like casseroles or muffins.

  • Replace half the amount of all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour when baking.

Try it Out in a Recipe

Mexican Pasta Skillet
Mexican Pasta Skillet
This 30-minute sizzling skillet will have your family running to the table!...
Healthified Strawberry Shortcake Squares
Healthified Strawberry Shortcake Squares
60% less fat • 30% fewer calories • 75% less sat fat than the original recipe— see the comparison. A...
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