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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Kitchen Substitutions to Help You Cut Calories

The other day when I was at a gathering of toddlers and their moms, my friend asked us what hacks we use to make our cooking healthier. Here's the list that we came up with. Some of these substitutions won't work in every case, but if you can cut out fat at least some of the time, all the better.
  • Evaporated milk for cream This works for soups and sauces, but not making actual whipped cream.
  • Ricotta cheese for cream Thank you Skinny Bovine!
  • Neufchatel for cream cheese It's the exact same thing except it's made with skim milk instead of whole. I do not buy cream cheese. No one has noticed. (When I tried fat-free cream cheese there was rebellion, plus it's full of preservatives and complex unidentifiable ingredients. Low fat is good enough for me.)
  • Olive oil for butter Yes it doesn't taste quite the same, but you can keep the butter flavor by cutting the butter down by 2/3rds and filling in the remainder with olive oil. Sometimes it's fine to cut out all of the butter. Experiment.
  • Canola oil for vegetable or corn oil. This one works when you have to have oil. Canola and olive are the healthiest oil choices. Again, I do not buy vegetable oil.
  • Apple sauce for oil. Great for muffins and cakes.
  • Plain yogurt for oil.
  • Apple juice for oil.
  • Orange juice for oil.
  • Orange juice concentrate for shortening. This won't work for pie crusts, but some baking. For Easter I made some carrot cake with this method and it tasted even better with the OJ instead of the shortening. (Shortening grosses me out. I avoid it at all costs.)
  • Pureed vegetables as sauce/soup thickener instead of flour or cornstarch. Sometimes a winner, sometimes not. (Sometimes a woman has to resort to deception to get her family to eat healthy things. It's a don't ask, don't tell policy.)
  • Wheatberries for all or part of the ground beef in a recipe. This won't work for beef jerky, but I've tried with positive results in tacos, enchiladas, hamburger helper, casseroles and lasagna. I HEART it in tacos, so much less grease. I can't go back to the old way. For enchiladas I blend the wheatberries with some sauce for improved texture.
  • Part oat or wheat flour in a recipe
Here's a great post from the SBK on making healthy dessert that runs along these lines.
And here's a post I did previously on substitutions for alcohol in cooking, a few of which were also mentioned at our little healthy substitutions pow-wow.
 Does anyone else have any great secrets they'd like to share?


  1. This is an awesome list! I would add if you can't do wheatberries in your ground beef, switch to ground turkey. It's about the same price as ground beef, and has much less saturated fat. It's also very tasty!! I acutally like it in my tacos (I too am a taco addict) :). My MIL also had this very good canola-oil pie crust recipe she uses (you can google and find many versions of it). You seriously cannot tell the difference betwenn that and a shortning crust.

  2. I use evaporated milk in homemade mashed potatoes. It tastes rich and sinful, but it has a lot less calories than cream.