Last week we shared how processed foods are detrimental to your waistline. If consuming whole, fresh foods is ideal, how is one to avoid ingredients that work against the hard-earned gains made from positive lifestyle choices?
Cooking and baking don’t have to be a downfall to a healthy diet. Here are some common baking substitutions, as well as some less known ways to still be able to whip up those favorite recipes without feeling guilty. And, they also work great in a pinch- I can’t be the only one who gets halfway through a recipe only to realize I don’t have everything I need!
Eggs: Calories in 1 large egg: 78
There are a variety of substitutes you can use for eggs, which is great if you’re working only with what you have on-hand. Substituting eggs helps lower the cholesterol of the recipe. If you’re replacing eggs that are meant to bind the product, you can use these options (portions are for every egg needed):
- 1/2 of a medium banana; 54 calories
- 1/4 cup of applesauce: 41 calories
- 3 1/2 tablespoons of gelatin blend: 35 calories
- 1 tablespoon of flaxseeds mixed with 3 tablespoon of warm water: 120 calories. While the calories for a tablespoon are higher than one large egg, flaxseed contains omega-3 fats, dietary fiber, and protein, just to name a few benefits.
Buttermilk: Calories in 1 cup: 99
Buttermilk has a lower fat content than whole milk, but does contain saturated fat. So, cutting it from a recipe can definitely help make your end product healthier. While it may seem like a no-brainer to just substitute milk in place of buttermilk, doing so will squander the leavening benefit of how the acid in buttermilk reacts with baking sodas. Here are four options to make 1 cup of buttermilk:
- 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar and enough milk to make 1 cup (let it sit for five minutes after combining): 122 calories
- Plain yogurt that is watered down with milk or water until it has a buttermilk-like consistency (standard is 1/4 cup liquid with 3/4 cup yogurt): 39 calories
- 1 3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar with 1 cup of milk: 130 calories
Butter: Calories in 1 cup: 1,627
Even if you have butter available, it isn’t a bad idea to substitute it for a healthier option. These options work for almost every recipe, but for items where you’re seeking a flaky finish (like a crust), a substitution may not yield the same results. Some of the substitute options seem to be similar as far as calorie content, but read here for the difference between dietary fats. As a substitute for 1 cup of butter, you can use:
- 1/2 cup applesauce: 83 calories
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil: 1,446 calories
- 1 cup avocado: 234 calories
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt: 140 calories
- 3/4 cup olive oil: 1,431 calories
Lard: Calories in 1 cup: 2,034
Using certain ingredients is sometimes the only way to get the desired product. Lard can be a tough ingredient to substitute because substitutes will have a different fat content (lard is 100% fat). “Isn’t that the whole point?”, you might be asking. Yes, but different fat contents lead to different end-results for the product. A slightly better alternative to lard is butter (80% fat), or even vegetable shortening. You’ll have to explore how much more to add to make up for the shortage in the fat content to get the desired result. The same goes for these substitutes as for the butter substitutes; all dietary fats are not created equal- read here how to make a good choice for your dietary needs and goals!
Oils are another possible lard substitute. Each of these will affect your recipe in different ways because of the fat content. Using oils instead of lard may lead to the product to spread more (for example, when making cookies), but you can counteract that by chilling the dough before baking it. For every cup of lard needed, you can use:
- Butter: Substitute 1 1/4 cups: 2,033 calories
- Vegetable oil: Substitute 7/8 cup: 1,687 calories
- Olive oil: Substitute 1 cup olive oil: 1,910 calories
- Coconut oil: Substitute 1 cup coconut oil: 1,897 calories
Sour Cream: Calories in 1 cup: 445
This substitute is simple enough- if a recipe requires sour cream, you can use an equal amount of plain yogurt as a substitute. Using plain yogurt cuts the fat and calorie (calories: 154) amounts and still gives you the tangy flavor you’re looking for.
Vegetable oil: Calories in a cup: 1,910
Depending on the recipe, an easy substitute for vegetable oil is using an equal amount of applesauce (calories in one cup: 166) or fruit puree (calories: depends on fruit chosen).
Sugar: Calories in one cup: 773
Sugar is one of the biggest downfalls to a healthy diet when baking and cooking. There are a variety of options that can be used to provide the flavor, but avoid the negative impact of high levels of sugar:
- Stevia: Harvested from a shrub that originates in South America, Stevia is a natural sweetener. It has zero calories, and has not been found to have any adverse side effects. In fact, studies show that stevioside, (a compound in stevia) can have beneficial effects on blood pressure, by as much as 6-14%. Calories: zero
- Erythritol: A sugar alcohol, Erythritol does not contain as many calories as regular sugar. (only 6% of the calories). The flavors are almost identical, so it’s an easy switch to make. Because the human body doesn’t have the enzymes to break down Erythritol, it is absorbed directly to the blood stream and excreted in your urine. While safe for human consumption, some people may experience minor digestive upset when consuming higher levels of Erythritol. Calories in one cup: 46
- Xylitol: Extracted from corn or birch wood, it is found in many fruits and vegetables. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol, so the flavor is very similar to traditional sugar. The upside is also that it only contains 60% of the calories of regular sugar. Another perk is that Xylitol has been shown to prevent tooth decay and cavities. An important note: xylitol is toxic to dogs, so keep it away from them and definitely don’t share any treats made with Xylitol. Calories: 463.
- Yacon Syrup: Extracted from the Yacon plant of South America, Yacon Syrup contains 40–50% fructooligosaccharides, which are a special type of sugar molecule that the human body cannot digest. Because these sugar molecules are not digested, yacon syrup contains one-third of the calories of regular sugar, or about 1.3 calories per gram. Calories in a cup: 156.
Lemon Juice: Calories in one cup: 53
Lemons obviously aren’t unhealthy. But in a cooking or baking bind, you can substitute lemon juice with lime juice in a 1:1 ratio, or with vinegar/white wine in a 1/2: 1 ratio, to keep your dish from being too acidic. This is a wonderful substitute tip for making your own salad dressings or marinades, which helps you avoid unnecessary sugar, fat, and additives found in store bought options.
These are just a few ideas for substitutes while baking and cooking. If you have any favorites, please share them with us!