Some healthier alternatives to cook with
Eating healthier may seem overwhelming, but it shouldn’t be! It can be as simple as making a few simple changes to your diet.
Rather than taking an “all or nothing” approach to tame a sweet tooth, cut back on salt, lose a few pounds, or eat more nutrient rich foods, try the “ol switcheroo” instead. Swapping out less healthy ingredients with those that pack a more nutritious punch can make a big difference in your diet that can lead to better health — without skimping on flavor.
Try these simple swaps to make your next recipe healthier:
Butter and oils
Butter, shortening and tropical oils (coconut, palm oil, and palm kernel oil) are high in saturated fat, which has been linked with heart disease. Substitute with healthier oils like olive, peanut, canola or any non-tropical oil. When cooking, replace all or some of these fats with healthier oils using a 1:1 ratio. In baking, substitute at a ratio of 1:3/4.
Furthermore, fruit and vegetable purées — such as avocado, pumpkin, applesauce, prune, fig, banana or date — may be substituted for half or more of the fat in recipes.
Consuming too much added sugar is linked to increased risk of chronic disease, including heart disease. Start by cutting the sugar called for in a recipe by 25% and then look to the most natural substitution: fruit!
Not only do puréed or mashed bananas, dates, figs or applesauce provide sweetness, they pack nutrients like fiber, vitamins and minerals with far fewer calories than sugar.
Honey, maple syrup and agave syrup or nectar are a sweeter swap, as they provide a more similar sweetness to sugar. Substitute one cup of sugar in recipes with 2/3 cup of these liquid sweeteners and reduce the liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup.
Adding to recipes a teaspoon of “sweet” spice — like vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom — makes the results seem sweeter too.
Going heavy on the salt shaker can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Try seasoning your food with bold flavors so you won’t need salt.
Replace salt with spices, like fresh or dried herbs. Cinnamon and cumin bring more robust flavors, while basil and thyme are more subtle.
Avoid the hidden salt in store-bought spice blends by mixing your own. For Italian seasoning, combine basil, oregano, rosemary, parsley, thyme, red chili flakes and garlic powder.
Other flavor boosters include fresh or powdered onion, garlic and chili peppers, as well as mustards, vinegars, and lemon and other citrus zest and juice.
White flour, white rice and white pasta are made with refined grains, which are grains that have been stripped of their nutrient-rich bran and germ. Refined grains lose three-quarters of their original protein and one-third to half of their nutrients.
Replacing some or all of the refined grain in a recipe with whole grains, or choosing products made with whole grains, delivers all of the fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals nature intended, along with several health benefits, including lower risk of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Instead of white rice, choose whole grain brown rice or wild rice or riced cauliflower. For ordinary pasta, swap in pasta made with whole grains, or choose legumes, spaghetti squash or vegetable noodles made from zucchini.
Replace refined white flour with whole grain flours like whole wheat, oat, millet or quinoa, or nut flours, like almond, hazelnut and flaxseed, or cooked black beans. Conversions from white flour to whole grain or nut flours when baking are not always 1:1, so it may take some experimentation to achieve desired results.
High intake of red and processed meats is associated with higher risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and premature death. Replace fatty red meats and processed meats with leaner cuts, or substitute poultry, like chicken or turkey, or fish or other seafood.
Whole food plant-based stand-ins for meat include mushrooms, tofu, tempeh or legume-based veggie burgers.
There are also many packaged plant-based meatless products, but they can be highly processed, so be sure to read the label to avoid unwanted ingredients, such as added sugar, sodium and additives.
Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC, 1-800-829-5384, EnvironmentalNutrition.com.
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