We all have our favorite comfort foods, but these meal choices aren’t always the healthiest options. Fortunately, there are many ways to make meals healthier without sacrificing all of the flavor. Whether you want to add protein or reduce your calorie, sodium, fat or sugar intake, there are easy swaps you can make to meet your goals.
Some simple changes you can make to recipes include:
• Butter – unsweetened applesauce, mashed banana, pumpkin puree, avocado or olive oil. Replacing butter reduces the calorie count, fat content and is heart healthy.
• Sugar – applesauce, stevia, maple syrup or honey. Reducing sugar lowers the calorie count and using applesauce increases the amount of fiber.
• Salt – dry seasonings and spices. Make recipes more heart healthy by substituting the high-sodium ingredients with low-sodium options.
• White flour/bread/pasta/rice – whole-wheat flour or whole grain flour/bread/pasta/rice. Replace refined white carbohydrates with more nutritious options, such as brown rice or whole wheat pasta, as these foods have higher amounts of fiber, vitamins and minerals.
• Sour cream – plain Greek yogurt. This swap reduces fat and increases protein.
• Mayonnaise – mashed avocado or Greek yogurt. This is an easy way to add protein and healthy fats to your meal.
• Ground beef – ground turkey or chicken. Using ground turkey or chicken are good low-fat meat options.
• French fries – sweet potato, zucchini, carrot fries. Sweet potatoes and veggie fries are heart-healthier, lower calorie and are more fiber-rich.
For most of these swaps, you can substitute the same amount of the new ingredient for the old. Although if you’re replacing sugar, you only need to use half of the amount that should’ve been sugar with applesauce or honey.
Modifying our favorite recipes and developing and maintaining a healthier diet is not always an easy process. Fortunately, the exceptional team of registered dietitians at Cone Health Nutrition and Diabetes Education Services are dedicated to educating individuals and families about making more nutritious diet decisions and maintaining healthier lifestyles.
Lisa Balestrino, RD, is a registered dietitian at Cone Health Nutrition and Diabetes Education Services in Burlington. Balestrino received a Bachelor of Science in nutrition and dietetics at the University of Connecticut. She completed a master’s in food and nutrition and a dietetic internship at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.