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Low Fat Cooking Tips and Healthy Baking Substitutions

Updated on July 5, 2011

We all need fat to live. The human brain cannot function without sufficient fats. Many vitamins are exclusively fat-soluble, and would do us no good without it. But when so much of our diet as Americans consists of high-fat foods with little in the way of nutritional value, and "diet" foods fall flat on the palate, how do we find ways to cut back, while still enjoying the great taste we need to feel satisfied?

First thing's first: start eating at home more often. You can't control what's going on in any other chef's kitchen but your own. But what then? Your shelf is full of old-fashioned cookbooks from before the invention of Splenda. Not to mention those lard- and shortening- filled family recipes handed down from previous generations. You might be surprised to learn that you can, in fact, make Mom's Famous Double-Chocolate Brownies... and not only that, you can eat them too! All those recipes need is a little updating to the 21st century, and that is easy enough to do, if you know how.

Right, you say, but you don't know how. You've heard of substituting one ingredient for another, but how do you know what works, or how much to use? I've laid out below the substitutions I've found tried and true in my own kitchen that won't alter the texture or flavor noticeably, complete with conversions. Print them out, and use them! They won't do any good on their own, just floating around in cyberspace ;)

List of Substitutions and Tips


  • 1 cup whole milk = 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 cup buttermilk = 1 Tbsp vinegar OR 1 Tbsp lemon juice + enough skim milk to make 1 cup
  • 1 cup heavy cream = 1 cup evaporated skim milk OR 1/2 cup low-fat yogurt + 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream = 1 can chilled evaporated skim milk whipped with 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup cream cheese = 4 Tbsp margarine + 1 cup dry low-fat cottage cheese (+ a little skim milk if needed)
  • 1 cup butter or oil = 2/3 cup applesauce
  • 1 egg = 2 eggwhites

Cooking and Snacking

  • Use chicken broth to stir-fry instead of oil.
  • In place of butter, use non-fat cooking spray to brown.
  • Baste roasts with wine or fruit juice.
  • Replace bacon with turkey bacon.
  • Make sure to use extra lean ground beef for burgers and meatballs, or substitute ground turkey.
  • You can get the same taste with less cheese if you get the 2% extra sharp cheddar instead of mild.
  • No-Sugar-Added fruit spreads taste more fruity than jam, and are plenty sweet.
  • Get tuna packed in water.
  • Canned fruits should be packed in fruit juice instead of heavy syrup.


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    • BanjDog profile image

      BanjDog 7 years ago from Travel Around

      I cannot believe that you actually did it. I love how you replaced the fatty ingredients with the healthy ones. I cannot wait to do a recipe similar to the above. Thanks a lot!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 7 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Great info. I always cook low fat. I don,t even like the taste of fat anymore.

      Thank you

    • Support Med. profile image

      Support Med. 7 years ago from Michigan

      This is great! Never thought of stir frying with chicken broth instead of oil (good one!) Love the buttermilk substitution (didn't know there was one). And you are so right about the cheese, tons of mild cannot equal the flavor of a lesser amount of sharp any day of the week and I love cheesy flavor. Voted-up/rated!

    • lovelypaper profile image

      Renee S 8 years ago from Virginia

      Great idea to list healthier alternatives. I know I need to eat better.

    • profile image

      Ellen 9 years ago

      Good suggestions. I love substituting 2% Greek yogurt in place of mayo and sour cream for at least half of the measurement needed. It has a very fresh flavor and it has the same consistency as the sour cream.

    • profile image

      Florida Lady 10 years ago

      I love cream dressings so to reduce the calories by half. I do the following 1/2 Fat Free Sour Cream and 1/2 Fat Free Mayo. That make the creamy base and then add your favorite seasons. Mine is a greek season made with 13 different seasonings but one could use an Italian seasoning, mexican, etc. Make sure it is ground very fine so as the flavor is absorbed.

    • mgwhite profile image

      Mary White 10 years ago from Mobile, AL

      you can also subsitute plain, nonfat yogurt for mayo in dip recipes.

    • profile image

      maui girl 10 years ago

      Thank God I found your page. I'm new at baking for that matter cooking all together...and I'm always wanting to eat on the lighter side:) Your page is booked marked now I am off to the grocery to stock up on my healthy subsitutes. My husband will be the true test!!!

    • Watkins Lady profile image

      Watkins Lady 10 years ago

      I cook low fat all the time, great hub!

    • profile image

      Chris Jonas 10 years ago

      I am a chef and specialize in healthy cooking and low fat recipes so found your hub very informative and helpful. Many people think that eating healthy and especially low fat cooking has to b bland and tasteless which is not the case and hopefully hub's like yours will help educate people.

    • Stacie Naczelnik profile image

      Stacie Naczelnik 10 years ago from Seattle

      I substitute a lot also. One thing I do to replace sour cream is to use Trader Joe's lowfat, plain yogurt--the lemon helps. I hadn't heard of the heavy cream substitutions before: I like it.