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Smart & Healthy Cooking Substitutions

Updated on October 13, 2007

Grandma's Recipes Get a Makeover

I am the lucky recipient of tons of wonderful recipes my grandma has collected her entire life. Some of these recipes came from my great-grandparents (and some of those were passed on from their parents), some were created and/or tweaked by my grandma throughout the years, while others were bribed and blackmailed out of grandma's friends and acquaintances.

Just as cooking equipment has evolved, so must our ingredients!

Cooking in 1943, Library of Congress
Cooking in 1943, Library of Congress

Most of these recipes were passed on to me on the premise that I wouldn't reveal them to anyone but my own children. You see, grandma is quite proprietory about her stash of tried and true recipes. When she and her friends used to throw dinner parties, they always attempted to outdo one another--this led to everyone guarding their recipes like they were gold (this is where the necessity of bribery and blackmail came in).

One thing grandma particularly enjoyed doing was generously passing on a recipe for a dish everyone loved, but leaving a key ingredient out. This way, the recipe only turned out right for grandma and she was hailed as a superiour cook (which, of course, she was).

While I cherish these recipes, and keep them well-guarded, I find that they aren't exactly healthy. With this in mind, I've put together my favorite subsitutions. I've tried these, and they work. Please feel free to let me know about any substitutions that have worked for you and I'll add them to the list!

When you are cooking...

Substitute creams to thicken soups with pureed veggies or potatoes

stick margarine → small amounts of olive oil or vegetable broth

white rice → brown rice, quinoa, or couscous

ground meat → chopped vegetables (& use less meat), crumbled tofu, beans

ground beef → ground turkey breast

oil based marinades → orange juice or flavored vinegar

mayonaise → mustard

cream → evaporated milk

whole milk → skim milk

sour cream → plain yogurt

When you are baking...

Substitute chocolate with cocoa powder

oil, butter, or margarine → apple sauce

two eggs → 1 egg and 1 egg white

one egg → 2 egg whites

sweetened condensed milk → nonfat sweetened condensed milk

evaporated milk → evaporated skim milk

sour cream → pureed lowfat cottage cheese

chocolate chips → mini chocolate chips, chopped dried fruit, or chopped nuts

frosting → light coating of powdered sugar

More Smart & Healthy Choices

Buying non-stick pans helps eliminate the need for oil and butter.

If you want to use sugar, instead of a substitute (I like honey), try using lesssoooo sweet. sugar--often, you will find a recipe tastes even better when it isn't

If you need to use oil or butter, use less. Often, recipes call for more than is needed. Also, try deglazing your pan with broth, water, or wine instead.


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