cooking substitutions

Get your family on the healthy track without drastically changing your way of cooking by swapping a few simple ingredients.

A quick trip to the grocery store just isn’t in the cards. If you are like me, you find a recipe and then hopes are dashed as you find out you are missing just one ingredient. Back to the drawing board I go. 

After facing this several times in the last week, my daughters and I found ourselves asking Alexa what we could substitute. After some thought, I decided it would be a fun activity for me and my daughter, Charli, to research and talk to our friends and family about their ingredient swaps and share them with all of you. 

I have not used all of these but Produce for Kids team members and members of our Healthy Family Project group have offered their insight. 

Here’s our list to help you in your kitchen. Leave a comment here or on our Facebook page letting us know your swap and we’ll add it to the list! 

1. Swap out saturated fats for unsaturated fats:

  • Keep the olive oil beside the stove so you reach for it first when cooking.
  • Use these alternatives to butter or margarine on toast: Apple sauce, Greek yogurt, roasted garlic mixed with olive oil or try this Breakfast Guacamole Made With Greek Yogurt.
  • When baking, substitute mashed bananas or apple sauce for butter or margarine, like in this Pistachio Apple Bread.

2. Reduce sugar and salt:

  • Use herbs and spices instead of salt.
  • Put lemon wedges on the table instead of a salt shaker. A squeeze of lemon brings a bright zing so the salt won’t be missed. This Lemon Roasted Salmon gets a flavor boost from both herbs and lemon juice.
  • Substitute pureed fruit for sugar in cooking and baking. Keep frozen purees on hand so they’re as convenient as the sugar bowl. This Very Berry Peach Lemonade gets a lot of its sweetness from fruit.

3. When a recipe calls for flour or bread-based ingredients, swap them out:

4. Reduce bad protein, increase lean protein:

5. Add fruits and veggies everywhere:

  • Add veggies to carbohydrate side dishes. Try this recipe for Rice with Cucumber, Chive and Lime.
  • Top desserts with fruit. Put less dessert in the bowl, top with fruit and feel just as satisfied, like in this recipe for Fruit and Cream Delights.
  • Make fruit salsas or veggie-based sauces to accompany smaller meat/fish portions.
  • Use veggies instead of carbohydrates, like large lettuce leaves as wraps for tacos or spaghetti squash, zucchini ribbons or shredded carrots for pasta.

Is there an ingredient you’d like to swap? Comment below for a healthy suggestion.  

healthy cooking substitutions

Easy Swaps for Common Ingredients

  • Lemon Juice: Sub 1 Tbsp. lemon juice with 1½ tsp. white vinegar, or equal amounts of orange or lime juice in recipes.
  • Vegetable or Beef Broth: Sub 1 cup vegetable or beef broth with 1 cup water + 1 Tbsp. soy sauce (you can also add in  any seasonings like salt, pepper, garlic, etc. to add more flavor) 
  • Buttermilk: Sub 1 cup buttermilk with 1 Tbsp. white vinegar or lemon juice (or 1¾ tsp. cream of tartar) + enough milk to measure 1 cup. Stir and let stand for 5 minutes before adding to the recipe. You can also swap an equal amount of plain yogurt for buttermilk. 
  • Eggs: Sub 1 egg with 1 tsp. flaxseed + 3 tsp. water. Stir and let sit 5 minutes to thicken before adding to the recipe. You can also sub 1 egg for 1 ripe banana, mashed.
  • Vegetable Oil: Sub 1 cup vegetable oil with 1/2 cup applesauce or fruit puree in baking recipes.
  • Tomato Paste: Sub with an equal amount of ketchup or sub 1 Tbsp. tomato paste with 2 Tbsp. tomato puree or sauce and reduce the liquid in the recipe by 2 Tbsp.
  • Balsamic Vinegar: Sub 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar with 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar + ½ tsp. brown sugar
  • White Wine: Sub 1 cup white wine with 1 cup chicken broth for savory recipes or 1 cup apple juice in desserts. You can also sub 1 cup white wine with ½ cup white wine + ½ cup water.
  • Honey: Sub with equal amounts of maple syrup or agave nectar
  • Sour Cream: Sub with equal amounts of Greek yogurt

Other Simple Substitutions

  • Cinnamon = Pumpkin Pie Spice 
  • Parsley = Celery Leaves 
  • Vanilla Extract = Maple Syrup or ½ amount Almond Extract 
  • Worcestershire Sauce = Soy Sauce
  • Baking Powder (1 tsp.) = 1/4 tsp. baking soda + 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • Breadcrumbs = Oats or Crumbled Crackers
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh herbs = 1 tsp. dried herbs

What are some cooking substitutions you make in the kitchen?