Simple ingredient swaps can result in healthier meals and a healthier you

Swapping out less-healthy ingredients with those that pack more nutrition can make a big difference in your diet and lead to better health without skimping on flavor.

SHARE Simple ingredient swaps can result in healthier meals and a healthier you
When possible, opt for healthier oils such as olive oil in your recipes.

When possible, opt for healthier oils such as olive oil for your salads and savory recipes.

stock.adobe.com

Eating healthier might seem overwhelming, but it can be as simple as making a few easy changes to your diet.

Rather than taking an all-or-nothing approach to tame a sweet tooth, you could cut back on salt, lose a few pounds or eat more nutrient rich foods. Swapping out less-healthy ingredients with those that pack more nutrition can make a big difference in your diet and lead to better health without skimping on flavor.

Try these simple swaps to make your next recipe healthier:

1. 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 nontropical 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. Fruit and vegetable purées, such as avocado, pumpkin, applesauce, prune, fig, banana or date, can be substituted for half or more of the fat in recipes.

2. Sugar — Consuming too much sugar is linked to increased risk of chronic disease, including heart disease.

Start by cutting the sugar called for in a recipe by 25%, then look to the most natural substitution — fruit. Not only do puréed or mashed bananas, dates, figs or applesauce provide sweetness, they also 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 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 1/4 cup.

Adding a teaspoon of “sweet” spice, like vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom, to recipes makes them seem sweeter, too.

3. Salt — Going heavy on the salt shaker can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

Instead, season food with spices, like fresh or dried herbs. Cinnamon and cumin bring more robust flavors. 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.

4. Refined grains — White flour, white rice and white pasta are made with refined grains, which have been stripped of nutrient-rich bran and germ. Refined grains have just a quarter of their original protein and half to two-thirds or more of their nutrients.

Where possible, replace refined white flour with whole grain flours like whole wheat (pictured), oat, millet, or quinoa, or nut flours, like almond, hazelnut, and flaxseed, or cooked black beans.

Where possible, replace refined white flour with whole grain flours like whole wheat (pictured), oat, millet, or quinoa, or nut flours, like almond, hazelnut, and flaxseed, or cooked black beans.

stock.adobe.com

Replacing some or all of the refined grain with whole grains in your recipes 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 pasta, swap in those made with whole grains, legumes or vegetable noodles made from zucchini or spaghetti squash.

Replace refined white flour with whole grain flours like whole wheat, oat, millet or quinoa or nut flours such as 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 might take some experimentation to achieve the results you want.

5. Red meat — High intake of red and processed meats is associated with higher risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and premature death. So try replacing fatty red meats and processed meats with leaner cuts or substitute poultry, like chicken, turkey or fish or other seafood.

Whole food plant-based stand-ins for meat include mushrooms, tofu, tempeh and legume-based veggie burgers. There also are packaged plant-based meatless products, but they can be highly processed, so read the label to avoid unwanted ingredients, such as added sugar, sodium and additives.

Environmental Nutrition is an independent newsletter written by experts on health and nutrition.

The Latest
DeShields had 14 points, shooting 7-for-12 from the field, three steals and two rebounds in the Sky’s opener. It was her first game back in good health in two years.
They were standing near the sidewalk around 7:30 p.m. in the 5500 block of West Quincy Street when a black Kia drove by and someone from inside the car opened fire
Cozenn Johnson, 54, was inside a home in the 3800 block of West 85th Street when someone fired shots around 4:35 p.m.
The market had been operating on South Desplaines Street since 2008. This area has since become the city’s landing zone for migrants arriving by bus.