Easy Substitutions

Your favorite foods and recipes need not be eliminated from your life if they can be easily adapted to your new eating style. Some of these fixes are quick and easy, while others may require some experimentation. You may discover substitutions on your own that work to convert recipes that you enjoy.

One of the easiest substitutions you can make is just to purchase a lower-fat version of the same item. For example, instead of buying full-fat sour cream, try a reduced-fat or fat-free version. Instead of soft drinks with hundreds of empty calories from sugar, switch to a diet version that has no calories.

Egg Substitute

Eggs are generally a healthy option, but if you are concerned about your fat intake, or you are battling high cholesterol, you might want to consider a substitute for whole eggs. A pasteurized egg substitute, usually found in the same section as regular eggs, is a bit of a misnomer, as they are actually made from egg whites. They look like scrambled eggs before they are cooked, and look and cook nearly identically to beaten eggs.

If you are baking, you can substitute two egg whites for a whole egg, or a quarter cup of egg substitute.

Sugar Substitutes

There are many acceptable sugar substitutes on the market that can sweeten drinks in place of real sugar. While eliminating sugar from your diet without substitutions is more desirable, it isn't always possible. Equal, Sweet N'Low, Splenda, and other brands of low-or no-calorie sweeteners are easily available. You may prefer one brand over another, so you might want to try different types of sweeteners to determine which one is best.

If you are baking, Splenda is your ideal substitute for sugar. Splenda is substituted one-to-one for sugar, and works in the vast majority of baking applications. It won't caramelize like real sugar, browning under heat, but it does provide the sweetness needed for sugar-free cakes, brownies, and other sweets.

Fat Substitutes for Baking

If your favorite baked good calls for oil, you may be able to substitute an equal amount of applesauce for the oil. Most fruit purees will work, but some are sweeter than others, so unsweetened applesauce may work better for a lightly sweet baked good, while a prune puree may be better for a much sweeter item.

If the item you are baking is more savory, such as bread, you can substitute up to half of the fat the recipe calls for with fat-free or low-fat buttermilk or yogurt in a two-to-one ratio. For example, if a recipe calls for a cup of oil, you would use a half cup of oil and a quarter cup of buttermilk. If the batter looks overly dry, you can add additional buttermilk until the batter is the proper consistency.

Fat Substitutes When Cooking Protein

When cooking a piece of meat, it may be your habit to put oil in the bottom of the pan. With a good nonstick pan, oil isn't necessary to prevent meat from sticking, but that won't help with the flavor lost from cooking without fat.

To help enhance flavor without using butter or oil, consider putting broth or stock in the bottom of the pan. You can also try a variety of herbs and spices, including a rub or a marinade, prior to putting the meat in the pan.

Mayonnaise Substitutes

There are a number of ways to eliminate mayonnaise for a variety of purposes. If you are accustomed to putting mayonnaise on a sandwich and want to eliminate the fat, consider trying a low fat creamy salad dressing. If you are making a pasta salad that calls for mayonnaise, consider substituting low-fat sour cream or plain yogurt. The same substitution is appropriate if you are trying to make a low-fat salad dressing.

Ground Meat Substitutes

If you are craving tacos but dread the fat that is usually found in ground beef, all is not lost. There are multiple ways to prepare ground meats that reduce the fat content but keep the flavor. It is important to start out with the leanest meat possible; for example, ground chuck is 20 percent fat, but some ground beef has as little as 4 percent fat.

Once you have lean meat, there are additional ways to decrease the overall fat content. You can use an extender, such as oatmeal, adding it to the meat to increase the amount of bulk without adding fat. This is a common approach when making a meat loaf or meatballs, because it creates a more smooth texture.

Another way to make ground meats a healthier option is to use more than one type of ground meat. A mixture of half ground beef and half ground chicken isn't notably different in many recipes than using just ground beef. Ground turkey can also be used for this purpose, but it tends to be dry, so it should be used in smaller quantities than other ground meats.

Texturized Vegetable Protein, or TVP, is a vegetarian substitute for meat. It comes as a hard nugget, in a variety of shapes, and is used by vegetarians to add protein to their meatless diets. TVP has to be reconstituted, or rehydrated, by soaking with hot water. TVP can also be added to ground meats to lower the fat content while increasing the protein content. A small amount of TVP can be added to a mixture of ground beef without making a notable difference, and is a secret ingredient in many fast food burgers and tacos.

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