Eating healthy does not mean forgoing your favorite food. Learn the easy ways to make healthier versions of them with our Healthy Cooking Tips 101.
If you live to eat, the term ‘healthy’ food might not be in your dictionary. However, if you eat to live, the scenario might be different. Cutting extra calories from the diet and preventing yourself from having your favorite food is challenging. As human beings, we all want to treat our taste buds, but we can do it in healthier ways too.
Did you know that you can save 300 calories simply by replacing butter with olive oil? I have compiled a few healthy alternatives for unhealthy ingredients that can make a huge difference.
13 Smart Ingredient Swaps to Make your Favorite Meal Healthy
1. Replace Whole Milk with Fat-Free Yogurt/ Low-Fat Milk
Whether you use milk as an ingredient for your dish or drink it as a beverage, try alternating it with low-fat milk or yogurt. Whole milk is concentrated with saturated fats, cholesterol, and calories. After a certain age, consuming whole milk increases the chances of type-2 diabetes and heart disease.
Try incorporating either yogurt or low-fat milk in your recipes. However, if you want to have milk in your morning cereals or beverages, almond milk, soya milk, or oat milk are deliciously healthy replacements. You can check some amazing squash recipes in Picky Eater.
2. Replace Butter with Margarine or Olive Oil
This is probably one of the top three most important healthy cooking tips on this list. If you fear weight gain and still want to enjoy some delicacies that require butter, you can have margarine or olive oil as the replacement. Although butter is rich in vitamins A, E, and D, it also has highly concentrated saturated fats. For sautéing veggies or making soups, use olive oil, and it will keep your calories in control. On the other hand, for bread spread or sandwich toasties, use margarine, which is a very close healthy substitute of butter.
3. Replace Heavy Cream with Skimmed Milk
If you are craving some alfredo pasta or creamy scrambled egg but are worried about your calorie count at the same time, substitute heavy cream with skimmed milk. Skimmed milk is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals and contains more calcium content. At the same time, it has negligible calories compared to full-fat heavy cream.
If you need to make the consistency of skimmed milk thicker or creamier, add a tablespoon of all-purpose flour or cornstarch.
4. Try Low-Sodium Salt
Since salt is a staple ingredient for cooking, you cannot skip or replace it. But we cannot deny the health risks with sodium-rich salt. Sodium is highly responsible for increased blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases for older adults. Overall, 5 grams of sodium is required by an adult body daily. So, to prevent excessive use, you can switch to low-sodium salts in the market or healthy salt options like rock salt and sea salt.
5. Replace Sour Cream with Cottage Cheese
Who doesn’t like a sour cream spread? However, it does not favor your health as much as it favors your taste buds. 80% of sour cream is saturated fats, and this fat has half of the calories. Therefore, replace sour cream with its healthier counterpart, cottage cheese. Cottage cheese has relatively low calories compared to sour cream. You can blend the cheese to make it a bit creamy and squeeze some lemon drops for added sourness.
6. Replace 1 Whole Egg with 2 Egg Whites
If you’re on calorie count, try replacing a whole egg in your diet with two egg whites only. Two egg whites will provide nutrients for your body; whereas, the egg yolk will provide fat content too. Whether for breakfast or baking cakes and cookies, avoiding the egg yolk won’t harm your food or waistline.
7. Try Tofu Instead of Meat
Tofu is an excellent source of protein and alternative to meat. Poultry meat, beef, and lamb are high in calories and fat apart from having protein content. On the other hand, tofu is versatile and has good forms of amino acids too. Although it is impossible to replace every meat item with tofu, it is a fantastic alternative to meat.
However, if you are using meat, try to buy lean meat or trim the fat off the meat.
8. Replace Unhealthy Condiments
All the sausages, beef patties, bacon, ground ribs, and deli meats are concentrated with fats and full of calories. But that does not mean you have to give up on them. Healthier swaps to these are ground chicken, lean pork, tenderloin, and deli turkey. These are still meat condiments but the healthier versions.
9. Replace Mayo with Hummus
I can’t deny, we all love mayonnaise. It is a versatile spread that goes with nearly everything. We use it as a bread spread, dressing, or dip. However, we are aware of the health risk it poses. An equally delicious and creamy alternative is hummus, which is made of chickpeas. Hummus has good protein and fewer calories. You can have hummus as a dip or bread spread.
Some healthy alternatives of mayo are mustard spread, mashed avocado, greek yogurt, and pesto sauce. Warning: you might forget mayo after using these!
10. Try Squash instead of Potato
French fries can instantly cheer up anyone’s mood. But when we think of the calories and saturated fats those fries have, we must step back. So stop consuming those, and make yourself some butternut squash fries at home to satisfy your cravings. It will taste almost the same but in a better way. You can also have sweet potato fries as a healthy swap to only potato fries.
To go along as a side dish in your steak platter, mashed squash will also do a fine job.
11. Replace Rice with Quinoa
In South Asian countries, rice is a staple food, and South Asians love rice. However, they are full of carbs, which lead to obesity. Moreover, refined white rice does not have the necessary fiber content. So, the best healthy alternative to rice is quinoa. Quinoa is full of fiber, minerals, and amino acids required for good health. It is a rice-like grain with all the valuable nutrients in it. The high fiber content aids in weight loss and controlled cholesterol levels too.
12. Satisfy your Sweet Tooth with Honey/ Jaggery
This is, in my opinion, the most important of all healthy cooking tips. Sugar is a big no-no if you want to live a healthy life. Especially, refined sugar is a slow poison for the human body. It accelerates many diseases like diabetes and is the food of cancer cells.
So, if you are a sweet lover like me, replace your daily sugary food or beverage with honey or organic jaggery. These are healthy for the human system and provide the required sweetness in a better way. Moreover, you can also opt for brown sugar. Although brown sugar won’t provide any benefit, it has a bit of mineral content. Nonetheless, you should limit your sugar intake anyway.
13. Use Balsamic Vinegar in your Salad Dressing
Are your favorite salad dressings full of fat and cholesterol? The ketchup, mayonnaise, ranch, and sour creams make those fine salads unhealthy. Therefore, use balsamic vinegar instead. It is very low in cholesterol and contains no fat. You can also opt for olive oil or Greek yogurt dressings for your salad.
More Healthy Cooking Tips 101: Alternatives to Deep Frying
Deep frying is probably one of the unhealthiest forms of cooking. No matter how healthy the ingredients you use, deep frying takes away all the vital nutrients from the food, and you are left with nothing but the taste of it. Therefore, let us see some alternative methods other than deep-frying your food.
One of the common healthy methods of cooking something is baking it. Baking requires less to no oil and keeps your food free from oil’s saturated fat. You can bake your fish, chicken, and potato fries in the oven by brushing some oil on them. If you want to keep the moisture intact, add a bit of broth on the tray before putting them in the oven.
Steaming helps to retain the minerals and vitamins of the food. The plus point is, you won’t require oil for it. Instead of deep-frying, you can steam your fish and soft veggies as they are more appropriate for steaming than meat.
Poaching your egg, chicken breast, or fish won’t require extra oil. Therefore, no fear of added calories in them. Use slight water on the pan for poaching and avoid over-poaching as it will take away all the moisture from the food.
You can broil your poultry or red meat, veggies, and fish for another healthy alternative to deep frying. Broiling also requires less oil/ butter usage and adds a delectable smoky flavor to your food. While broiling meat, you can keep the meat skin to retain its juiciness and take off the skin later.
Stir-fried veggies and meat are delicious while being healthy too. You require just a spoon or less oil for sautéing them. As I mentioned before, to keep them more nutritious, go for margarine or olive oil instead of butter or canola oil.
Last but not least, another alternative method to deep frying is roasting. If you own an oven, half of your health issues related to oil should be solved. Roast your meat and vegetables as you would do with the turkey during thanksgiving. Make sure you know the exact temperature required for roasting specific food items. Roasting for too long will dry everything out.
I hope you’ll manage to implement at least a few of these healthy cooking tips. Finding out alternatives for some unhealthy ingredients in your favorite foods will help you. Health is wealth; the more you neglect it, the more it will disappoint you. Now list out the items you need to grab in the grocery store to make feasts healthier for yourself and your loved ones. No matter what age you are, today is the day for starting a healthy lifestyle; it is better late than never.
Charles Vallena is the founder and managing editor of Cuppabean.com, a coffee blog that helps people make better coffee by providing expert insights, recipes, and in-depth reviews on coffee makers. Follow Cuppabean on Facebook here.