Cooking at home is all about balancing your pantry, your ability, and your body's nutrition. For athletes and active professionals who rely on a healthy body, nutrition is very important. Part of that is deciding what's in your pantry and, therefore, what you will cook with and consume. One of the best ways to casually improve your daily nutrition is to make smart substitution choices in your favorite (or new experimental) recipes.

Substitutions take out the more traditional but calorie-packed ingredients and replace them with equally functional, delicious, and healthier alternate ingredients. For example, there are a lot of ways to substitute butter in a recipe. You may have heard about coconut oil or avocado or banana or apple sauce, depending on the flavor profile and texture of the recipe.

But how do you substitute on the fly? That's what we're here to talk about today. Substituting with smart patterns for your nutrition and calorie burn can optimize your health without sacrificing your recipe diversity. 

 

Eggs: Remove One Yolk Per Recipe

Want all the protein and flavor from eggs, but a little less fat? Remove one yolk from each multi-egg recipe. In reality, you can remove one yolk for every three eggs and barely change the recipe at all. Any binding necessary will be bound and even egg-based dishes like omelettes and quiche will taste exactly the same, with one less egg yolk.

 

Boxed Pasta and Stuffing: Replace Butter with Olive Oil

Boxed carb meals are a great fall-back for fast, hot, family-friendly calories. Boxed stuffing, mac'n'cheese, hamburger helper; these recipes often require multiple tablespoons of butter, but you don't have to fill your recipe with butter. Pick a clean-digesting, healthy-fat oil like EVO or liquid coconut oil instead. Use slightly less oil than you would have with butter and taste-test the result to hone your substitution ratio per box-recipe.

 

Boxed Baking: Replace Oil with Apple Sauce

When baking, sometimes you can replace the oil or butter in the recipe with unsweetened apple sauce. The apple sauce acts as a liquid, softening and binding the dry ingredients. Your baked goods will be healthier, possibly with no fat at all,. Applesauce recipes tend to be moist, dense, and have a light, sweet flavor that is not distinctly fruity. Apple sauce is great in moist brownie substitutions, for example.

 

Baking & Casseroles: Replace Sour Cream with Plain Greek Yogurt

Any recipe that calls for sour cream needs a tart dairy substitute. Sour cream is not good for you, but greek yogurt is. Both have a creamy, stiff texture that can briefly form peaks when whipped with a spoon. Both have a tart dairy flavor. But one is full of great probiotics, no fat, plus plenty of protein and calcium. Try it on tacos, in casseroles, and in your baking recipes.

 

Salads: Light Homemade Dressings

Many people tend to void the nutritional value of a salad with creamy dressings. Instead of a bottle of Ranch, make your dressings at home. Try hummus, mix your own oil & vinegar, or shake up something that you think is tasty. Use only light, lean, and flavorful ingredients and your salads will skyrocket in health value.

 

Sugar: Honey or Apple Sauce 

There's no need to pour tablespoons or cups of white granulated sugar into your recipes for a little sweetness. There are many ways to add sugar to a recipe in a more healthy way. Honey is good for some recipes, apple sauce for others. Some people swear by natural syrups, some mash up a banana. It depends on your recipe consistency and the flavor profile you're looking for.

 

Smoothies & Milkshakes: Replace Ice Cream with Mashed Bananas

Mashed bananas have another handy use - Smoothies. Blend a frozen banana and you'll get something very close to sweet, creamy ice cream. Blend a fresh banana for a warm creamy thickener. This is a great addition to any fruit-themed blend-up beverage like morning smoothies or protein-powder milkshakes without the ice cream.

 

Blended Veggies in Everything

One trick we discovered from the parenting side of the internet is vegetable blending. Blend a few vegetables into your smoothie for extra nutrients and fiber without changing the flavor. Add puréed vegetables into your baking. The flavor will disappear, but add a little bulk and a lot of nutrition to breakfast muffins and fruity desserts.

 

Sides: Pickles Instead of Chips

When you're making a plate for lunch, it's tempting to add something next to your sandwich. Instead of grabbing a handful of salty carbs, grab a few pickle spears instead. The pickles will sate your craving for salt and provide a few bonus nutrients instead of greasy chips.

 

Hot Drinks: Protein Powder Instead of Cream

Speaking of protein powder, try mixing a little into your coffee or hot cocoa or hot mixed drinks. Any time you would normally use cream and sweetener, add a teaspoon or two of protein powder instead. The milkshake style protein mixes act effectively like powdered creamer, without the cream. You get the delicious effect of a thick, foamy flavored cream in your drink with a protein boost and without the fat content of real cream.

 

Pasta: Simple Oil, Salt, and Herb Sauces

Just like salads, don't get taken in by pasta with unhealthy sauces. Pasta, especially veggie and multi-grain pasta can be very effective for a high-energy athlete, but not if you smother it in Alfredo. Try a little bit of olive oil and salt. Make your own light herb sauces or tomato-rendered sauces without any heavy cream, an ingredient often slipped into pasta sauces.

 

Baking: Substitute Bleached Flour for Alternate Flours

When baking from scratch, rethink your flour plans. Any recipe that calls for white enriched bleached flour (flour), substitute with other types of flour. You can substitute 3/5 of the white flour with oat flour, for example, or the entire recipe with whole-wheat flour instead of bleached wheat flour.

Flour substitutions can add fiber and nutrients and remove empty carbohydrate calories.

 

Desserts: Berries Instead of Chocolate Chips

Finally, let's not forget the perfect dessert toppings. If you like to mix chocolate chips or candy pieces into your baking or sprinkle on your ice cream, try berries instead. Fresh berries have a tart squish while frozen berries are sweet, flavor-packed crunch.

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Getting to know of substitutions is a great path to healthy at-home cooking. Boost your nutrition, boost your energy, and improve your long-term health by regularly substituting unhealthy ingredients for healthy alternatives.

 

Question or comment? Feel free to leave one in the comments section below!

 

*Please consult with a medical professional if you have any medical issues that may be affected by the suggested activities.