Calories can add up quickly when you’re cooking and baking. Making lower-calorie ingredient substitutions is an excellent way to cut calories in your diet and aid in healthy weight management, without sacrificing flavor. Make some subtle substitutions to shave calories, sugar, and saturated fat from recipes, making them more weight-loss friendly.
1. Oil, Butter, Margarine and Shortening Substitutions
Oil, butter, margarine and shortening are some of the highest-calorie ingredients you’ll use when baking and cooking. MayoClinic.com notes that you can use prune puree or applesauce in place of half of the butter or margarine for your recipe. However, don’t replace all of your high-fat ingredients with fruit, or your baked goods may taste dry and bland. You can also replace butter, margarine, oil, or shortening with cooking spray or a nonstick pan to prevent baked goods from sticking to the pan.
2. Lower-Calorie Sauces, Dips, Gravies and Soups
Adding sauces, dips, condensed soups, and gravies to recipes causes calories to add up quickly. Fortunately, lower-calorie, healthier options do exist. Instead of regular mayonnaise, try light or reduced-calorie mayonnaise. Replace regular salad dressings with reduced-calorie or fat-free dressings, or use flavored vinegars instead of salad dressing. Replace regular gravy with your own homemade version by combining fat-free broth, seasonings, and flour for thickness. To further cut calories while cooking and baking, use canned broth-based soups instead of cream-based soups, suggests the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
3. Alternatives for Full-Fat Dairy and Eggs
When your recipe calls for whole milk, cream, cream cheese, sour cream, or eggs, you can use lower-calorie alternatives without compromising taste. The American Heart Association suggests replacing whole milk with low-fat or fat-free milk, using evaporated skim milk or plain low-fat yogurt plus low-fat cottage cheese in place of heavy whipping cream, substituting fat-free sour cream or cottage cheese plus low-fat yogurt for regular sour cream, and using two egg whites or cholesterol-free egg substitutes instead of whole eggs. ThedaCare suggests substituting lemon juice or vinegar plus low-fat milk in place of buttermilk, and using evaporated milk or coconut milk plus cornstarch or gelatin to replace cream. Another easy way to cut calories while cooking is to replace regular cheeses with reduced-fat or part-skim cheeses.
4. Cutting Back on Sugar
Reducing or eliminating sugar from recipes can significantly cut calories from your diet and aid in weight loss. MayoClinic.com notes that you can generally cut the amount of sugar from recipes by half, and maximize sweet flavors by using nutmeg, vanilla, or cinnamon in baked goods. If your recipe calls for canned fruit, which is often packed in syrup, use fresh or frozen fruit instead. You can also replace some of the sugar in your recipe with pureed fruit or unsweetened applesauce. Some artificial sweetener blends, such as Truvia Brown Sugar Blend, contain significantly fewer calories than regular sugar and can be added to baked goods in place of brown sugar.
5. High-Fat Meat Alternatives
Replacing high-fat meats with lower-fat alternatives helps significantly shave calories from your recipe. For example, choose extra-lean ground beef instead of regular ground beef, remove skin and fat from poultry, pick Canadian bacon or turkey bacon over regular bacon, choose water-packed tuna instead of tuna packed in oil. Other good choices include opting for un-breaded filets of fish over breaded fish, and picking turkey sausage instead of regular sausage. When adding red meat to recipes, pick lean cuts, such as loin, round, and flank cuts — and trim off all visible fat. Other calorie-cutting alternative ingredients for high-fat meats include meatless protein substitutes, such as tofu, veggie burgers, tempeh and seitan.