Out with the old! And in with new, healthier ingredient substitutes!
Chef Nancy Waldeck, of Taste and Savor, Inc., gives us guidelines as to what alternative healthier ingredients you can use when cooking:
- Herbs and spices are good for you because of all the great antioxidants they provide. Herbs and spices amp up the flavor more than fat and salt, without all the calories. Especially healthy are the Indian spice, garam masala, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, oregano, mint, black pepper, and smoked paprika (a super substitute for real bacon with all the flavor!).
- Lemon juice and lemon zest (achieved by grating the outside of the lemon) are not only great substitutes for salt, but add ‘pop’ like salt does to food.
- Agave syrup is a sweet substitute for sugar in any recipe. Replace the sugar measurement with ½ measurement of agave syrup. It has a much lower glycemic index than regular sugar.
- Pomegranate molasses is simply reduced pomegranate juice (reduce the juice over medium heat until it becomes syrupy) that is used in lots of Middle Eastern foods, and Chef Waldeck’s personal favorite sugar alternative.
- Greek yogurt is not only good for you, but it’s a tasty, light alternative to using all of the sour cream called for in any recipe; or just use half nonfat Greek yogurt/half light sour cream.
- Reduce the amount of cream that you normally add to lobster bisque or corn chowder. If the recipe calls for 1 cup of cream, change it to 2 tablespoons. Combine the 2 tablespoons with some prepared soup and blend. You’ll reduce the fat and calories, yet be unable to tell the difference because you’ll still have both the texture and taste.
- Raw fennel (also known as anise) instead of celery (for example: in your stuffing), adds a very nutritional crunch that includes vitamin C and other strong antioxidants.
- Toasted nuts lessen the quantity of nuts in any recipe. Toasting brings out essential oils and adds more flavor, which is why the quantity can be reduced. So, if your pecan cake recipe calls for one cup of nuts, toast them in a slow oven and use only ¾ cup of nuts.
- Cheese is a treat! Use hard cheeses or those with a 50 percent reduced fat content, or that are ‘made with skim milk’ (read label); Parmesan and Romano are also good choices. This cheese can be grated for tacos and it melts beautifully for casseroles, too, as long as it is 50 percent reduced fat content or higher.
- Whole wheat flour, can substitute for up to 1/3 of the flour in your recipe, and is a healthy alternative to using only all-purpose flour. If you use white flour, use unbleached.
- Oil is the best alternative for butter. Grape seed oil is also better than butter, but extra virgin olive oil is the best. Rule of thumb: for every one half cup of butter, substitute one fourth cup plus two tablespoons of oil.
- And if you MUST! Chocolate chip cookies can be healthier if you use applesauce as one-half of the oil or butter the recipe requires. You can also use one-third less chips, or combine half chips with half-dried cherries or cranberries for a real treat. Making the cookies smaller is a plus.