When we cook, we undoubtedly face the reality that a) we don’t have something we need for a recipe or b) we’d like to substitute something healthier. With some research, I found some places that had great food and recipe substitution lists:
Greatist: Choose Better–80 Healthy Recipe Substitutions
What’s Cooking America?: Ingredient Substitutions (somewhat more detailed, with different things than RecipeTips)
Better Homes and Gardens: Easy Healthy Recipe Substitutions
What are some of my favorites? Well, I’m big into coconut–milk, flour, sugar, oil. You name it, I love the stuff. It is rich in minerals, flavor, and fiber. I love the stuff, and people are starting to find the benefits of coconut. Researchers are finding that coconut oil, for example, may kill viruses, improve insulin secretion, improve calcium and magnesium absorption for the development of strong bones and teeth (while preventing osteoporosis), just to name a few. (Here’s what the New York Times has to say about coconut oil.)
But that isn’t all. I love it when I can substitute for butter. (NOTE: the only thing I have not found a substitute for butter in yet is cookies. Still working on it, and I subscribe to several blogs that regularly switch butter with other things, but I have not tried those recipes yet.) Here is a short but sweet list of food substitutions (1:1 ratio):
- coconut oil or olive oil
- pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
I often also substitute granulated sugar with coconut sugar, agave nectar, honey and alcohol-free stevia. As for baking flours, I often combine gluten-free (GF) options, including generic GF all-purpose baking flour, coconut flour, flaxseed meal, sorghum flour, tapioca starch, potato flour and/or starch, cornstarch, arrowroot flour/starch, almond meal, amaranth flour, and ground millet. My usual go-to source for most/all of these is Bob’s Red Mill.
Moving away from the baking arena, I love to eat rice, so I often try to incorporate brown rice into my diet instead of white. When I want pasta, I go for GF options, of which there are many. (Check the shelves on the grocery story–sometimes they are not in the pasta section, but in the health foods’ section.) Sweet potatoes are great alternatives to regular potatoes, as they are loaded with vitamins.
For meats, I generally stay away from red meats except on rare occasion. Instead, I go for lean meats (boneless, skinless poultry and a variety of fish and shellfish) and throw some tofu into my stir fry whenever possible.
I also incorporate a lot of beans into my diet as they are great sources of fiber. (Beans, legumes, and lentils are counted as 1 serving starch and 1 serving protein.) Other great sources of fiber are oatmeal, quinoa, vegetables and fruits. Dr. Oz has a great list of things to reboot, re-energize, and heal four vital organs in your body: the hearth, the intestines, the thyroid, and the liver. (Three of the four organs have videos too!)
And, of course, the more fruits and vegetables we can take in each day, the better our bodies are! Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients and antioxidants that fight free radicals, boost our body’s various systems, and heal us from the inside out. Although I have not done this yet, I plan on getting a juicer so that I can take full advantage of the benefits of juicing. Dr. Mercola has some great insight on juicing and its benefits. (NOTE: I do not endorse anyone’s products on this site, but he is a recognized doctor aiming to get this information out there.) As a side note, I met the Juice Man when I was young; he was quite old at that time (I believe in his 70’s or 80’s) but looked like he was in his fifties and had the energy of a 30-year-old man!
Last but not least, I’d like to take the time to remind us all that switching ingredients for healthier ones does not always mean we’ll be healthier or lose weight faster, or what not. A healthy life is a healthy lifestyle. It takes time to change poor behaviors for better ones. Don’t get frustrated if you find that you like the flavor of butter over the flavor of coconut oil. It’s okay.
What we must keep in mind is that we ought to eat in moderation. Portion control and serving sizes are vital to making sure we do not overeat; and exercise is important for keeping our bodies from wearing down and breaking. I’m serious! The more sedentary we become, the sooner and more often our bodies “break.” Here are a few resources to help figure out how much we ought to be eating:
The Mayo Clinic: Slide Show: Guide to Portion Control
WebMD: Portion Size Plate
Go out, have fun, eat healthier alternatives, get moving, and enjoy life! Remember, life is not about living; it is about living well!