You would be amazed at how a small tweak to a recipe can turn an unhealthy calorie bomb into a healthy food choice. Here are 15 of my favorite food substitutes and alternatives:
There are many sweeteners on the market now that are actually natural, and some are even organic. Gone are the days when aspartame was your only choice. These are my favorites.
1. Truvia: This is a combo of erythritol and rebiana from the stevia leaf. It is natural, doesn’t induce gas, and packs a lot of sweetness.
2. Erythritol: This non-digestible natural sugar alcohol is great. You can buy it in packets (Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Zero individual packets) or in bulk (Sensato Erythritol Crystals and NOW Foods Erythritol). It’s not as sweet as sugar or Splenda, so you have to use a few packets to taste the same sweetness.
3. Just Like Sugar: This is an all-natural calorie-free sweetener based on chicory root dietary fiber. It’s quite sweet and is great mixed with cinnamon.
4. Agave nectar: My favorite brand is Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Raw Blue Agave. This is a delicious and nutritious alternative to sugar and honey. It has 60 calories per tablespoon, but it has a much lower glycemic index than either sugar or honey, and you don’t need to use very much at all.
5. Real maple syrup: This is just so good and sweet, and offers more nutrients than refined sugar. However, it is very high in calories. I dilute mine by using just a little and thinning it out with either unsweetened almond milk or Walden Farms Calorie Free Pancake Syrup.
Oils and Cooking Sprays
6. Flax oil and hemp oil: These are both wonderfully high in omega 3 fatty acids.
7. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO): Olive oil is a must. It’s great for salad dressings, atop veggies, with whole grain breads, and on pasta dishes. However, even though EVOO is super-healthy, remember that all oil has 9 calories per gram, which means that a mere tablespoon has roughly 120 calories. Watch the amount you use, or the pounds will pack on. Think about this: a tablespoon of oil has more calories than ½ cup of cooked pasta!
8. Canola oil: I prefer this to olive oil for cooking at high temperatures. Although, truth be told, I try not to fry a lot at high temperatures at all, and prefer to boil, broil, bake, barbecue, and poach instead.
9. Sesame oil and toasted sesame oil: Yum! The makings of a great salad dressing: 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil, 1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and a little sugar or sugar substitute.
Vinegars and Dressings
10. Vinegars: Rice wine, balsamic, white wine, and apple cider vinegars are fantastic. They add loads of flavor for virtually no calories. Be careful with balsamic glazes, though; they can contain a ton of sugar, so read the label.
11. Salad dressings: I usually prefer to make mine at home. However, there are some very good store-bought brands out there. These are my favorites:
12. Maple Grove Farms organic and low calorie salad dressings and vinaigrettes (US): Try Fat Free Vidalia Onion Dressing, All Natural Maple Fig Dressing, Organic Balsamic Fat Free Vinaigrette, All Natural Sesame Ginger Dressing, and All Natural Ginger Pear Dressing, to name a few. Check out the different varieties, and opt for ones that have fewer than 60 calories for 2 tablespoons.
13. Newman’s Own Natural Salad Mists: They’re super-low in calories and contain much healthier ingredients than some of the other salad dressing sprays and mists on the market. Newman’s Own Lighten Up and Low Fat Salad Dressings are also great. My personal favorite is the Low Fat Thai Sesame (2 tablespoons have 35 calories).
14. Kraft Light Done Right, Free, Fat Free, and Calorie-Wise Dressings: My personal favorites are Calorie-Wise Coleslaw Dressing (2 tablespoons have 60 calories) and Fat Free Catalina Dressing (2 tablespoons have 50 calories).
15. PC Blue Menu Dressings (Canada): Great picks are Fat-Free Mango Vinaigrette (2 tablespoons have 30 calories), Fat-Free Raspberry Vinaigrette (2 tablespoons have 20 calories), and Fat-Free California Dressing (2 tablespoons have 40 calories).