The holiday season is here so I’m sure that your oven in churning out baked goods at a much higher rate than the rest of the year. Not to mention January is almost upon us, and you’ve promised yourself you’re going to start cooking more #newyearnewyou. I’m not sure about you, but my inner health nut and ravenous sweet tooth always at odds. On one hand you want to treat yourself, yet you still want to stick with your goals. I feel you on a soul level. But let me tell you, not all recipe substitutes were created equal. Baking is a science that shouldn’t be messed with. And if you do, tread carefully. Same goes for cooking. If you’re used to weird textures, be my guest. But you may leave your guests gagging with these healthy recipe substitutions.
Whole wheat flour
Once upon a time, all-purpose flour sat snugly on a shelf besides the sugar. Then whole wheat flour moved in, but it’s no big deal, everyone liked all-purpose better. Fast-forward to the 21st century and there’s a flour for every occasion: white whole wheat, coconut, almond, etc. If you take one thing from this post, you cannot swap flours willy nilly. They are not 1:1 substitutions. Baking with whole wheat flour is fine, but be warned your dessert may be more dense and dry. For every cup of all-purpose flour a recipe calls for, use ¾ cup whole wheat flour.
Dieters do crazy things, like lie to the American people about how some weird health food is good (or better than!) the original. Enter the cacao nib. Cacao nibs are pieces of roasted cacao beans, aka where chocolate comes from. They’re missing a whole lot of sugar and additives, allowing you to enjoy all of the antioxidants and fiber your heart desires. Except you’ll be disappointed because they’re very bitter. While they’re fine for topping your smoothie bowl, I promise no one will invite you over again if you bring a plate of cacao nib cookies.
Disclaimer: I cook and bake with almond milk all the time, which is why my boyfriend thinks I’m a terrible chef. Whether you switched to almond milk because you’re looking for a low calorie option or cutting animal products out of your diet, tread these waters carefully. For one thing, the taste is very different. I often buy unsweetened vanilla, which causes an internal dilemma when I make the occasional box of Annie’s mac and cheese. Also, almond milk lacks protein. Which is fine, no one was going to enter a body building contest, but that protein makes recipes work.
Trying to cut fat in your recipe by using mashed bananas instead of butter or oil? Good luck. I make this mistake time and time again. It’s fine if you’re going to be consuming the whole tray of banana bread, but your coworkers aren’t going to be convinced of your culinary skills. Bananas have a lot of extra moisture, which may lead to longer baking times or dense texture. If this you use this healthy recipe substitution, be sure to follow these ratios:
- 1 cup mashed banana = 1 cup butter
- ¾ cup mashed banana = 1 cup oil
Are bananas a staple in your kitchen? The Spruce has everything you need to know about banana substitutions.
Not to beat a dead horse, but apple sauce is another healthy substitution that causes catastrophes in the kitchen. The bad news is that your dish has a high chance of ending up soggy, but the good news is that you did save a lot of calories. Because you had to throw it away and start over. Trust me, apple sauce can be a great recipe substitution, but you need to be careful when you use it.
Let’s take a departure from baking and talk about this keto-friendly veggie. 2017 was cauliflower’s year. It has always been a favorite of healthy recipe bloggers but it became much more mainstream over the past year. From pizza crusts to rice, you can run down to your local grocery store and replace all of your favorite carbs with cauliflower. Hear me out, I love cauliflower. In fact, cauliflower rice is now a staple in my kitchen. But you have to remember that it can’t take the place of something else that you love. I sauté mine with a little butter, salt and pepper. I treat it as cauliflower cut up into little bits. The last thing you want to do is make it do magic tricks, like transform into mom’s mashed potatoes or your favorite New York slice. You’ll be sorely disappointed.
- Have you ever ruined a dish by replacing an ingredient with a healthier alternative?
- What’s your favorite healthy recipe substitute?
- Would you rather make healthier substitutions on a favorite classic recipe or follow a new recipe with healthy alternatives already built in?
Images via Calum Lewis