5 simple swaps to make your recipes more nutritious
Updated: Jul 23, 2019
I get asked a LOT--------- to share my recipes.
Can I let you in on the truth? Most of my recipes I did not create 100%. In Culinary School, I learned that if you change a recipe more than 15-20%, you can call it your own. I've seen people still reference the original recipe saying something like, "Adapted from so&so on this blog" or "Original recipe from this website...." etc. Sometimes I will credit the origins of a recipe I adapted if I feel the original recipe is a foundational recipe, meaning, I have adapted it several ways and yet the original recipe is still a favorite on its own.
As a health coach, when I adapt a recipe, it is 95% to make it more nutritious. Not always to lower the calories, saturated fats or carbohydrates from sugars, but simply add more nutrients so you are getting more nutrition per calorie.
So much of the recipes I grew up with and started our family life with lack REAL nutritional properties. Too many of the foods offered in grocery stores and at restaurants and fast-food chains and ESPECIALLY the soda drink and "pick me up" stops- have little to no actual nutritional value. Sure they have calories to offer your body something to function- but our human ENERGY runs at peak performance on MORE than calories. Have you thought about that? Calories provide the spark, but the nutrition provides the fuel that builds the body and keeps it working.
Over time, I find myself changing a few things in almost ANY recipe I come across. That's what I'm going to share with you today!
I'd love to empower YOU to feel comfortable swapping out ingredients in your go-to recipes, so you don't feel like you are always having to try new things to eat healthier.
Let's dive in:
Here is a QUICK reference image you can save right click and save it, screen shot it, pinterest it, whatever serves you best and yes- you can freely SHARE it! I'll explain WHY I make these substitutions below.
Ingredient #1) Baking FLOUR. All-purpose baking flour is wheat that has been highly ground to a fine powder, and then almost always bleached white to offer you a nice brightly colored product. If its lemon, it will be yellow. If its strawberry, it will be dark pink. If you are doing a gender reveal cupcake party you want it to be blue and light pink. A cinnamon roll will have a golden hue with visible cinnamon granules swirling across it. I hear you! Bleached all-purpose baking flour has its lure. But----- if you are like me, and you like home making pancakes, waffles, cornbread, banana and pumpkin breads, you enjoy the occasional brownie, you love frying up some sopaipillas or American Indian fry bread to go with your chili, and dark chocolate chip oatmeal cookies among other baked or breaded goods are regularly (once a week or more) happening at your house? It is worth it to swap out the flour. Check out the nutritional differences:
Let's just point out a few things: Fiber is essential to our diets and it is the number 1 thing that most humans are missing that directly affects colon/digestive issues, high blood sugar, too much plaque in the arteries, and a feeling of fullness during eating that helps us stop eating before we've eaten too many calories. Fiber slows digestion, keeping us fuller, longer. Keeping a ratio of at least 1 gram of fiber per 10 grams of carbohydrates ensures a slower digestive process and less blood sugar spikes. Iron is one of the most vital minerals. While all human cells contain iron, it is mostly found in red blood cells. The health benefits of having good iron levels include eliminating fatigue and many of its sources. Felt fatigue recently? Check your iron levels in your food choices! Iron also plays a vital role in immune system function.
#2) OIL for baking, swapped with unsweetened applesauce. I specify baking, because you cannot use applesauce to fry your chicken, fries, fry breads, etc. (I hope that goes without explanation.) In baking, the fats you'll see in recipes for rolls, cakes, cookies, breads, pancakes, waffles, banana bread, brownies, carrot cake, etc are to tenderize your product. Think, soft dinner role vs crusty baguette. Baguettes have no fat in the recipe, whereas soft dinner rolls almost always will have a good dose of butter and or shortening in the recipe. In baking, there are quick breads, and slow breads. Quick bread recipes are those that you mix up and bake right away like pancakes, banana bread, or muffins. Slow breads are those that must "rest" or "rise." Like rolls, bread, biscuits, etc. Oil is a liquid fat. Liquid fats are for "quick" breads. I must explain this, so you understand that you can only substitute the applesauce in a quick bread. If oil is called for in a slow bread recipe (it is rare, but does happen) do NOT substitute it out. The fat in a slow bread recipe is needed to help the gluten develop and if you use applesauce you'll have a sad end result. But if you are making something like pancakes, waffles, banana bread, pumpkin bread or muffins? You can swap successfully, rendering your recipe with little to no fat, extremely less calories, and the added nutrition of applesauce! Check out the nutrition comparison here! I caution you here though. If a recipe calls for more than 1/2 cup of oil, I have found that if I only swap out half of the oil I can still get a great end result. When I have swapped applesauce for more than 1/2 c of oil, my product becomes crumbly and does keep its shape.
Don't mistake my love of fats here- there ARE healthy fats! But when you are making muffins for your kids? (or you) or a batch of pancakes? When the serving size is 2,3 or 4? Let's not get the fats in such large doses. Save the healthy fats for that slice of avocado on your taco salad, or that few tbsp for your delicious balsamic dressing on that amazing pasta salad when it is more controlled.
#3) Pink Himalayan salt for table salt. This one is simple. Cheap table salt is taken from the easiest places to get salt (evaporating salt water from land locked lakes) and is highly processed to make it snow white and clean, exposing it to numerous chemicals and leaving it bare. In fact evidence shows it is 95% sodium chloride, and 5% "other chemicals from processing." Yikes. Himalayan Salt however, is mined from deep caves in Pakistan (and nearby countries) that are loaded with other minerals as well. The salt is hand-extracted and minimally processed to yield an unrefined product that's free of additives and more natural than table salt. It is said to be 93% sodium chloride and 7% other essential trace minerals. Like table salt, pink Himalayan salt is mostly comprised of sodium chloride, an essential mineral for human health. However, the natural harvesting process allows pink Himalayan salt to possess many other minerals and trace elements that are not found in regular table salt. Some people estimate it may contain up to 84 different minerals and trace elements. In fact, it's these very minerals, especially iron, that give it its characteristic pink color. Himalayan salt is rich in magnesium, a mineral that has been proven to reduce muscle cramps. The pure and natural salt crystals are easily absorbed by the body and offer a rich dose of minerals that detoxify and rejuvenate tired, stiff and stressed muscles. I mean.... this is such a no brainer to me! Just switch your salt and you've got a huge list of benefits!
#4) Sour cream? Swap for non-fat plain greek yogurt! You'll be amazed how similar they taste, but the nutritional benefits??? It's a no brainer. When you try to reduce the fat in sour cream by buying the "lite" or "light" varieties, you will notice that the salt and sugar and "other" ingredients like "gums" also change. The fat, is what gives sour cream its consistency and satiety (makes you feel satisfied when you eat it) and the aging process is what gives it that sour flavor. However, non-fat plain greek yogurt has that thick consistency from the high protein content and that little sharp flavor naturally from its creation being a cultured, or aged, milk product from natural enzymes and probiotics. The greek yogurt has more protein, more calcium, less fat and calories (a huge plus for adults!) and the added benefit of the gut health probiotics, whereas the sour cream at its peak nutritionally, in its FULL fat form, only has vitamin A going for it. And vitamin A is readily available in huge quantity from just a few baby carrots. ;)
And last but not least,
#5) Swapping out semolina wheat/egg PASTA for brown rice pasta, quinoa based pasta or throwing out the grains altogether and using spaghetti squash or zucchini/butternut squash noodles made with a spiraler or found in the freezer section of most grocery stores. Let's compare the grain versions first. The semolina pasta, which is the cheapest pasta available, is made from durum wheat which is higher protein but lower fiber. The brown rice pasta offers much the same nutritionally, except it does have a little more fiber making it that much better for those with blood sugar issues. I feel that the GLUTEN FREE piece of this swap is the biggest shift beyond the nutrition. Gluten free pasta is easier to digest and better for gut health overall. But if you do not struggle with Celiac's disease or other digestion issues in your gut, this gluten based swap isn't as vital. But back to the nutrition--> Let's look at a semolina pasta swapped with quinoa based pasta. Again we have higher fiber and the protein looks better for the quinoa, and the calcium and iron jumps are impressive. The quinoa pasta takes the prize for grain based. :) Let's just look at one example of veggie based noodles.
While we lose out on protein by taking out the grains, the nutrition overall is excellent! The carbs are low with high fiber, the vitamins listed are higher, the calories are significantly lower, so really, nutritionally, the swap with a veggie for your pasta dishes is the BEST way to bump up nutrition. My kids have yet to accept veggie pasta, I'll be honest. But I use the quinoa pasta when I can and brown rice pasta simply for the added fiber and better digestion for myself and my kids (and it makes it easy for my Celiac disease husband to join in since he can't eat anything with wheat.)
Whew! This post took more research than I thought it would to cover my bases with my claims. lol! I had done a lot of this research over the past 5 years, but revisiting it today has had me finding new research and reading 15 different articles! I'm excited to know more however, and feel that nutritional research and updated info is always worth the time.