Easy Ingredient Substitutions That Make Your Meals Healthier

Eating healthier can be easy if you know which foods to substitute. Bread, burger patties, pasta noodles, and even ice cream can be substituted for healthier alternatives. The best part? You will hardly taste a difference, and some might be more delicious than the original! Here are healthy food substitutions that are easy and seamless.

Forget Soy Burgers; Use Black Beans

While red meat is healthy in moderation, too much can raise your risk of heart disease, says the American Heart Association. While some impossible burgers use soy, you can make patties out of black beans.

A vegan black bean burger sits on a plate.
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Laura La Monaca/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Black beans are filled with protein, fiber, and antioxidants. In 2015, a study in Nutrients determined that black beans can delay heart disease. After rinsing the beans, you can mash them or put them in a food processor. Flavor the patties with garlic, onions, peppers, or spices. Mold them into patties and toss them on the grill!

Hummus: The New Sandwich Condiment

You can eat sandwich condiments occasionally and remain healthy. But many have high fat and sugar, according to Food Network. If you want a lean condiment with more protein, try hummus. They will add healthy nut fats and a bit more flavor.

A sandwich includes hummus, roasted onions, beets, and feta.
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Registered dietitian Amanda A. Kostro Miller recommends buying a hummus with low sodium and high fiber. For healthy fats, find one that was made with olive oil or avocado oil. Since hummus comes in a variety of flavors, you will have many spices to choose from for your sandwich.

The Right Bread Can Make All The Difference

Health isn’t just limiting carbs; it’s eating high-quality carbs. White bread, or refined grains, are stripped of nutrients and fiber. According to registered dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick, “white flour removes layers of essential nutrition: B vitamins, minerals, proteins, healthy fats, and fiber.”

A chef breaks open a loaf of bread.
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Andreas Arnold/picture alliance via Getty Images

As a result, people who eat 12 ounces of refined grains daily have a 27% higher risk of early mortality and a 33% higher chance of heart disease. To be healthier, swap out white bread with wheat bread. You can also find wheat varieties of bagels, sourdough, muffins, and more.

Instead Of Ice Cream, Mash Frozen Bananas

If you’re craving ice cream, here is a healthy substitute. Devin Alexander, a weight loss chef for The Biggest Loser, recommends mashing frozen bananas. Then, you can mix in a few teaspoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla extract, or cinnamon.

A person mashed frozen bananas together to make ice cream.

Bananas are made of 53% sugar, but these are not the same as ice cream’s artificial sugars. Natural sugars are easier to digest and come with banana’s other nutrients, including potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. Registered dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade says that banana’s resistant starches can even fill you up.

Why People Bake With Avocado

Did you know that some people bake brownies, cake, and pudding with avocados? They are a healthy replacement for butter and vegetable oils with trans fats. Not only do avocados add more nutrients to your baked goods, but they also make them moister.

Brownies are covered in a layer of avocado frosting.
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Carina Seagrave/Pinterest

In 2019, a study from Penn State University found that people can get healthier by eating an avocado a day. Avocados lower harmful LDL cholesterol and raise healthy HDL cholesterol. If you’ve never thought that baked goods can positively impact your cholesterol, think again!

Olive Oil Is A Tastier (And Healthier) Substitute For Butter

In most cases, you can replace butter with olive oil and have a tastier meal. While cooking stir fry or eggs, grease the pan with olive oil. If you want tasty bread, dab olive oil on it and add some Italian seasoning. Because olive oil contains a healthier fat than butter, it is more heart-healthy.

A person pours olive oil on bread.
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Rather than saturated fat, olive oil provides monounsaturated fatty acids. In 2014, researchers tested a variety of monounsaturated fats in over 841,000 people. Out of all the fats, olive oil was the only one that decreased the risk of heart disease and stroke. That’s much better than butter!

Plenty Of Options For Healthy Noodles

During an interview with Time, associate professor of pediatrics Keith Ayoob discussed the healthiest type of noodles. He said that the healthiest option is homemade veggie noodles, such as zoodles. However, store-bought veggie pasta is just wheat with a bit of vegetable added.

A variety of veggie noodles are twirled and arranged on a plate.
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Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If you want another option, you can eat bean-based pasta for more fiber. Quinoa noodles are a delicious gluten-free option, and whole wheat pasta has more nutrients and fiber than regular noodles. With all of these options, you can have a different healthy pasta each week!

Why Resort To Sugar When You Can Add Cinnamon?

If you like to add sugar to your coffee, replace it with cinnamon. Cinnamon is naturally sweet and provides several health benefits. In 2014, researchers reviewed over 130 studies on cinnamon. They concluded that cinnamon lowers the risk of heart disease, has anti-cancer effects, prevents diabetes, lowers blood pressure, and lowers cholesterol.

Cinnamon sticks are in a black mug, and powdered cinnamon is sprinkled on it.
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Mae Mu/Unsplash

If cinnamon isn’t sweet enough for you, add a drop of vanilla extract as well. Pure vanilla extract has no sugar or preservatives, making it a natural sweetener. You can add that and cinnamon to smoothies, cereal, and oatmeal.

Enjoy Bubbly Drinks Without Resorting To Diet Soda

Harvard Medical University claims that soda is the largest source of added sugars in American diets. Diet soda is not a perfect replacement. According to Dr. Mark Hyman of Cleveland Clinic, diet sodas change your brain chemistry to make you hungrier and crave sugar.

A woman holds a glass of sparkling water and fruit.
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Pablo Merchán Montes/Unsplash

So what should you drink? Registered dietitian Wendy Bazilian recommends bubbly water and sparkling tonic. Some brands, such as Olipop, make flavored sparkling water with artificial sugar. Otherwise, you can flavor seltzers with fresh fruit, lemon juice, or a bit of unsweetened juice.

Don’t Sacrifice Dips; Bring In Yogurt!

If you make a dip with eight tablespoons of sour cream, you’ll end up eating 570 calories and 27 grams of fat. For a healthier alternative, use yogurt. The consistency is the same, and you can flavor it with different spice blends.

A chip dips into a yogurt-cucumber dip.
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MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

Registered dietitian McKenna Welshans claims that Greek yogurt is the healthiest in terms of fat, nutrients, and probiotics. Add garlic powder, thyme, and onion powder to the yogurt, and you’ll have an easy homemade dip. It will even improve your digestive health because of the yogurt.

More Fat Means Healthier Salads

Some “healthy” salad dressings market themselves as “fat-free” or “low-fat.” But in 2017, research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that full-fat dressings are healthier. When vegetables are paired with healthy fats, the human body can absorb them more easily.

A woman pours Caesar dressing on a salad.
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Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

So what should you do to replace bottled salad dressing? Combine 1/4 cup of vinegar with 3/4 cup of olive oil. Then, use herbs, spices, and lemon juice to flavor it. Not only is this vinaigrette easy to make, but you can also customize the flavor for whatever salad you want.

Swap Regular Potato Fries For Sweet Potato Fries

In 2017, researchers found that people who eat French fries more than twice a week double their risk of early death. Replace them with the more flavorful sweet potato fries. Although they have more calories, sweet potatoes contain more vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, and potassium.

Sweet potato fries lie on a pan.
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According to clinical dietitian Emma Willingham, the healthiness of sweet potato fries depend on how you cook them. Instead of frying them, add a bit of olive oil and put them in the oven. Baked potatoes are far healthier than fried ones.

Ground Turkey Is So Much Better

You can reduce red meat in your diet without giving up meatballs, tacos, and other ground meats. Buy ground turkey instead. It contains far less saturated fat than beef along with B vitamins, zinc, and phosphorus.

A butcher holds ground turkey.
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Getty Images

When The Washington Post ranked animal proteins by healthy, they found that turkey and chicken were similar. In fact, both dark and light turkey had less fat than chicken! While cooking with ground turkey, you may need to add more flavor than beef. Use spices and spice blends instead of salt, and you’ll have a tasty meal.

What To Get When Buying Fast Food

Although fast food is not recommended, we sometimes have to eat it while on the road or in a hurry. Registered dietitian Amy Gorin offered some tips to Eat This, Not That! For instance, many fast-food restaurants offer salads as a side dish that can replace fries. At a burger restaurant, get a grilled chicken sandwich (not a fried one).

A McDonald's employee hands a customer a drink in a drive thru.
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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

If you’re buying breakfast, grab an egg dish with vegetables baked inside. Examples include a breakfast burrito at McDonald’s or veggie egg white sandwich at Dunkin’ Donuts.

Turn Vegetables Into Rice

White and brown rice can fit into a healthy diet. But if you want to eat more vegetables, try cauliflower rice. You can buy some at the grocery store or make your own. Simply chop up the cauliflower and stir fry it with a bit of olive oil for five to eight minutes.

A package of white cheddar cauliflower rice was cooked and put in a bowl.
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Amber Faust/Unsplash

Cauliflower rice can even help the body ward off disease. In the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a 2014 study found that cauliflower can lower inflammation. Inflammatory markers are precursors to chronic illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease.

Cottage Cheese: The Low-Fat Version Of Sour Cream

Although eating sour cream in moderation can be healthy, it has more calories and fat than most cheeses. The American Heart Association recommends swapping it with cottage cheese. Blend one cup of cottage cheese with four tablespoons of low-fat milk and two tablespoons of lemon juice. It will taste the same!

A person stirs around cottage cheese.
ASTRID RIECKEN For The Washington Post via Getty Images
ASTRID RIECKEN For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Cottage cheese is protein-rich with little fat and calories. In the British Journal of Nutrition, scientists reported that cottage cheese can build muscle, boost your metabolism, and aid weight loss. They even recommended it as a late-night snack.

How Can You Eat Healthy Chocolate Chips? Cocoa Nibs!

Chocolate comes from the fruit pods of the cocoa tree. It is roasted, refined, and infused with sugar. But cocoa nibs skip the sugar; they are less-processed, healthier dark chocolate. Registered dietitian Toby Amidor says that cocoa provides antioxidants, vitamin K, vitamin B12, magnesium, iron, and copper.

Hundreds of cocoa nibs lie in a pile.

In 2005, researchers found that a moderate amount of dark chocolate can lower blood pressure and improve insulin sensitivity. Instead of regular chocolate chips, get dark chips or raw cocoa nibs. Add them to oatmeal, smoothies, or baked goods to satiate your occasional chocolate craving.

The Type Of Tortilla Matters

Can tacos be healthy? Yes, if you choose the right tortilla. Corn and flour tortillas are both grains, but they are different types of grains. Registered dietitian Karen Collins with the American Institute for Cancer Research says that corn tortillas are more nutritious.

Tortillas are warmed on a stovetop above a fireplace.

Since flour tortillas are refined grains, they contain more fat and a tiny amount of calcium and iron. But corn tortillas are whole grains with more nutrients and fewer calories. They provide fiber, magnesium, and vitamin B1, according to Spoon University. So yes, your tortilla matters!

Why You Should Buy Unsweetened Yogurt

Fruit-flavored yogurts might seem healthy, but they are deceitful. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, store-bought fruit yogurts contain a high amount of added sugar. For a healthier diet, choose unflavored yogurt and flavor it yourself.

A woman eats Icelandic Greek yogurt.
Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Registered dietitian Amy Shapiro recommends getting low-fat Greek yogurt. It is high in protein, probiotics, and vitamin B-12 with low sugar and calories. To flavor it, add cinnamon, vanilla extract, fresh fruit, low-sugar granola, jam, or unsweetened apple sauce. In 2017, research in Advances in Nutrition discovered that combining fruit and yogurt may lower your risk of heart disease and prevent weight gain.

Kale And Cauliflower Pizza Crusts Have More Flavor

Yes, you can make pizza healthy! Much of the carbs stem from the crust, but grocery stores like Trader Joe’s offer a vegetable alternative. They provide kale and cauliflower crusts, which tend to have more flavor than ordinary ones. The cauliflower crust is softer, whereas the kale one is crispier.

A person holds up a slice of pizza baked on a kale crust.
Aubrey Thyen/Pinterest
Aubrey Thyen/Pinterest

Cruciferous vegetables, including kale and cauliflower, provide antioxidants that can combat lung cancer, according to a 2010 study. For the pizza sauce, grab some tomato sauce and flavor it with herbs such as oregano, basil, and parsley. Include a low-fat cheese like mozzarella, and you’ll hardly be able to tell that it’s healthy.