Are you looking for ways to make your favorite dishes healthier? Here are 7 easy ways to transform your unhealthy dishes into ones you'll feel good about putting on the table.
- Switch from white bread to whole-wheat bread. They even make whole-wheat hamburger buns, hotdog buns and tortilla shells. I know some of you think you could never make the change. Our family was a white bread only family for years. We made the change gradually and now prefer the brown stuff.
There are many different brands and all of them taste a little different. If you don’t like one brand, try a different one. Also make sure you check the label carefully. Not everything that says wheat is 100% whole-wheat.
- Say goodbye to shortening, vegetable oil, and margarine and hello to heart-healthy fats. Replacing the fats you use with heart-healthy fats will make a huge difference in the health of your food. Canola oil usually costs the same as vegetable oil and I can’t make out any difference in taste between the two. But unlike vegetable oil, canola oil is heart-healthy oil, so you don’t have to feel guilty about using it. Extra-virgin olive oil is more costly, but is also heart-healthy oil. Using olive oil in small amounts where the distinct taste makes a difference can make it worth the cost, but we’ll talk more about that another time.
Shortening and margarine are hydrogenated oils. This process that changes liquid fat into a solid, makes these fats unable to digest properly in your body and have no redeeming qualities. While butter is high in cholesterol, it naturally digests in your body and, if used in moderation, is a much better alternative. I know butter is hard to eat in moderation because it is so yummy. Your kids need the extra fat, so don’t worry about them, but us old folks might need to scale back a little. Think of it like milk (a great comparison since butter is just cream and salt), when your kids are small they need whole milk, but as an adult you don’t need that extra fat and can scale back to skim milk. Skim milk is a great substitute, but I wouldn’t look for some sort of synthetic milk that tasted kind of like milk, but promised no calories. If you have diagnosed heart problems, you may want to use a healthy butter substitute or blend that uses heart-healthy oils like canola or olive oil.
- Switch from white noodles to whole-wheat noodles. Whole-wheat noodles help make what is normally thought to be an unhealthy meal, one you will feel good about putting in front of your family. It adds complex carbohydrates and a good protein to your meal. It also comes in all of the same varieties as the unhealthy versions. Just like bread, you will need to check the ingredients on the package to make sure it is indeed whole-wheat semolina.
Our family prefers the thin or angel hair whole-wheat spaghetti because it is tenderer and tastes the most like the unhealthy stuff. We also use the spiral noodles. This has been a very easy switch for our family with very little taste difference.
- Start using long grain brown rice in place of white rice. Like noodles, and bread; switching from white to brown rice adds fiber and protein to your meal, making a normally simple carbohydrate into a complex carbohydrate. And it tastes great.
- Replace premixed seasoning packets with spices. You really don’t need seasoning packets. All they contain are premeasured spices along with several mystery ingredients. Not sure how to cook without them? Stick around and I’ll give you some easy tips.
- Use whole-wheat flour. Regular whole-wheat flour can be quite a big switch in taste from all-purpose flour. There is a softer variety of whole-wheat flour called white whole-wheat flour. White whole-wheat is just a different variety of wheat and has the same redeeming qualities as traditional hard wheat. Being a softer grain, there is very little difference in taste between white whole-wheat and all-purpose flour. This is one of my favorite substitutes.
- Switch to natural peanut butter. I love natural peanut butter! The ingredients: peanuts and salt. And that is just what it tastes like. After having natural peanut butter, you will never want to go back. It makes the other stuff taste like shortening.
There is a little bit of a trick to it. It has to be stirred when you first open it and stored in the refrigerator. Once it is stirred, you won’t have to stir it again, but initially a little more work. It is also a little runny when first opened, but it will firm up in the refrigerator. I can’t wait for you to try it. I know you will love it.
This is a simple list to get you started. I'm sure I could add more, but these are my favorite healthy substitutes. Do you have a healthy substitute you use and would like to share? We would love to learn from you!