21 Ingredient Swaps for ‘Good-for-You’ Holiday Favorites

By Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD

When it comes to lightening up holiday favorites, there are the obvious recipe swaps: Reduced-fat versions of ingredients like cheese, cream cheese, and cream-based soups, along with using whole wheat flour, brown rice and sweet potatoes in place of their white counterparts (which, by the way, doesn’t do much in the way of slashing carbs or calories, though it does help to boost the fiber, vitamin, and antioxidant content of a dish).

To help you expand your repertoire of a better-for-you holiday fare, from savory stuffings to decadent desserts, I’ve put together a list of 21 carb-cutting, sugar-slashing, fiber-boosting ingredient trade-outs, and tips (plus one almost-too-good-to-be-true recipe for sweetened condensed milk) for guilt-free seasonal indulgences that won’t wreak havoc on your waistline.

Ingredient swaps for white flour or whole wheat flour
• Almond flour: With 75 percent fewer carbs and 50 percent more protein than white or whole wheat flour, almond flour can be used to replace up to a quarter of the flour in a recipe.

• Coconut flour: It has 25 percent fewer carbs and just over three times as much fiber as whole wheat flour, with a rich texture and natural sweetness. Coconut flour can be used to replace up to 20 percent of the flour called for in a recipe, adding an equivalent amount of additional liquid to the recipe. For example, replacing wheat flour with half a cup of coconut flour requires an additional half-cup of liquid to the recipe.

• Ground Flaxseeds: Rich in soluble fiber and cancer-fighting lignans, ground flaxseed can be used in place of about 15 percent of the flour called for in a recipe.

• Beans: Cup-for-cup, beans have half the calories and carbs of white flour, and four times the fiber. One cup of cooked, pureed beans can be used to replace one cup of flour plus two tablespoons of fat. For best results, match the bean color to the finished product (e.g. black beans for brownies, kidney beans for red velvet cake, and white beans for cookies).

Ingredient swaps for butter or shortening in baked goods
• Beans: Substitute beans for fats in a one-to-one ratio, using whole, cooked beans in place of butter and pureed, cooked beans in place of oil. Again, match the color of the bean to the finished product.

• Avocado: Use mashed avocado in place of half the amount of butter. So if a recipe calls for one cup of butter, use half a cup of butter and half a cup of mashed avocado. The savings: 78 calories and six grams of saturated fat for every tablespoon (and 1250 calories and 96 grams of saturated fat per cup of butter traded out).

• Greek yogurt: Use plain, low-fat Greek yogurt in place of half the amount of butter. For example, if a recipe calls for one cup of butter, use half a cup of butter and half a cup of Greek yogurt, and save 725 calories and 60 grams of saturated fat.

• Use less: Fat content can often be reduced by 25 percent without adversely affecting sweetness or texture.

Ingredient swaps for eggs
• Eggs: Eggs are used in baking as leavening agents as well as binding agents. The following ingredient swaps function as binders. If eggs need to function as leavening agents as well, add an extra quarter-teaspoon of baking powder to the recipe.

• Ground flaxseed: For the equivalent of one whole egg, combine one tablespoon of ground flaxseed with three tablespoons of water or unsweetened almond milk. Whisk or blend until smooth. Allow standing for five to ten minutes, stir again, and use as called for in recipe. Every spoonful of flaxseed adds just 30 calories, along with the benefit of two grams of (mostly soluble) fiber and cancer-fighting lignans.

• Chia seed powder: Rich in soluble fiber, chia easily absorbs liquids and forms a gel-like mixture. For the equivalent of one whole egg, stir one tablespoon of chia seed powder into three tablespoons of water or unsweetened almond milk, and whisk or blend until smooth. Allow standing for five to ten minutes or until reaches a gel-like consistency, then use as called for in recipe.

• Pumpkin puree (or canned pumpkin): A quarter-cup can be used to replace one egg, for about half the calories and just one gram of (naturally-occurring) sugar. For an added bonus, every quarter-cup serving provides two day’s worth of vitamin A.

Ingredient swaps for heavy cream
• Fat-free evaporated milk: It may not give the exact texture and flavor of heavy cream, but the calorie and sat fat savings just might make this trade-out worth it. Use fat-free evaporated milk in a one-to-one ratio to replace heavy cream for 80 percent fewer calories, plus save six grams of saturated fat for every two tablespoons.

• Greek yogurt: Use plain low-fat Greek yogurt in place of half of the heavy cream the recipe calls for and save 650 calories and 52 grams of saturated fat per cup. To avoid curdling, stir in the yogurt once the dish has been taken off the heat, and gradually reheat if needed.

Ingredient swaps for bread crumbs
• High-fiber cereal (e.g. Fiber One Original cereal): Crush or blend cereal to fine crumbs for less than half the calories, and as much as 14 grams of fiber per ounce.

• Oats, flaxseeds, and nuts (in a ratio of 50 percent nuts, 25 percent flaxseeds, and 25 percent nuts of choice): Blended with a blender or food processor to a crumbly texture for a gluten-free bread crumb replacement that’s also rich in fiber, lignans, and heart-smart fats.

• Nuts: Substitute ground nuts of choice for half of the bread crumbs called for in a recipe to save nearly 50 grams of carbs per half-cup replaced, along with the added benefit of naturally-occurring fiber, antioxidants, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

Ingredient swaps for sugar
• Cinnamon, vanilla, and almond extracts: Can be added to recipes to boost the perception of sweetness.

• Natural plant-based sweeteners: Granulated Z-Sweet, granulated Pure Via, and Swerve Sweetener each measure cup-for-cup like sugar, with zero calories and zero sugar. Per cup, this translates to a savings of 775 calories and 200 grams of sugar (or the equivalent of 50 sugar packets).

• Use less: Sugar can often be reduced by a quarter to a half in baked goods and desserts without adversely affecting sweetness or texture. Don’t eliminate sugar entirely from yeast-containing baked goods, however, as sugar serves as the food source for the yeast.

Ingredient swaps for salt
• Incorporate spices, herbs, and flavored vinegars: Every teaspoon of salt replaced translates to a savings of 2325 milligrams (a day’s upper limit) of sodium.

• Use less: Salt can be omitted entirely, or at least reduced by half in most recipes. One exception: Yeast-containing products must have amount of salt called for in recipe for appropriate texture.

Recipe for Sweetened Condensed Milk – Low Carb, No Sugar Added
(By Carolyn Ketchum – www.alldayidreamaboutfood.com)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup Swerve Sweetener or granulated erythritol
1 tbsp butter
1/8 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
15 drops stevia extract

In a medium heavy saucepan, combine cream, milk and erythritol over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours, stirring frequently, until mixture is reduce by half. No matter how often you stir, thick bits of milk will form on the sides. Leave it there, and try not to disturb it when stirring, or you will get chunky bits in your condensed milk.

Add butter and let melt, then briskly whisk in xanthan gum. Let mixture cool to room temperature and stir in vanilla and stevia extracts.

Each two-tablespoon serving has just two grams of carbs and sugar, compared to 15 grams of carbs and sugar per two tablespoons of regular sweetened condensed milk.

Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD is a sports and lifestyle dietitian, board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She manages the nutrition program at Ochsner’s Elmwood Fitness Center in New Orleans, advising clients in weight loss, muscle building, endurance training, eating disorders and general health and wellness. As a columnist for The Times-Picayune newspaper, Molly covers the latest trends in the nutrition and the fitness industry. She is also the nutrition and fitness expert for New Orleans’ ABC affiliate WGNO with a weekly segment on “Good Morning New Orleans, Get the Skinny with Molly.” She is regularly featured as a nutritional expert on local and national news stories and has appeared in numerous media outlets, including Vogue, The New York Times, Newsweek, Shape, Health, Fitness, Runner’s World, Wine Enthusiast, Cosmopolitan, WebMD and CNN.com. For more information, please visit http://nola.com

Re-posted with permission from The Times-Picayune newspaper.

The articles written by guest contributors are the sole responsibility of the individual writers in terms of factual accuracy and opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher of this blog.

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