Heart-Smart Swaps

This article, entitled "Heart-Smart Swaps," comes from partner site Heart Smart Swaps.

Can you cut calories, fat, and salt and still whip up something delicious? The answer is yes. These heart-smart cooking swaps are easy, won’t break the budget and will add amazing flavor to your dishes.

If a recipe calls for bacon bits…substitute smoked paprika.

Smoked paprika, which is different from paprika, has a rich, smoky flavor and can easily be sprinkled on foods you might flavor with bacon bits. Obviously you won’t get the “crunch” of the bacon but you’ll get the flavor without as much fat, salt or calories. In fact, 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika has 6 calories, and no fat or sodium. Sprinkle on baked potatoes, eggs, soups and vegetables.

If a recipe calls for bread crumbs…substitute rolled oats.

Pulse oats, which are cholesterol-lowering, in a food processor until you get the desired consistency (like bread crumbs.) You’ll add fiber and there’s no sodium in oats. Use in casseroles, your favorite meat loaf recipe, or as “breading” for chicken tenders, pork chops, or fish.

If a recipe calls for white flour (in baked goods)…substitute whole-wheat flour.

To get the benefits of whole-wheat flour without changing the taste of your finished product, replace half the white flour with whole-wheat. Your family won’t notice a difference in the healthier version.

If a recipe calls for buttermilk…substitute lowfat plain yogurt.

Using yogurt instead of buttermilk lowers the saturated fat and sodium. Use the same amount of yogurt you’d use for the buttermilk. You can also use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream. I personally have been using a dollop of Greek yogurt on creamed soups for garnish and it tastes really good.

If a recipe calls for oil (in baked goods)…substitute applesauce.

By replacing half the oil in baked recipes with applesauce, you can reduce calories without sacrificing flavor. Use in cakes, muffins, brownies and sweetened breads. By lowering the calories you don’t have to feel so “guilty” when you occasionally indulge. Or if you think like me, you can eat twice the amount! I’ve also used pureed prunes (instead of the applesauce,) in chocolate recipes. We couldn’t taste the difference and the prunes gave the chocolate cake a nice color.

If a recipe calls for butter (as a spread)…substitute avocado.

Replace butter on sandwiches with a thin smear of mashed avocado and you’ll save more than 75 calories per tablespoon and get the added bonus of “good” fats. My son and his girlfriend came over the other night and made a feast of different toasted cheese sandwiches, which they took to “gourmet” levels. One of our favorites was made with cheese and mashed avocado, which they cooked in the skillet and was delicious.

If a recipe calls for salt (to finish off the dish)…substitute citrus juices.

This is my personal favorite and something I do on a regular basis. Instead of a sprinkle of salt (after the dish has been cooked,) squeeze a bit of lemon or lime juice over chicken, fish, rice or vegetable dishes. The juice brings out the flavor without adding sodium. I’ve also used a bit of fresh juice from oranges too, depending on what I’m cooking and the sides I’m serving. Slice up the fruit and put it in a small bowl to pass around at the dinner table instead of a salt shaker. If you have kids, they’ll think squeezing juice is fun and hopefully develop some new and healthy eating habits.

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