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Healthy Cooking Techniques and Substitutions

For recipes that are high in flavor yet lower in fat, cholesterol, and calories, try Chef Mary’s clever ingredient substitutions.

 Food substitutions

Replace high heat with low- to medium-high heat to sauté and fry foods:

Lower cooking temperatures prevent the moisture in foods from evaporating too quickly. This allows foods to cook in their own juices and eliminates the need to use fats to prevent foods from sticking, burning, or drying out. If you need to add moisture during cooking, replace oils, butter, and other fats with cooking sprays, fat-free and low-sodium stocks, broths, wines, liquors, water, or flavored liquids.

Note: Don’t use cooking sprays with nonstick cookware unless they are 99% residue free— residue can ruin nonstick surfaces. Instead, use a small amount of oil spread over the pan’s surface or substitute any of the other options listed above.

Eggs: Replace one egg with two egg whites, or use six tbsp. egg substitute or liquid egg whites.

Whole or 2% Milk: Try fat-free or 1% milk.

Sour Cream: Low-fat or fat-free sour cream or plain low-fat or fat-free yogurt can give you the same result with much less fat.

Cream: Substitute evaporated, canned skim milk or fat-free  half-and-half.

Chocolate: Replace 1 oz. chocolate with 3 tbsp. Dutch cocoa powder mixed with 1 to 2 tbsp. sugar.

Cheese: Use reduced-fat cheese in place of regular cheese. It has less moisture and tends to melt faster than regular cheese, so you will want to add it at the end of cooking time when possible. This works well with pizzas, for example— top them with low-fat cheese a few minutes before you take them out of the oven.

Meats: Replace fatty cuts of meat, fish, and poultry with leaner versions. Remove skin and excess fat from meats whenever possible. As a rule, meat shouldn’t contain more than 2g fat per 1 oz. serving. Replace fatty ground meats with 90% lean or leaner ground beef, chicken, or turkey.

Fat-free and Low-fat Ingredient Substitutions for Baked Goods

While it depends on the recipe, the smart substitutions listed below can often replace all or part of the shortening, butter, or oil in baked goods.

For example, solid pack pumpkin works as a fat replacement in pumpkin cake, chocolate cake, pumpkin cookies, and bread. Pureed black beans work well in brownies.

In fact, any type of pureed, dense fruit or vegetable can be used  as a fat replacement if it complements the other ingredients in the recipe.

Related: Cucumber Tomato Avocado Salad

Low-fat and fat-free alternatives for baked goods include:

  • solid pack pumpkin
  • applesauce
  • pureed black beans
  • low-fat or fat-free yogurt
  • fat-free sour cream
  • low-fat buttermilk
  • regular or low-fat eggnog
  • apple butter
  • pureed prunes


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The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.

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Post Author

Mary Ross

Mary is currently a Marketing Account Specialist and has been with SelectHealth for six years. She spends a lot of her time doing what she loves the most—teaching people how to cook healthy meals.

You can frequently see Mary on local television stations demonstrating how to revamp popular recipes by using healthy substitutions and cooking techniques.