Food Substitutions: Swapping to Healthier Options

Are you trying to reduce your fat intake, dealing with food sensitivities, testing a vegan lifestyle, or generally wanting to eat more healthy ingredients?

There are a number of reasons you might want to swap out foods in your favorite recipes.  Sometimes you just don’t have a particular ingredient in the house.  Here are some tips on how to substitute some common foods or how to make some foods healthier.


Replace:        1 cup of sugar (white or brown)


  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup or molasses
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup unpasteurized honey
  • 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 cup mashed banana (be sure to reduce other liquids in recipe)
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit chopped – place in 2/3 to 1 cup of hot water to soften; use just fruit if replacing only sugar; use fruit water if recipe calls for liquid
  • Dates, figs, apricots – grind in food processor to use in crumble type recipes
  • Stevia – liquid or powder.  See directions on package for appropriate quantity.


Replace:        1 cup white flour or whole-wheat flour


  • 3/4 cup almond flour (keep in mind it retains more moisture and will be less dense than white/whole-wheat flour)
  • 1 cup quinoa flour
  • 3/4 cup rice flour, soy, barley, millet or bean flours
  • 3/4 cup oat flour or grind up 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 to 1/4 coconut flour
  • 3/4 cup buckwheat plus 2 tbsp. arrowroot flour

IMG_3502Bread & Crumbs

Replace:        1/2 cup bread crumbs


  • 1/2 cup ground rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup oat bran and 1/4 cup ground flaxseeds
  • 1/2 cup ground nuts (any of your preference)
  • 1/2 cup ground “Mary’s Organic Crackers” gluten-free original crackers made with whole grains and seeds
  • Mixture of ground hemp hearts, ground flaxseeds, rolled oats, ground nuts

IMG_3497Replace:        Bread or Wraps


  • Portobello mushroom (baked, broiled, barbecued)
  • Eggplant slices (baked, broiled, barbecued)
  • Lettuce Leaves
  • Flaxseed Wrap Recipe

IMG_3495Replace:        Croutons


  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Slivered Almonds
  • Toasted Nuts


IMG_3496Replace:        1 whole egg


  • 2 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon oil and 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground chia seeds with 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons water plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup soft tofu

Replace:        1 cup milk


  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1 cup hemp beverage
  • 1 cup rice milk
  • 1 cup full-fat yogurt

IMG_3492Replace:       1 tablespoon butter


  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 avocado, mashed
  • 1 tablespoon apple sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of unsweetened apple butter
  • 1 tablespoon of nut butters (almond, cashew, pumpkin)

Replace:        1/4 cup heavy cream


  • 1/4 cup cashew butter
  • 1 tablespoon tahini with 1/4 cup pure water

IMG_3499Replace:        Sour Cream



Replace:        Pasta


  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Zucchini Ribbons
  • Soba noodles (buckwheat)
  • Eggplant in lasagnas
  • Quinoa pasta
  • Rice pasta

Replace:        White Potatoes


  • Mashed cauliflower
  • Sweet potatoes or yams

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAReplace:        White Rice


  • Brown Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Farro
  • Spelt
  • Vegetables

Condiments and Other Great Ideas

If you are so inclined, make your own healthier versions of favorites like barbecue sauce or ketchup.  Here are some ideas or great recipes we found for you to try:

Clean Eating BBQ sauce – link

Vinegar – use lemon juice, lime juice, unsweetened cranberry juice or dilute 1 teaspoon of vitamin C in 1/4 cup of water.

Ketchup – Adapted from Tosca Reno’s Eat-Clean Diet Book (4) Makes about 1 cup:  Mix together the following ingredients and refrigerate in tightly sealed glass container:

  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Food Coloring – Make your own food coloring with natural ingredients like blueberries, carrots, beets, spinach, saffron, cranberry juice. (1)

  • Orange: In blender or food processor, grind 1 carrot into small pieces; add 1/4 cup water and continue to blend until smooth; strain and store liquid in jar.
  • Blue: Boil 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup blueberries for 5 minutes.  Strain liquid into jar and store.
  • Green: Boil spinach leaves or alfalfa tea in 1/2 cup water for 5 minutes; strain liquid into jar and store.
  • Red: Boil 2 washed red beets in 3/4 cup water for 5 minutes; strain liquid into jar and store.  Use sparingly since icing may pick up flavor of beet.
  • Yellow: Add 1 teaspoon saffron to 1 cup boiling water and continue boiling for 5 minutes.  Cook mixture and then strain liquid into jar.
  • Peach: Mix 1 part red coloring and 1 part yellow coloring.
  • Brown: Use carob powder.
  • Pink: Use cranberry juice.

Get your creative juices flowing and create your own yummy substitutions.  Let us know what you come up with so we can keep adding to the above list.


  1. Percival, M. and Percival, C, Guilt-Free Indulgence: An Art Worth Mastering. A Cookbook With a Conscience, 5th Edition, 1996, New Hamburg, ON: 1991 Health Coach Systems International Inc.
  5. Reno, Tosca, The Eat-Clean Diet for Family & Kids: Simple Strategies for Lasting Health & Fitness, Mississauga, ON: Robert Kennedy Publishing, 2008.

Recipe of the Week: Chocolate Brownies

About aspireperspirenourish

We are sisters who share a passion for healthy living! Each of us brings different knowledge and skills to this project, some similar experiences and a whole lot of shared passion for mindful, fit and nutritious living. This blog is our way of spreading our knowledge and passion about motivation, fitness and nutrition for everyday living. It is also our forum for finding like-minded people from whom we can learn. To learn more about us, please see our "About" page.
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2 Responses to Food Substitutions: Swapping to Healthier Options

  1. Fiona says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I have printed this off for future reference, so useful!


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