Substituting Recipes with Healthy Ingredients You and Your Family Will Love

Did you know that making small substitutions can help you and your family stay healthy? Here’s how: using avocados, greek yogurt, spaghetti squash, apple sauce and black beans in place of common options like butter, oil, sugar, flour or cream not only allows you to experiment in the kitchen, but also makes some recipes more nutritious. Check out some of my favorite substitution ideas below!


Avocados: Avocado and butter have nearly the same consistency at room temperature but nutritionally one far outweighs the other. Avocados pack in more heart healthy fats, mono- and poly-unsaturated fats and less artery clogging saturated and trans fat. Further, the creaminess and subtle flavor of avocado lends itself well to the texture of fudge brownies and dark chocolate flavorings.

Conversion factor: When substituting butter with avocados in recipes it is a 1:1 ratio, measurement remains the same.

Chocolate Mouse with added healthy fats:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate chips, melted
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 5 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch of sea salt

Directions: Melt chocolate chips. Put all ingredients into a food processor or blender, blend until smooth. Let moose chill in fridge for 2 hours before serving.

Greek Yogurt: 

You can easily substitute sour cream, cream cheese, crème fraiche and mayonnaise with low fat or fat free Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt provides less fat (choose the low fat or fat free version) and more protein, which helps you feel fuller longer.

Conversion factor: When substituting with Greek yogurt in recipes it is a 1:1 ratio, measurement remains the same.

For your fruits:

  • 1/2 C vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. natural, smooth peanut butter (I like the Teddy’s brand)!
  • 1 Tbsp. Natural Grape Jelly

Directions: Combine ingredients. Add some fresh apples to dip!

For your veggies:

  • 1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt 2%, low fat or fat free
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Combine all ingredients, ideally keep covered and cool 2 hours prior to serving.

Remember: If mixture becomes too thin after stirring yogurt in a dip or dressing, thicken it by chilling the mixture for 1-2 hours.

Spaghetti Squash, An alternative to pasta:

Spaghetti squash provides a healthier alternative to pasta by providing more fiber, less sugar and less calories. Spaghetti squash can be roasted and pulled apart with a fork for spaghetti like consistency. One squash will make between 2-3 servings.

Spaghetti Squash Mushroom Scampi

  • 1 Spaghetti Squash
  • 1 lb shrimp, cleaned and de-veined
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 c. mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Cut spaghetti squash in half and clean out seeds and string. Place in a baking dish cut side up, with half an inch of water. Put in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. When spaghetti squash has 10-15 minutes left to bake, slice cloves of garlic thinly. Melt butter and olive oil in a large saucepan on medium heat, add garlic and mushrooms until soft (time depends on mushroom slice size, watch as they cook quickly) garlic should be fragrant. Add shrimp to mix and cook until pink and no longer translucent (2-3 minutes on each side). Season with salt and pepper. Adjust heat to low. Once the spaghetti squash is finished take out of the oven and with a fork scrape the inside, this should produce long strands resembling spaghetti, straight into the shrimp, mushroom and garlic mixture. Mix the shrimp, mushrooms, garlic and spaghetti squash together.  Add Parmesan cheese. Season to taste and serve immediately.


Unsweetened Applesauce, an oil (or sugar) alternative:

Using applesauce in place of sugar can give sweetness without the extra calories. 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce contains about 100 calories compared to 1 cup of sugar which can pack in more than 770 calories!

Conversion factor:  When substituting oil for applesauce, it is a 1:1 ratio, measurement remains the same.

Conversion factor:  When substituting sugar for applesauce, 1 cup of sugar can be replaced with ½ cup of applesauce.

Brown Sugar and Cinnamon muffins:


  • 1 3/4 cups wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon

Directions: Mix together flour, white sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add egg, milk and oil. Mix together. Fill muffin cups 1/4 full with batter. Add brown sugar and cinnamon pinches to tops. Cover the brown sugar with batter. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve.

Black Beans:

You can swap out flour for a can of black beans (drained and rinsed) in baked goods like brownies. Black beans can be substituted as flour for gluten-free eaters. Additionally, beans contain natural fiber plus protein which helps promote feelings of fullness.

Conversion factor:  1 cup flour can be replaced with 1 cup black bean puree (about a 15 oz can)

Black Bean Brownies

  • 1 1/2 cups black beans (15-oz can, drained and rinsed very well)
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup agave or honey
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine all ingredients but chocolate chips in a good food processor, and blend until smooth. Really blend well. Stir in the chips, then pour into a greased 8×8 pan. Cook the black bean brownies 15-18 minutes, then let cool at least 10 minutes before trying to cut. Makes 9-12 brownies.

Skylar’s Bottom Line: Keep it FUN! If you or your family does not like the recipe alternative that’s OK but keep an open mind. Allow children to get involved in the preparation process, and learn about the substituted food items. Children are more likely to try something new if those around them are excited to try the new food too.


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