If swapping out butter or sugar for something less sinful never left you with a drier, blander version of your usual recipe, then maybe we'd all be thin. But eating healthier doesn't have to involve a "taste penalty," says Missy Chase Lapine, author of four cookbooks as "The Sneaky Chef," in which she "sneaks" vegetables into kids' favorite foods to help them eat healthier.
The 10 healthy ingredient substitutions that follow - some from Lapine - make lighter versions of favorite dishes that are just as flavorful. "It's an effortless way to shave off 320 calories per day or more," she says. And there's a bonus: Each comes with a nutrient boost you won't get with the original ingredient.
SWAP SOUR CREAM FOR FAT-FREE GREEK YOGURT
What you'll save: calories and fat. One cup of sour cream has 492 calories and 48 g of fat. The yogurt has just 130 calories and zero fat.
When to use it: any time, says Lapine. The tart kick of the yogurt works for taco night, in salad dressings, dips, mashed potatoes, and when baking.
The boost: protein. One cup of sour cream has 7.3 g. The yogurt has more than triple that - 23 g in a cup.
SWAP MAYO FOR MASHED AVOCADO
What you'll save: 125 calories per ounce.
When to use it: as a spread on sandwiches, mixed in to tuna or chicken salad, or in dips. The avocado gives any dish the creaminess of the mayo, but with an added kick of guacamole-like flavor.
The boost: Potassium. That same ounce of avocado delivers 137 mg of this nutrient.
SWAP BUTTER FOR UNSWEETENED APPLESAUCE OR PUMPKIN PUREE
What you'll save: The fruit purees have no fat, and you'll also save calories. Both the pumpkin and applesauce are 50 calories for half a cup, versus 810 calories for the equivalent amount of butter.
When to use it: when baking, says Devon Metz, RD, a Boulder, CO-based nutritionist. Fruit purees are often used as baking swaps to add sweetness while keeping baked goods light.
The boost: fiber. Pumpkin and apple are packed with the filling nutrient, meaning you'll feel fuller after fewer cookies.
SWAP HALF THE WHITE FLOUR FOR WHOLE WHEAT
What you'll save: You'll preserve flavor, while also adding more fiber to your food.
When to use it: whenever you're baking.
The boost: again, fiber. Whole wheat has 3.4 g in just one ounce, compared to less than 1 g for all-purpose flour.
SWAP HALF THE MEAT IN YOUR CHILI FOR MUSHROOMS
What you'll save: calories like crazy. For every half-pound of lean ground beef you replace with 2 cups of mushrooms, you'll save 375 calories.
When to use it: when you start your pot of chili. Dice the mushrooms and cook them slow and low until they release their juices. Then continue to make the chili as you normally would.
The boost: potassium. Those two cups of mushrooms will give your pot 915 mg of the cancer-fighting nutrient.
SWAP GARLIC SALT OR CELERY SALT FOR DRIED HERB SEASONINGS
What you'll save: your blood pressure. Though the sodium amounts are often similar by the teaspoon or tablespoon when using a pre-made mix, the flavor of no-salt dried herbs is stronger - so you'll need less, and use less salt.
When to use it: in chili, seafood boils, or any time you'd dash on a heap of seasoned salt while cooking.
The boost: Rosemary has been shown to improve memory, thyme contains antioxidant-rich flavonoids, and oregano has been found to fight cancer.
SWAP CREAM FOR COCONUT MILK
What you'll save: calories. One tablespoon of coconut milk has just 28 calories, compared to 52 for cream.
When to use it: in soups and sauces with strong flavors; you'll never know the difference.
The boost: again, potassium: Coconut milk has triple the potassium of cream - 31 mg in a single tablespoon.
SWAP HALF THE CHEESE FOR PUREED SWEET POTATO AND CARROTS
What you'll save: calories, fat and complaints about vegetables: This orange puree is one of the staples of Lapine's "Sneaky Chef" method. To make it, boil peeled sweet potatoes and carrots, then run them through the blender.
When to use it: in macaroni and cheese, or in almost any recipe that requires cooked cheese, Lapine says.
The boost: orange foods boast carotenoids, which help improve eye health.
SWAP SALT FOR A BIT OF WHITE VINEGAR
What you'll save: well, salt. But you won't give up the flavor-brightening properties it brings your vegetables.
When to use it: when sauteing, steaming or boiling vegetables.
The boost: Vinegar can help your body absorb more minerals.
SWAP BREADCRUMBS FOR OATMEAL IN YOUR MEATBALLS
What you'll save: If you swap a cup, you'll save 120 calories.
When to use it: Mix roughly equal parts oatmeal and ground meat with spices and a beaten egg.
The boost: fiber. You'll almost double it with oatmeal.