Looking for ways to make your meals healthier without compromising taste or too much change? It can be the smallest substitutions that make the biggest difference in improving your health. Here are great substitutions for some key ingredients:
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Instead of "SUGAR"
White sugar is highly refined. Although originally derived from the cane or beet plant, all the nutrients and minerals have been stripped away with nothing left but a sweet, nutritionally void substance that is extremely high glycemic. This causes blood sugar imbalances (energy highs and lows) and is a leading cause of weight gain, obesity and diabetes. Not only that, but sugar also suppresses the immune system and feeds diseases, viruses, bacteria, infection and yeasts (including candida). As for brown sugar - don't be fooled - brown sugar (commonly used in baking) is just white sugar with added molasses!
Try These Healthier Substitutions: So what to do? Although it can be hard to cut out sugar completely, here are some 'better than' alternatives to the highly refine white stuff.
1) Stevia Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the sweet stevia leaf - an herb native to south America. It is virtually calorie-free and has no impact on blood sugar levels making it a great alternative for diabetics, those on sugar-reduced diets, or those watching their weight. It's much sweeter than sugar (about 100-400x sweeter) and can have a bitter/pungent aftertaste so a little goes a long way!
2) Coconut sugar Coconut sugar is a natural sugar derived directly from the sap of the coconut tree's flower blossoms. The sap is collected, immediately boiled and crystallized into sugar crystals. It's low on the glycemic index - much lower than cane sugar (35GI vs. 68GI) and has a significantly lower fructose content than agave nectar. It's rich in minerals (magnesium, potassium and zinc) and vitamins B and C. And it tastes DELICIOUS! Kind of like caramel!
3) Raw Honey Although honey is higher on the glycemic index, RAW honey (not to be confused with the refined, processed honey found in most cupboards) is loaded nutrients. Raw honey is a thick, cloudy colour with a wax-like consistency. Raw honey has been demonstrated to have antimicrobrial properties and is rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients and enzymes.
Instead of "JAMS"
Many commercial jams are just another form of refined sugar. 1 tablespoon of jam can contain up to 50% sugar (sometime more!) and is typically void of nutrients and fibre.
Instead of refined, commercial jams, try these healthier substitutions:
1) Apple Butter Apple butter is a rich, creamy, and smooth concentrated apple spread. It's made with the entire apple and is much richer and thicker than apple sauce. It's higher in fiber than most jams and is lower in calories and sugar. It's also great used in recipes as a sugar substitute, spread on pancakes instead of syrup or delicious mixed with natural peanut or almond butter for a healthier (and tastier) take on PB&J!
2) Make your own using: (a) Dried Fruit: Take your favourite dried fruit (such as apricots, blueberries or cherries) re-hydrate in water for about an hour and blend into a rich and delish fruit spread. Or if you prefer immediate gratification - toss dried fruit in blender/food processor with water and process into a spread.
(b) Fresh Fruit! Take your favourite fresh fruit and blend with additional fiber (such as ground chia, ground flax or psyllium husk) to create a gelatinous fruit spread! The fiber will create 'thickness' as it will absorb excess moisture. These fibers have gelatinizing properties, giving it a 'jam'-like consistency - and they are loaded in extra nutrients and omega fatty acids!
(c) Or quite simply - grab a fork and start mashing! Mashed up bananas or mangos (or even try bananas and strawberries together) make a delicious creamy spread. All the nutrients are left in tact, making it high in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber!
Instead of "WHITE" or "BROWN" BREAD
White bread is highly refined, nutritionally void, and has the same impact on your body as eating white, refined sugar. Some of the whole wheat bread that's out there isn't much better as it's made primarily with white, refined flour with some added wheat germ, or may contain a mixture of whole wheat and highly refined wheat.
Try These Healthier Substitutions:
What's better: 100% WHOLE GRAIN breads made with 100% wholegrains, such as kamut, spelt, brown rice or rye. When purchasing these breads, look for WHOLE GRAIN as the first ingredient (and subsequent ingredients). If it needs to be 'enriched', chances are it's not whole to begin with.
What's best: Sprouted Grain bread! Although it looks and tastes like regular sliced bread - spouted grain breads trump any bread in terms of the nutrients and digestion! 'Sprouting' a grain activates the grain's enzymes and increases the nutritional profile of the grain. It also breaks down the protein into amino acids (including breaking down the gluten - which can cause many people bloating and discomfort) making easier for you body to digest and assimilate the nutrients.
· Ezekiel bread is a type of sprouted grain sliced bread available in most supermarkets and health food stores (often found in the freezer section) · Manna Bread is a sprouted loaf that has more of a muffin consistency (and taste!)
Instead of "SOUR CREAM"
Sour cream is a fermented 'cream', which tends to fall high on the saturated fat scale (the fats we want to limit). In most fat-free versions, the fat is typically substituted with corn syrup or other fat-causing sugar, which doesn't do well for overall health or waist-line.
Try These Healthier Substitutions:
1) Greek yogurt Greek yogurt has the same rich and creamy consistency as sour cream with less calories and saturated fat. Because Greek yogurt is strained three times (versus 1-2x as with regular north American yogurt) it is much thicker and creamier. It's also lower in sugar and higher in protein than regular yogurts, and is also rich in active bacterial cultures (probiotics) that help improve intestinal health.
2) Cottage cheese blended with a squeeze of fresh lemon. Cottage cheese is rich in protein and lower in fat than most cheeses (and sour cream!). Blending it changes the consistency into something smooth and creamy, and a twist of lemon provides an added dose of Vitamin C and the 'sourness' sans the sour cream.