Nutrition Articles

Sensational Substitutions for Cooking and Baking

Make Your Favorite Foods Diet-Friendly

New Year’s Resolutions…always made and often broken.

Is your motivation waning? Are you already feeling deprived because your favorite recipes are off limits? Making meals count is important. Meals should be satisfying, good tasting, pleasing to the eye, nutritious, and have a texture that is pleasing to your palate. Otherwise, you will feel deprived. The good news? It is easy to modify some of your favorite recipes by using the sensational substitutions listed below. You don’t have to eat a sparse and boring "diet meal" any longer.

Cooking Substitutions
Instead of…

1 Cup Cream

1 Cup Evaporated Milk

Cream to Thicken Soups

Pureed Potatoes or Vegetables

Oil-Based Marinades

Citrus Juice or Flavored Vinegar

Stick Margarine

Small amounts of Olive oil, Canola oil or broth

2 ounces of Mild Cheddar Cheese

1 ounce Reduced-Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese

White Rice

Brown rice, Bulgur, Kasha, Quinoa, Whole-Wheat Couscous

Meat or Poultry for Stir Fry

Tofu (Extra Firm, Cubed) or more Vegetables

Ground Meat

Ground Turkey Breast; Finely Chopped Vegetables with Less Meat; Crumbled Tofu, Tempeh, or Soy Crumbles; Beans

Baking Substitutions
Instead of…

1/2 Cup Oil, Butter or Margarine

1/4 Cup Applesauce + 1/4 Cup Canola Oil, Butter or Margarine

1 Egg

2 Egg Whites

Sweetened Condensed Milk

Nonfat Sweetened Condensed Milk

Evaporated Milk

Evaporated Skim Milk

1 Cup Chocolate Chips

1/2 Cup Mini Chocolate Chips, Chopped Dried Fruit or Chopped Nuts


Sliced Fresh Fruit with a dusting of Powdered Sugar

Sour Cream

Nonfat Sour Cream, Low-Fat Sour Cream, Pureed Low-Fat Cottage Cheese

Whole Milk

Skim Milk

Cream Cheese

Low-Fat Cream Cheese


Artificial sweetener for some or all (follow manufacturer’s directions); 1/4 to 1/2 Less Sugar in the recipe

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Member Comments

  • Oh & in pestos, I often substitute for all, or part, of the oil: beans. Usually garbanzos/chickpe
    as, sometimes white beans. Gives creamier look to it; can still use part oil. Adds protein, removes fat.
  • The list left off the classic: prune, pureed, instead of butter & sugar in baked goods.At one point it was even sold by jar in the baking goods section, primarily used in baked things that were flatter & darker-adds fiber. Also, spark's black bean brownies is a classic-more fiber, +protein!
  • Wow, good article.
  • These comments are as amazing as the authors hope when I save this it saves the comments to.

  • did you know that cashew butter is a great substitute for butters, oils, and creams, you can even make a sour cream substitue with them. they really add no flavour, or very little and the creaminess can't be beat. if you dont have nut allergies, they're definitely the way to go.
  • SAVE to favourites is under the more tab next to share honey :)
  • I like fat free natural yoghurt/ greek or quark for a thicker texture I mix in frozen berries and sweetener for a delicious frozen ice cream cool on a hit day and feels like a treat if you need a bit of naughtiness on top sprinkle options sachet over the top.
  • I totally agree with the above comments referring to fat free Greek yogurt in place of sour cream. It tastes like full fat sour cream and is much healthier for you than light sour cream! When I get to the end of my day, am lacking protein and calories but have nearly maxed out my fat for the day, I mix a cup of plain Greek yogurt with honey or stevia (or even fruit), ground cinnamon, and some vanilla extract. Yummy, satisfying, and usually helps me meet my nutritional needs before bed!
  • Light and nonfat sour cream are filled with chemicals and additives. I substitute nonfat Greek yogurt instead to great success.
  • silken tofu is also a great sub for cream - its got no flavor on its own, so you can use it in sweet or savory dishes, and it just sucks up the flavor of whatever youre using it with. im currently putting it in smoothies all the time, to add creaminess without extra calories. plus, protein!
  • For baking results to be worthwhile the fat-liquid-starch proportions have to be exact. If you remove fat in one place you have to add it or the equivalent. Read the ingredients on "lowfat" prepared food. Manufacturers have access to substitutes that home bakers just don't have. Those chemical names may sound scary but they are there for a reason.
  • Instead of using eggs, oil and water with cake mixes from the box. I used a 16 oz can of pumpkin with the cake mix and it turned out great and it was healthier for me. It was less calories, and its a fruit as well. I did it with Red Velvet Cake mix and Chocolate Cake mix. For the frosting I used Whipped Cream. Just a thought.

About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.