Most of us know we could stand to eat more healthily than we do, but the prospect of making radical changes to our diets can seem daunting. In fact, the difficulty of maintaining a whole new way of doing something as basic as eating is why so many diet plans are scrapped after a week or two. Instead of trying to do it all at once, though, a more sustainable plan is to improve how you eat in small steps. By substituting healthier ingredients for unhealthy ones, you can improve your diet a little bit at a time without feeling like you’ve given up everything you love. Here are ten simple tips to get you started — and make that New Year’s resolution a bit easier to stick to!
Make It Low-carb 1 of 10Any time you can replace highly processed flour with vegetables, you've come out way ahead health-wise. Winter root vegetables, like parsnips, are very flexible and make an excellent, nutritious substitute for high-carb options like pasta. In this parsnip "mac" and cheese, for instance, you won't even miss the shells.
Make parsnip "mac" and cheese
Use Honey Instead of Sugar 2 of 10Honey and white sugar are pretty similar nutritionally. Honey's advantage comes from the fact that it is sweeter, so you can use much less of it to have the same sweetening effect — and eating less sugar is one of the best things you can do for a healthier diet.
Make honey-sweetened cherry orange oatmeal
Sub in Quinoa Flour 3 of 10Quinoa is rightly regarded as being an excellent high-protein seed that makes a wonderful substitute for grains. It's also a fantastic substitute for grain flours and baked goods that are low in carbs and high in protein (it won't work for recipes that call for yeast, though). Can't find quinoa flour at your grocery store? It's easy to make yourself by blending uncooked quinoa on high.
Make apple quinoa muffins
Use Yogurt Instead of Whipped Cream 4 of 10Yogurt makes a top-notch substitute for whipped cream in many desserts. If you are concerned about the amount of fat in your diet, using low- or non-fat yogurt in place of cream is an easy way cut back. Even if you're not worried about fat, the healthy probiotics in yogurt make a smart addition to any diet!
Use yogurt to make strawberry country cake
Use Fresh Ingredients Instead of Canned 5 of 10While the benefits of fresh produce over canned are often vastly overstated, there are some great reasons to use fresh produce when you can. For example, when pureeing squash or zucchini for a pie or bread, you can leave a little of the vegetable texture intact to help familiarize your children with it so they'll be less averse when they try the same vegetable on its own later.
Make classic pumpkin pie with real pumpkin
Use Whole-wheat Flour Instead of White 6 of 10Like Michael Pollan says, "The whiter the bread, the sooner you'll be dead." Using whole-wheat flour in place of white is one of the easiest substitutions you can make, and it's so much better for you. Whole-wheat flour can affect the texture of baked goods, so use "white" whole-wheat flour as a one-to-one substitute, or use half whole-wheat and half white flour in most recipes.
Make whole-wheat chocolate chip waffles
Ditch the Eggs and Dairy 7 of 10Traditionally, baked goods are high in saturated fat and cholesterol due to the presence of milk or cream and eggs. Taking a vegan approach can lighten things up considerably, making the sweet lower in fat and cholesterol-free, and transforming a decadent indulgence into a guilt-free treat.
Make airy vegan chocolate cake
Use the Natural Sugar in Bananas 8 of 10Bananas are naturally sweet and can give foods a boost of potassium, vitamin B6, and dietary fiber. They also do a great job of giving breakfast foods natural sweetness. Consider adding some mashed bananas to pancakes, waffles, or oatmeal.
Make banana-sweetened baked oatmeal with ginger and blackberries
A Little Cheese Can Go a Long Way 9 of 10Don't get me wrong, I love a heavy gratin or a thick cheese sauce as much as the next person, but these favorite comfort foods are packed with calories, saturated fats, and cholesterol. Instead of thick, heavy cheese sauces, try adding just a touch of flavorful cheese, like Parmesan or Asiago. These distinct cheeses are a terrific way to boost flavor and make veggies more kid-friendly.
Make baked broccoli rabe with Asiago
Dried Fruit Can Be a Natural Sweetener 10 of 10Dried fruit is naturally sweet and can provide more interesting flavors than plain old sugar. Once inside our body, most sugars are created equal, but using fruit as a source of sugar boosts nutrients and fiber content, making the dish healthier overall.
Make cinnamon raisin pancakes
Don’t miss the latest from The Family Kitchen – Like Us on Facebook!
More from Brooklyn Supper on The Family Kitchen: