Anne: Making a meal or recipe healthier

Hi friends! How’s your day going? We’re on vacation right now -will be back soon!- but I asked some blog friends to stop by for guest posts while we’re away. Today’s post is from Anne, one of my favorite breakfast and yoga buddies 🙂 She’s also an RD and has a wealth of knowledge for nutrition and fueling for fitness. For today’s post, she shares some of her amazing tips for making meals and recipes healthier. Hope you enjoy! <3

Hey, Fitnessista readers! I’m Anne, a D.C. area Registered Dietitian (RD) with an online-based nutrition counseling private practice and a health/fitness blogger over at fANNEtastic food. A big thank you to my friend Gina for having me today!

Fitnessista copy

As a dietitian, I often get asked how to make a recipe or meal healthier, so today I decided to share some of my favorite healthy swaps that won’t compromise on flavor. Enjoy!

15 Tips to Make a Recipe or Meal Healthier

Often when someone finds out a meal or recipe is healthy, they think that means it won’t taste good. Not true! With just a little creativity and some simple staple ingredients on hand, it’s easy to turn a comfort dish into a lightened up version – and no one will be the wiser when flavor is involved, I promise.

Here are my favorite tips to lighten up a recipe or meal.

1) Use plain Greek yogurt to replace mayonnaise and sour cream in recipes and dips. Greek yogurt is much higher in protein and lower in calories and saturated fat than the alternatives, and you hardly notice the difference.

To make a healthier chicken, egg, or tuna salad, simply use two parts unflavored Greek yogurt to one part Dijon mustard and you have yourself a delicious alternative to mayonnaise.

Healthy deviled eggs

Yogurt also makes a delicious Greek style tzatziki sauce (recipe: Cucumber Yogurt Garlic Sauce), can be used in place of sour cream in a Healthier Seven Layer Dip, and it makes a great ranch dip for veggies, too!

Other yogurt ideas:

  • Use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream in Mexican dishes, soups, and chili.
  • Make a buffalo dip for veggies or chicken using Greek yogurt and hot sauce, or yogurt, lemon, parsley, and Worcestershire sauce.
  • Use yogurt and red curry paste as a tasty marinade for chicken.

2) Try using spaghetti squash or spiraled zucchini instead of pasta. You’ll add nutrients and decrease the calories, too!

3) If you’re making lasagna, use layers of eggplant instead of pasta.

4) Use pureed sweet potato, pumpkin, applesauce, mashed avocado or mashed banana to replace half the butter or all the oil in baked goods. You’ll be adding nutrients and decreasing calories, too!

Butternut squash muffins

5) For baked goods recipes that call for white flour, substitute whole wheat pastry flour (or half white flour, half regular whole wheat flour). This will increase the fiber content of the recipe, and using pastry flour instead of regular whole wheat flour will keep your baked goods light and fluffy. You can also decrease the amount of sugar in most baked goods by about 1/4 without any changes in texture or flavor! For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup sugar, you can use 3/4 cup without any problems.

6) Use half the cheese in recipes that call for cheese – choose a “sharp” variety (e.g. sharp cheddar cheese) and the extra flavor will make up for the smaller quantity!

7) Substitute whole grain versions of refined grains in recipes. For example, use brown rice or quinoa instead of white rice or couscous, whole wheat or sprouted grain bread instead of white, etc.

8) Replace half the potatoes in mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower. Cannellini beans can also be mashed in to increase the fiber and protein content.

Healthy mashed potatoes

9) The next time you make brownies, swap out 1 cup of the flour for 1 cup of mashed black beans. I know this sounds gross, but I promise it works!

10) Add in extra veggies! If you’re having pasta or a casserole for dinner, serve it on top of some steamed spinach or salad greens. You won’t taste the greens and they will add nutrients and fiber to the meal. To steam spinach in the microwave, simply put a big handful of fresh baby spinach on a plate and microwave on high for 1 minute. That’s it!

11) Use ground turkey or chicken in place of ground beef in recipes to decrease the saturated fat and calories.

IMG 3837

12) Try mashed avocado instead of mayonnaise on your next sandwich  – it’s delicious and will add in some healthy fat and nutrients to your meal! 

13) Swap out regular flour tortillas for corn tortillas – they have half the calories and fat.

14) Make “ice cream” using a frozen banana – all you do is puree a peeled frozen banana a blender and it will come out just like soft serve frozen yogurt!

15) Skip the grease and have homemade baked sweet potato fries and chicken fingers instead of the usual fried fare!

Chicken fingers

I hope you found these tips helpful! If you’re interested, I have a downloadable/printable “Healthy Recipe Substitutions” PDF on my website – it includes many of these ideas and a few others as well. Check it out in this post: How to Make a Recipe Healthier.

What are your favorite tips to make a meal or recipe healthier?

Thank you again to Gina for having me!

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  1. Tom T. on September 4, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    Avocado as a substitute in baked goods sounds a bit odd, but I do like the avocado. I have a hatred for mayo, the substitution of plain Greek yogurt has made my day! I just used mayo in some shrimp cakes (similar to crab cakes) I made this weekend, I will certainly use Greek yogurt next time. Thanks for the excellent suggestions.

  2. Karen on September 4, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    Anne – Fantastic post! A great topic with some really helpfull tips.

    Gina – hope you are enjoying your vacation! 🙂

  3. Lisa on September 4, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    Great tips for making recipes healthier! I definitely use most of those. I love adding in any sort of mashed fruit or veggie instead of oil, and I find it still tastes just as great if not better since you get the added flavor from the veggie/fruit.
    And I’m al about adding extra veggies to anything I can.

  4. Hazel @ The Comfort Zone and Beyond on September 4, 2013 at 11:45 pm

    Great post! I always add more veggies than a recipe calls for.. so chicken curry is mostly veggies. And I am a big fan of using fresh sqeezed juice, like lime, to add favour to salads, water, stirfrys… super healthy and tasty 🙂

  5. Paige@FitNotFad on September 5, 2013 at 12:24 am

    These are such great tips! I especially love the Greek yogurt one. I started using it as a sub for EVERYTHING about a year ago and it’s been a game changer 🙂

  6. Sarah @ Yogi in Action on September 5, 2013 at 4:57 am

    I have been subbing yogurt for mayo in dishes for years- and I love it! People often comment how tasty my recipes are when I’ve made this substitution.

    Thanks for the other tips- I’ve been hearing so much about black beans in brownies that I think it’s time I tried it out!

  7. Jessica@FullofLoveandCoffee on September 5, 2013 at 6:32 am

    Love all of these tips! I’m always looking for ways to make my favorite foods healthier. Thank you!

  8. Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs on September 5, 2013 at 6:48 am

    Thanks for the ideas — definitely a few I haven’t tried before!

  9. Holly @ EatGreatBEGreat on September 5, 2013 at 7:09 am

    These are fantastic tips that I definitely need to keep in mind! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Jackie on September 5, 2013 at 7:48 am

    Love the tips thanks Anne!

  11. Ashley @ Life and Fitness on September 5, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Such great tips, thanks for sharing them!

  12. Maureen on September 5, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Adding extra veggies is my go to trick to making recipes healthier! I also use much less sweetener than most baking recipes call for.

  13. Anne on September 5, 2013 at 8:38 am

    Thanks for having me today, girl! Hope the vacay is a blast 🙂

  14. Alisha @ Alisha's Appetite on September 5, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Awesome tips! It took me a few years to learn all of these things, but once it “clicked” I use all of these tips on the daily. My new favorite swap is avocado/hummus on sandwiches instead of mayo 🙂

  15. Alison @ Daily Moves and Grooves on September 5, 2013 at 9:23 am

    I do almost all of these as much as I can! I like the idea of using sharper cheese too.
    My favorite swaps would have to be avocado instead of mayo and banana soft serve instead of ice cream 🙂

  16. Monique @ Burpeestobubbly on September 5, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Those are great ideas and luckily, I do most of them already:)

  17. Stellina @My Yogurt Addiction on September 5, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Great tips! I use yogurt for everything 😉

  18. Emily @ The Good Era on September 5, 2013 at 10:17 am

    These are great tips, thanks!!!

    I love to use avocado in tuna salad instead of mayo. I’ve gotten so used to it, I actually think it tastes so much better.

  19. Heather @ Housewife Glamour on September 5, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Love these two bloggers! Great tips, Anne! 🙂

  20. Anna @ Fitness à la Anna on September 5, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    I’ve been following fannetastic food for a while now, thanks so much for this post! I love substituting different ingredients in recipes as well, although I’ve never heard of swapping black beans in for flour in brownies – I will def add this to my repertoire!

  21. Megan (The Lyons' Share) on September 5, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Love these tips! I would also add subbing hummus for a sandwich spread (just like avocado!), a salad dressing, or a sauce – basically you can sub hummus for anything! In general, I find that making any sauces is healthier than using pre-made sauces!

  22. Emily on September 5, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    Greek yogurt in place of mayo? Okay, so I bought a ginormous thing of greek yogurt at Costco the other day but forgot to get mayo and was all like, “how do I make my tuna salad for lunch?” Totally trying out the yogurt trick today for lunch 🙂

  23. Alex @ Kenzie Life on September 5, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    This was a great guest post! I love the ideas! I use flax “eggs” instead of regular ones when I bake (mostly because everything I bake is vegan), but I like how I get that extra bit of Omega-3s.

  24. Noelle @ NoelleRuns on September 5, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    These are great ideas! Look forward to trying out some of these tips.

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