Looking to improve your eating habits? Eating better doesn’t mean completely reworking your diet overnight. Part of eating healthier is figuring out the small tweaks that you can make on an everyday basis. From butter to rice substitutes, here are a few easy changes you can make to your pantry and your recipes.
1. Olive oil for butter
The wonders of olive oil are many, and dipping your bread in a bowl of oil instead of slathering it with butter is just the beginning. In fact, most recipes that call for butter are just as tasty with olive oil. Oatmeal cookies? Yes. Cakes? Yes. Pie crust? Yes. You use a little less olive oil than you would butter, so to help with conversions, here is a useful chart.
2. Almond Butter for peanut butter
In most pantries you’ll find a jar of peanut butter, but if you’re looking to take a step up in nut butters, almond butter gives the peanut version a run for its money. Peanuts happen to be a food that build mucus in your system, which is bad for congestion, digestion and a variety of other things. Then there’s the peanut allergy problem. But above all, almond butter is a better source of Vitamin E, calcium and iron.
3. Dates for caramel
This is a common replacement in recipes targeted for people trying to eat fewer processed foods, as well as vegans. Normally, caramel is made with sugar and cream, but surprisingly enough, you can get a similar caramelized taste by pureeing dates and a little oil and salt. Try this simple recipe to get started.
4. Flax seeds for eggs
While eggs are a quite nutritious food, if you’re trying to stick to a vegan diet, or are trying to bake for vegan friends, avoiding them in recipes can be hard. A simple switch? Ground flaxseeds or flaxseed meal. Just take one tablespoon ground flaxseeds and mix it with three tablespoons of warm water. Stir together and let congeal. This is enough to substitute for one egg in a recipe. If you need to substitute for two, just double up.
5. Buckwheat flour for white flour
Want a flour that gives a little extra kick? Give buckwheat a try. Since it’s actually a seed and not a grain, it’s gluten-free, and makes for a good base of all kinds of gluten-free baked goods. It’s also has a variety of health benefits, including being a good source of protein.
6. Brown rice for white rice
In general, it’s a good rule of thumb to stay away from “white” foods. Processed sugar, flour and beyond. The same goes for rice. In fact white rice and brown rice are the same thing, it’s just that white rice has been stripped of the bran and much of the germ. Eating brown rice gets you the whole grain, and all the health benefits that come with it, including the fact that eating brown rice may help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
7. Avocado for butter
Spread avocado on a sandwich as a layer to replace butter or even mayonnaise. Switch out avocado in baking recipes. Chocolate chip cookies with avocado? Banana bread with avocado? Yes, please.
8. Mushrooms for meat
Making a stew and need to make it a little heartier? Add sauteed mushrooms. With their complex, earthy flavor, mushrooms are an excellent meat replacement, from portobellos grilled and popped on a bun for a vegetarian burger to shiitakes in a risotto.
9. Zucchini for pasta
Did you know that you can make noodles out of zucchini? This trick has become a popular one in raw food and vegan circles, as well as for people trying to cut down on refined carbohydrates. And yes, you can even make lasagna.
10. Use vanilla instead of sugar
Vanilla extract can add a natural sweet flavor when you’re baking, allowing you to normally cut the sugar content at least in half. In some recipes you can even get rid of it entirely.
Top Photo Credit: the little red house