Healthy Recipe Substitutions

Out with butter, sugar, and white flour, and in with healthy, whole ingredients!

These quinoa meatballs are totally meatless but have the same great flavor and texture!

Ever scan through a recipe that looks fantastic, only to spot a few ingredients that aren’t compliant with your clean, healthy eating plan? Don’t toss out that recipe! Take a look at our list of healthy substitutions, and reinvent that delicious recipe as a healthy, nutritious recipe!

Healthy Recipe Substitutions


Butter does lend wonderful taste to some recipes, and can be enjoyed from time to time. But because it is high in calories and in saturated fats, it can be a threat to your waistline and your cholesterol level!

For Frying:

Butter can be replaced with olive oil, which is full of omega-3 fatty acids to help control cholesterol. Olive oil is low in saturated fat and high in heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Like butter, it brings a richness to dishes.

For Baking:

  • Applesauce (for half the butter called for)
  • Mashed Banana (for half the butter called for)
  • Coconut oil (can replace the full amount of butter)

Check out our Hearty Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, baked with coconut oil instead of butter.

Ground Beef

Like butter, ground beef can be delicious and is a fun addition to the occasional meal. However, also like butter, it’s high in calories and saturated fats. This is especially true if, like most people, you buy your meat from the grocery store. Factory-farmed meat tends to be substantially higher in saturated fat and lower in omega-3’s. Generally, you can expect local, organic meat to be more nutritious than factory-farmed. Consider the following substitutes in burgers, meatballs, chili, or Bolognese sauce:

  • Ground Chicken
  • Ground Turkey
  • Crumbled Tofu
  • Quinoa (high in protein!)

See our Quinoa Meatless Meatball recipe to get inspired.

White flour

Whether you’re baking or buying a baked good pre-made, white flour is not the ideal ingredient for the health-conscious eater. White flour is refined, meaning that it’s stripped of most of its nutritional value when it’s processed. Consider the following alternatives to white flour.

  • Whole Wheat Flour
  • Almond Flour
  • Black Bean Flour
  • Tapioca Flour
  • Brown Rice Flour

To learn more about the nutritional value of these flours and how to use them, visit our flour guide.

White Rice

Like white flour, white rice is stripped of nutrients. Consider the following alternatives:

  • Brown Rice
  • Wild Rice
  • Bulgar
  • Barley
  • Whole Wheat Couscous
  • Quinoa


Most mayonnaise is high in saturated fat and omega-6 fatty acids, the latter of which is generally not balanced out with sufficient omega-3’s in the typical American diet. Consider replacing mayonnaise with these healthier substitutes:

  • Yogurt: Plain yogurt can be seasoned and spread on sandwiches or used in dips.
  • Olive Oil and Vinegar: Try topping sandwiches with this instead.
  • Cottage Cheese: Cottage cheese is great for dips and dressings. You can blend it to get rid of its texture if desired.

If you don’t want to give up mayonnaise, consider purchasing one made with olive oil and combining it with cottage cheese or yogurt to reduce the total amount you use.


Salt aggravates high blood pressure, a key risk factor for heart disease. Unfortunately, it’s a staple ingredient in processed foods, meaning that most of us eat too much of it and have grown accustomed to the way it intensifies the flavors of our food. Using other strong flavors can help to wean you off of salt. Try the following:

  • Citrus (lemon or lime juice)
  • Cayenne
  • Garlic


A diet high in sugar can lead to obesity, fatty liver and insulin resistance. Replace sugar in recipes, atop cereal, and in your coffee, with the following:

  • Blackstrap Molasses
  •  Honey
  • Fruit, Fruit Puree or Juice

Check out our list of No-Sugar Added Skinny Desserts.

For 101 recipes using healthy ingredients, check out our Skinny Ms. Recipe Collection eBook!

And, of course, be sure to like our Facebook page and follow us on Pinterest for tasty recipes, clean eating tips, and healthy lifestyle resources. 

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The SkinnyMs. team believes that all people, regardless of age, size, and fitness level, have the power to transform their lives — they just need the resources to do so. The SkinnyMs. method promotes healthy living through a combination of clean eating and regular exercise. We offer everything you need to be successful.

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