Low Calorie, Low Fat, Healthier Substitutions

Here are some ideas to reduce calories and fat in recipes. I’ve also added healthy substitutions for general food categories, as well as restaurant food substitutions.

But remember—if you try to avoid fat by opting for highly processed foods that are labeled as low-fat or fat-free, you will likely find that the sugar content increases. This can cause inflammation, weight gain and changes to your blood sugar levels. You might also find yourself having less vitamin absorption and missing out on some essential fatty acids.

Instead of choosing fat-free or low-fat packaged foods, try choosing a combination of whole foods that are naturally lower in fat as well as healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, seeds and healthy oils.

BAKING

BUTTER & SHORTENING
Vegan—Mashed avocado, pumpkin puree (use 3/4 the called-for butter, skip the eggs), applesauce (use 1/2 the called-for butter)
Dairy—Nonfat unflavored Greek yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, low-fat ricotta
Note: To avoid dense, soggy or flat baked goods, don’t use oil or margarine in place of butter or shortening.
CREAM
Use whole milk or soy milk
SOUR CREAM
Use nonfat unflavored Greek yogurt

GENERAL SUBSTITUTIONS

FATS (Not that—this)
—Avoid saturated (solid) fats, animal fats

Frying, Sautéing—Organic cooking spray in a nonstick pan, or stock
Gravy—Make with water, nonfat milk, or unflavored almond milk
Oil-based Marinades—Wine, balsamic vinegar, fruit juice, or fat-free broth
Salad Dressings—Flavored vinegars or lemon juice

DAIRY (Not that—this)
—Use dairy products from pasture-raised animals

Milk, whole—Nonfat milk
Milk, evaporated—Coconut milk
Cheeses, full-fat—Hard cheeses
Cream—Soy or coconut milks
Cream Soups—Puree the soup with a bit of stock, or use mashed potatoes, or pureed carrots to thicken
Cream Cheese, full fat—Neufchatel, low-fat cottage cheese pureed until smooth
Sour Cream—Nonfat unflavored Greek yogurt
Yogurt, fruit-flavored—Plain nonfat Greek with fresh fruit slices

EGGS (Not that—this)
—Eat eggs from pasture-raised hens.

Eggs, whole—Two egg whites or 1/4 cup egg substitute for each whole egg
Eggs, Deviled—Use unflavored nonfat Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise
Eggs, Scrambled—Scramble ‘dry’ with a bit of stock in a nonstick pan, or use cooking spray
Eggs, omelet—Use cooking spray. Avoid cheeses, sour cream. Substitution: Scrambled tofu

MEATS (Not that—this)
—Limit consumption of red meats. Eat pasture-raised.

Bacon—Canadian bacon, turkey bacon, smoked turkey, lean prosciutto
Beef (chuck, rib, brisket)—Beef, select grades (round, loin, trimmed of external fat)
Beef, ground—Skinless ground chicken or turkey
Chorizo Sausage—Turkey sausage, drained well (read labels)
Cold Cuts & Processed Meats—Lower-fat brands, also chicken, turkey, and tofu sausages (read labels)
Meat, main ingredient—Three times as many vegetables as meat on pizzas or in casseroles, soups, and stews
Pork (spareribs, untrimmed loin)—Pork tenderloin or trimmed, lean smoked ham

POULTRY (Not that—this)
—Eat pasture-raised, organically fed, skinless poultry

Chicken & Turkey—Skinless, white meat
Chicken, ground—Make sure no poultry skin has been added

FISH & SEAFOOD (Not that—this)
—High in mercury: swordfish, shark, King mackerel, marlin

Tuna, oil-packed—Tuna, water-packed (rinse to reduce sodium)

CANNED, JARRED, FROZEN FOODS (Not that—this)
—Most canned and bottled foods are high in sodium and sugar. Read labels.

Canned Beans & Franks—Canned baked beans in tomato sauce (low sodium)
Canned Creamed Soups—Canned broth-based soups. Low-sodium /reduced-sodium, and low-fat/reduced-fat versions
Frozen Dinners—Frozen dinners containing less than 13 grams of fat per serving and lower in sodium
Frozen Fish or Seafood, breaded or fried—Fish or shellfish, un-breaded (fresh, frozen, canned in water)

VEGETABLES (Not that—this)
—Eat fresh or frozen vegetables, raw, steamed, grilled, or baked

Creamed vegetables—Puree instead of adding cream
Lettuce, iceberg—Arugula, chicory, collard greens, dandelion greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach or watercress
Vegetables, fried, sautéed—Steam, bake, use cooking spray

STARCHES (Not that—this)
—Eat wheat-based products sparingly as only 1/4 of a plate of food.

All Purpose Flour—Whole-wheat flour for half of the called-for all-purpose flour in baked goods. Note: Whole-wheat pastry flour is less dense and works well in softer products like cakes and muffins.
Bread Crumbs—Rolled oats or crushed bran cereal
Granola—Bran flakes, crispy rice, etc. Reduced-fat granola.
Pasta—Shirataki noodles (zero carbs), spaghetti squash, whole wheat noodles
White Bread—Whole wheat breads
White Rice—Brown rice, quinoa, wild rice, bulgur wheat, pearl barley

FRUITS (Not that—this)
Fruit canned in heavy syrup—fresh fruit

SNACKS (Not that—this)
—Fried and fatty snacks are unhealthy. Enjoy alternatives.

Dips—Salsa, hummus
Donuts, Sweet Rolls, Muffins, Scones, Croissants, etc.—Whole wheat English muffins and bagels, muffins or scones made with stevia and applesauce instead of sugar and fat.
Crackers—Rice cakes, low-fat crackers
Nuts—Popcorn (air-popped or light microwave)
Potato or corn chips—Pretzels
Tortilla chips—Baked tortilla chips
Toast, buttered—Whole wheat toast with fruit-sweetened jam, or zero-carb raspberry-chia jam

SWEETENERS (Not that—this)
—Sugar is unhealthy. Eat very sparingly, or not at all.

Sodas—Fruit-infused carbonated water, SodaStream (using fruit drops) Avoid diet soda, the chemicals used aren’t healthy.
Sugar—Liquid stevia
Pancake Syrup—Pureed fruit, such as applesauce

DESSERTS (Not that—this)
—Sugar is unhealthy. Eat very sparingly, special occasions only.
Cookies and Crackers—Homemade using stevia to sweeten and applesauce instead of butter or shortening
Cake (pound, chocolate, yellow)—Cake (angel food, gingerbread)
Donuts, Sweet Rolls, Muffins, Scones, Croissants, etc.—Whole wheat English muffins and bagels, muffins or scones made with stevia and applesauce instead of sugar and fat.
Ice Cream & Ice Cream Bars—Fruit-only sorbet, frozen fruit bars
Pudding—Greek yogurt-based pudding, or pudding made with skim milk

CONDIMENTS & SEASONINGS (Not that—this)
—Salt (sodium) is unhealthy. Use sparingly.

Mayonnaise—Unflavored nonfat Greek yogurt, or reduced-calorie, reduced-fat mayonnaise
Seasoning Salts—Herb-only seasonings, such as garlic powder, celery seeds, onion flakes, finely chopped fresh herbs, fresh garlic, celery, onions
Soy Sauce—Wheat-free tamari, low-sodium soy sauce
Sweet Pickle Relish—Dill Pickle Relish
Table Salt—Herbs, spices, citrus juices (lemon, lime, orange), rice vinegar, salt-free seasoning mixes or herb blends

ALCOHOL
Women: No more than one drink a day. Men: No more than two drinks a day. 
Beer—Non-alcoholic beer, “light” beers
Wine—Check the “alcohol by volume.” Aim for an ABV that’s between 9 to 12 percent, which equals 110 to 140 calories per six-ounce pour.
Spirits—Opt for gin or vodka. Use diet soda, diet tonic, etc.

RESTAURANT MENU SUBSTITUTIONS

Restaurant food is typically high in fat, sodium, and sugar. Pay attention to ingredients.
BREAKFAST
Vegetable omelet (without cheese, sour cream), oatmeal, vegetable frittata, bagel and lox. Skip the French toast, Eggs Benedict, pancakes, waffles, home fries, hash browns.
LUNCH / DELI
Rotisserie chicken, broth-based soups, low-sodium turkey breast sandwich, roasted vegetables, bean salad, non-creamy coleslaw, brown rice sushi
Skip the Cobb Salad, burger, quiche, fried chicken, tuna melt, salami, bologna, mac and cheese, pasta/potato salads, creamy coleslaw.

DINNER (Not that—this)
APPETIZERS
Buffalo Chicken Wings—Peel-and-eat shrimp
SIDES
Bread, Muffins, Croissants—Melba toast, pita bread, whole-grain rolls
Cream-based Soups—Broth-based soups with lots of vegetables
Creamy Coleslaw—Sautéed vegetables, steamed vegetables, tossed salad
French fries—Baked potato, brown rice, steamed vegetables
Potatoes and Gravy—Baked potato
Potato Salad—Green salad
ENTREES
Chicken-Fried Steak—Veggie burger
Quiche and Salad—Broth-based soup and salad
Fried Chicken Sandwich—Grilled chicken sandwich
Pasta with Cheese Sauce—Pasta with vegetables (primavera)
Pasta with White Sauce (Alfredo)—Pasta with red sauce (Marinara)
DESSERTS
Cake (pound, chocolate, yellow)—Cake (angel food cake with fresh fruit)
Ice Cream—nonfat yogurt and fresh fruit, sorbet
Pie—Fresh fruit
TIP: Order a cappuccino or coffee for dessert

INTERNATIONAL RESTAURANTS

—Mexican
Healthy choices—Fresh corn tortillas, not chips or flour tortillas. Tostada salad, not taquitos. Grilled fajitas, not wet burritos or chimichangas. Soft corn tortilla tacos, not hard tacos. Beans instead of beef. Taco salad on a plate, not a fried bowl, hold the cheese, add extra tomatoes, onions, and black beans. Black beans, not refried beans. Salsa, not sour cream. Skip the dips, nachos, chimichangas, chalupas, taquitos, chile relleno.
—Chinese
Healthy choices—Steamed Dumplings, hot-sour or egg-drop soups, Moo Goo Gai Pan, shrimp & vegetables with black bean sauce (sauce on the side), beef (or chicken) & broccoli, Moo Shu Vegetables/Chicken (ask for light sauce), Chinese eggplant in garlic sauce, Buddha’s Delight. Skip anything fried. TIP: Ask for extra vegetables. Ask for your dish to be steamed, with sauce on the side.
—Japanese
Healthy choices—Miso soup, steamed dumplings, sushi (salmon, tuna, avocado, veggie, California, Rainbow), sashimi. Skip the tempura, fried egg rolls, teriyaki chicken, swordfish, shark, King mackerel, marlin, Dragon Roll. TIP: Ask for brown rice.
—Indian
Healthy choices—Dal, tandoori meats, chana masala, aloo gobi, kebabs.
Skip the naan, coconut milk-based curries, sag paneer, lamb rogan josh, Chicken Tikka Masala, butter chicken, anything with “korma” in the title, pappadams, samosas, pakoras, Gulab jamun. TIP: Ask for extra vegetables and brown rice. Split a dish in half and share.
—Thai
Healthy choices—Veggie spring rolls, steamed fish with a vegetable side dish, Som tam (papaya salad), Yum ma-muang (green mango salad), Yum talay (seafood salad), Tom yum goong (hot and sour soup with shrimp), Kaeng liang (vegetable soup), Khao man gai (chicken and rice), Gai pad med mamuang (soup with cashew nuts). Skip the noodle dishes, fried egg rolls, anything else that’s fried, coconut milk-based curries. TIP: Ask for extra vegetables and brown rice.

FAST FOOD RESTAURANTS (Not that—this)
—Avoid if possible. Fast food tends to be high in fat, processed starches, and sugar.
Cheeseburger—Grilled chicken sandwich, sliced-meat sandwich
French Fries—Baked potato with vegetables and/or fat-free sour cream
Fried Chicken or Nuggets—Grilled chicken and a side salad
Donuts, Sweet Rolls, Muffins, Scones, etc.—English muffins, small bagels, fat-free muffins or scones (choose lowest calorie variety)