Food Substitutions Can Add Nutrients

When we think about food substitutions, it is almost about eliminating something. Low-fat cooking, sugar-free products: these are just a few of the more common examples. Being true to my philosophy on a healthy diet, I believe that substitutions have a greater purpose: ADDING nutrients!


Below I have listed some of my favorite, and sometimes unusual substitutions that help turn the most common dishes into superfoods.

Rolled Oats
I was watching a cooking show about meatloaf. The chef was using saltine crackers soaked in milk, which is a very traditional way to do meatloaf – right up there with breadcrumbs. What I have found is that you get wonderful results using rolled oats in place of the crackers or breadcrumbs. Although oats are also processed, they are less processed and still resemble the whole grain.

Spaghetti Squash
I didn’t believe this when I first heard about it, but it is true! Spaghetti squash is a wonderful substitute for traditional spaghetti and rice in some of your favorite recipes. Just bake the spaghetti squash, allow to cool slightly, and scrape out the strands with a fork. Rinse with cold water to maintain crispness if the recipe allows, or just serve immediately when it needs to be warm. You will be amazed at how flavorful your recipes are with this substitution

This one is a little geeky but it is hard not to be fascinated. We all know that protein is critical to a healthy diet. Proteins are configurations of amino acids, but so are enzymes. Enzymes are present in raw foods (meat and vegetables) and assist in the digestion of that food. The extra cool thing about getting your protein through enzymes is that your body has to do a lot less work. Where we have to break down proteins into the individual amino acids in order to rebuild proteins, we can also build proteins from a supply of enzymes. This can be handy when balancing the grocery budget.

Coconut Milk
Dairy products are such a huge staple in our culture, but in truth, roughly 80% of the world population does not digest it well. Cow’s milk is by far the most difficult. Fortunately, coconut milk offers a tasty alternative. Check out my website for coconut whipped cream, creamy ranch dressing, and cream of mushroom soup (which makes wonderful gravy and scrumptious green bean casserole).

Buttercup Squash
This is a sweet and creamy winter squash. I picked buttercup over butternut because I think it is better, but butternut is commonly carried in stores and readily available. Buttercup makes a wonderful soup base, and is a great substitute for tomato sauce. I particularly like it ladled over spicy chicken sausage ravioli. I also used a buttercup sauce in a popular stroganoff recipe.

Duck Eggs
This one is a true shocker. Duck eggs outperform chicken eggs in nutrients by multiples. Your taste buds may not be able to tell the difference, but your body knows. If you can get them, duck eggs are by far the unsung hero in superfoods.

Mung Bean Threads
This is another substitute for noodles in soups. Egg noodles are really just a lot of calories for the nutrient bang, but bean threads are a whole food. The flavor they add to your soups is a surprising treat

Bib Lettuce
Whenever you can replace the bread in a sandwich with a big leaf of crisp lettuce, take it! We think of lettuce as having little to no flavor, but you will be surprised at how much better burgers and sandwiches taste when you are not burying all the stuff between the bread…. in bread!

Giant Zucchini
Zucchini boats are a big treat for my family and me every fall. If you have a garden, or know someone at work who does, then you are familiar with the runaway zucchinis. The bigger they are, the better in my book. I call them zucchini boats and recipes vary from pizza to Frito pie. Cut those monsters in half the long way and scrape out the seeds. Sprinkle them with salt and place in the oven at 350 for about an hour to pull some of the water out. Remove from the oven and stuff with all the ingredients to make your masterpiece. Place your boats back in the oven to heat the stuffing and voila, you have an amazingly nutritious meal for the whole family. Zucchini is packed with nutrients!

This is a great way to cut back on salt. Vinegar tickles the same areas of your tongue as salt, so you can use it to create the same salty bite with less salt.

Sea Salt
I recommend this to all my clients. Sea salt is a whole food full of trace minerals your body needs to function at its best. Unlike its counterpart, table salt is just another processed ‘fake’ that may fool your tongue but wreaks a bit of havoc everywhere else in your body.

The list can go on for pages, but give these a try and share your experience. I would also love to hear about your favorite substitutions!food substitutes,