Magical food swaps to turn fatty fare into healthy meals!

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Have you ever wanted to make a recipe, but dared not because it was filled with ingredients high in calories, fat, sugar and sodium?

Maybe it was your grandmother’s famous apple pie, a lasagna recipe from a cookbook, or the bacon cheeseburger dip you saw on Pinterest. Recipes containing heavy creams, sugar, butter, white flour and other non-nutritive ingredients can pack on calories fast. In fact a ½ cup of butter, or 1 stick, contains 810 calories, 92 grams of fat and 651 mg of sodium, so for that cookie recipe that calls for 1-2 sticks of butter, that’s 810-1620 calories from the butter alone!

Knowing how and when to replace ingredients with a healthier alternative can help cut calories, fat, sugar and sodium so you can enjoy those recipe favorites as a part of a healthy lifestyle.

I’ve listed a few of my personal go-to recipe substitutions in the chart below. Just remember, whenever you are swapping ingredients, take into account the differences in flavor, moisture content, texture, and weight. In addition to the chart, here are a few extra tips to consider:

  • Opt for whole grains when possible. If a recipe calls for spaghetti, use whole wheat spaghetti noodles—or better yet, spaghetti squash. If a recipe calls for white rice, consider brown rice instead.
  • When it comes to dairy foods, low-fat or non-fat options often make great alternatives. For example, if a recipe calls for whole milk, try non-fat or low-fat milk instead.
  • For canned vegetables or beans, look for options that have no salt added or that are low in sodium. For canned fruits, look for fruit packed in water or in 100% juice.
  • Search for a healthier version of the recipe in cookbooks or online. Go to for healthy spins on some all-time favorite recipes.
  • In the mood for chocolate chip cookies? Perhaps a Medifast Chocolate Chip Soft Bake will do the trick. No baking required and only 110 calories!

Happy Cooking!


Ingredient Substitution
Bacon Canadian BaconTurkey Bacon

Lean Prosciutto

Smoked Turkey

Baking Powder Sodium Free or Reduced Sodium Baking Powder
Bread Crumbs Crushed Medifast CrackersCrushed Bran Cereal or Corn Flakes

Rolled Oats

Butter & Oils in Baking Applesauce & ButtermilkApplesauce

Pureed or mashed prunes, pumpkin, or bananas


Extra Tips:

  1. Replace butter with ½ applesauce and ½ low-fat buttermilk.
  2. Replace ½ of the butter or oil in a recipe with an equal amount of pureed fruit.
Butter & Oils in Cooking Non-stick cooking spray 

Extra Tip: To add flavor, incorporate aromatic vegetables such as garlic, ginger, leeks, and shallots or herbs and spices to your dish.

Buttermilk Low-fat Buttermilk1 Tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar with enough non-fat milk to make 1 cup


Extra Tip: Allow the lemon juice and milk combination to stand for 5 minutes before using.

Cheese Low-fat or reduced-fat optionsLight cheese wedges such as Laughing Cow® cheese
Coconut Milk Light coconut milk
Cream Fat-free half and halfEvaporated skim milk

Low fat or non-fat milk

Cream Cheese Fat-free or low-fat ricotta or cottage cheese blended to a smooth consistencyYogurt cheese


Creamed Soups Medifast Cream of Broccoli or Cream of Chicken SoupPureed carrots, pumpkin, potatoes or tofu for thickening purposes

Low sodium varieties

Eggs Per one egg:2 egg whites

¼ cup liquid egg substitute

½ banana mashed with ½ tsp. baking powder

1 Tbsp. flaxseed meal soaked in 3 Tbsp. water

Flour (all purpose) Whole wheat flourWhite whole wheat flour

Whole wheat pastry flour

Flaxseed or almond meal

Rolled oats


Extra Tips:

  1. Replace up to ½ the flour in the recipe with an equal amount of whole wheat or white whole wheat flour.
  2. Replace 25% of the flour in your baking with almond or flaxseed meal.
  3. Substitute 1-1/3 cups rolled oats for 1 cup of flour.


Iceberg Lettuce Dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, collards, spring mixes, mustard or turnip greens
Marinades (oil-based) WineFlavored vinegars (i.e. balsamic)

Low sodium broth


Fruit Juice

Low sodium dry rubs

Mayonnaise Light mayonnaiseNon-fat yogurt

Low-fat cottage cheese (blended)

Meat Lean or extra lean varietiesChicken or turkey breast without skin, Fish

Extra Veggies




Extra Tips:

  1. Leanest cuts of beef: Top round roast and steak, bottom round roast, boneless rump roast, tip roast and stead, round, strip, and flank steak, lean stew beef.
  2. Leanest cuts of pork: Sirloin roast and chops, loin chops, top loin roast, tenderloin.
  3. Try going meatless. Skip the meat and add extra veggies, beans, meatless crumbles, or tofu.
Milk (whole) Non-fat or low fat milkUnsweetened rice, soy or almond milk

Evaporated skim milk

Instant non-fat dry milk

Salt & Seasoning Salts Herbs and spicesCitrus juices


Salt-free seasonings

Shortening Trans fat-free margarine
Soy Sauce Low sodium soy sauceTamari
Sour Cream Plain low-fat Greek yogurtFat-free/low-fat sour cream
Sugar Use 1/3 to ½ half less sugar than what is called for.Extra Tips:

  1. When reducing the sugar, add a little extra vanilla, nutmeg, or cinnamon for sweetness.
  2. If you want to exchange white sugar with brown sugar, honey, or molasses, only use ½ tsp baking powder per 2 cups of flour and add ½ tsp baking soda.
Syrup Pureed fruit such as applesauceLow-calorie syrup such as Medifast Syrup
Whipped Cream Fat-free frozen whipped topping, thawedFat-free whipped cream
Alexandra Miller, RDN, LDN

Author: Alexandra Miller, RDN, LDN

Alexandra Miller, RDN, LDN, is a corporate dietitian at Medifast. She has received her Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management and is also a Certified Kickboxing Instructor. She is devoted to promoting optimal health through a balanced lifestyle based on healthy eating habits, physical activity and a positive relationship with food – especially if it’s the occasional homemade chocolate chip cookies that she just can’t live without. Everything in moderation, right? She supports Medifast customers at every phase of their weight management journey, develops Medifast programs and materials, and champions the Medifast Recipe Library.

One Comment

  1. Love these tips for healthy eating!!!

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