There are numerous ways to alter ingredients in your favorite dishes without sacrificing flavor in order to make them healthier . It is important to know what role each ingredient plays to be successful with your substitutions. In a recipe, ingredients are typically divided into 3 main functions:
1. Structure ingredient
➢ Forms the main structure or contributes to the chemistry of the dish. For example, flour in bread is crucial to the structure of the product.
2. Key or signature ingredient
➢ Gives the dish its identity. For example, gumbo depends on roux to make it a unique dish.
3. Enhancer ingredient (accent or garnish)
➢ While not critical to the dish, it tends to enhance the flavor of the recipe. For example, feta cheese crumbled over a tomato, cucumber and olive salad adds something extra to the taste.
Since a structure ingredient has the greatest impact on a recipe, this blog will address some of the many successful substitutions you can make to enhance the nutritional value of a favorite dish.
Rules for Fat Substitutions
Keep in mind that replacing fat in baked goods often requires a shorter baking time. Low-fat batters can become dry and overdone very quickly, so check your product for completion approximately 10 minutes earlier than the unaltered recipe would suggest.
• If the recipe calls for melted butter, an equal amount of oil can be substituted. This rule only applies if the recipe calls for melted butter. Oil is 100 percent fat, while butter, margarine and other solid shortenings are lower in fat on a volume-for-volume basis.
Solid fats help incorporate air into a batter when it is whipped with other ingredients such as sugar and eggs. If you try to whip these ingredients with oil, your baked product is likely to be more compact and oily in texture.
• Tub fats vary in water content with some having as much as 40% water. Butter and margarine are approximately 80% fat which helps prevent a product from becoming dry or tough. Reduced fat tub spreads containing more than 30% water can make a soggy, unpredictable baked product.
• Check the calorie content of your margarine. It should be at least 70-80 calories per tablespoon meaning it is 70-80% fat.
Recommended brands with higher fat content: Promise® Buttery Spread, Fleischmann’s® Original Buttery Spread (80 cal., 2 g saturated fat), Fleischmann’s® Original Buttery Spread, unsalted (80 cal., 2 g saturated fat).
• Fruit purees can be used in place of some fat when baking. This type of substitution is most effective with sweet breads and muffins.
• Another option is to reduce fat in a recipe if calorie reduction is your goal. Replacing fat in baked goods often requires a shorter baking time. Low fat batters can become dry and overdone very quickly.
• Avocados containing about 70% monounsaturated fat can be used as a substitute for butter or oil in baked good recipes like cookies, cakes or muffins. Generally, you can assume a one-to-one substitution of avocado for butter; however, when substituting avocado for oil it may be necessary to add another liquid to prevent the batter from being too thick.
• One cup of mashed banana can replace one cup of butter or oil in bread or muffin recipes.
• Cut the fat from recipes calling for cream cheese by using equal parts yogurt or strained cottage cheese.
• Replace no more than half the all-purpose white flour with whole-wheat flour. Too much whole-wheat flour in a recipe that calls for all-purpose flour might result in a reduced volume and a heavier product.
• You can bake with 100% whole white wheat for foods like chocolate cake, fruit cake, or gingerbread because a white product is not necessary.
• You can swap out a can (15 oz.) black beans (drained and rinsed) for 1 cup of flour when baking.
• When cooking gluten-free, add xanthan gum to a recipe, and use about 1/4 teaspoon per cup of flour. Blend it evenly into your dry ingredients before mixing. (King Arthur Flour)
• Xanthan gum is produced through the fermentation of sucrose, glucose, and lactose. After the fermentation period, the resulting moist residue is dried and then ground into a fine powder. When mixed with liquid, this powder becomes viscous and turns gel-like.
• Xanthan provides elasticity and stickiness in doughs and batters, a role gluten typically plays. It acts as a binding agent for the flour, helps hold onto some moisture, and helps give the baked good some structure.
Rules for Sugar Substitutions
• Substitute applesauce for sugar in a 1:1 ratio, but for every cup of applesauce you use reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup. One cup of unsweetened applesauce contains about 100 calories, vs. 770 calories for a cup of sugar. This swap works well for oatmeal raisin cookies and brownies.
• Vanilla may replace some sugar in a recipe. Try cutting 2 tablespoons of sugar and adding an extra ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract.
• Sugar substitutes may be used (BBC good food).
• If you decide to use sugar substitutes when baking or cooking, there are a few important things to know ( The American Diabetes Association).
• Real sugar has a caramelizing/browning effect and artificial sweeteners do not.
• Volume and texture may be lower.
• Cook time may be altered.
• Taste may be slightly altered if you are sensitive to the sweetener’s aftertaste.
The bottom line is that recipe substitutions requires experimentation, but once you get it right the results will provide new healthy and delicious holiday dishes to pass on to family and friends!