Ingredient Swaps for Healthier Diabetic-Friendly Recipes
One of the reasons people find it so overwhelming to make healthy food choices is because they have the idea that eating healthier means giving up all of the foods they love. Well, don’t worry — you don’t have to throw away grandma’s potato salad recipe or stop cooking your favorite casserole just because you have diabetes!
The trick is to find little ways to make these foods healthier or eat smaller portions. You may be able to reduce the carbohydrate, fat, sodium, and/or calorie content of your favorite recipes to help them better fit into your diabetes meal plan. Swapping out a few of the less healthy ingredients in a recipe for more nutritious options can make all the difference. Try some of the common ingredient substitutions shown in this table.
|Instead of …||Try …|
|All-purpose flour||Whole-wheat flour (this may affect the texture of baked goods)|
|Bacon||Reduced-sodium Canadian bacon, turkey bacon, or smoked turkey slices|
|Butter (for sautéing)||Vegetable oil, olive oil, or any other plant oil|
|Deli meat||Grilled or baked chicken or turkey breast|
|Full-fat cheese||Reduced-fat cheese (or choose a full-fat cheese with a stronger flavor and reduce the amount used)|
|Full-fat yogurt||Nonfat yogurt|
|Ground beef||Very lean ground beef, ground chicken or turkey, or replace some of the beef with beans or lentils|
|Hamburger buns||Whole-wheat buns or roasted portobello mushrooms|
|Hash browns||Grated zucchini|
|Mashed potatoes||Cauliflower mash|
|Mayonnaise||Light mayonnaise, mustard, or mashed avocado|
|Salt||Decrease the amount of salt or use herbs, spices, and salt-free seasoning blends to add more flavor|
|Sour cream||Plain nonfat yogurt (regular or Greek)|
|Sugar (for baking)||Replace some or all of the sugar with granulated artificial sweetener or artificial sweetener baking blend (follow package instructions)|
|Tortillas (for tacos)||Whole-wheat tortillas or large lettuce or kale leaves|
|White bread||100 percent whole-wheat bread|
|White pasta||Whole-wheat pasta, spaghetti squash, or zucchini ribbons|
|White rice||Brown rice, wild rice, or another whole grain|
|Whole eggs||Egg whites or egg substitute|
|Whole or 2 percent milk||Fat-free or 1 percent milk|
You can use these ingredient swaps in just about any recipe! Keep in mind that you don’t need to find a healthier substitute for every ingredient in a recipe. Even one or two ingredient swaps can make a dish healthier. A good place to start is finding a healthier option to replace the ingredient that is highest in fat, sodium, or carbohydrate.
Swapping ingredients when baking can change the look and texture of baked goods. It may take some trial and error to figure out which healthy ingredient swaps work best in your favorite baked-good recipe. If you decide to use a sugar substitute in your recipe, read the tips on the package so you know how much of the sugar substitute to use.
Another great way to make your recipes and meals healthier is to use some nonstarchy vegetables to add bulk to a dish or balance out your plate. Because nonstarchy vegetables are low in calories and carbohydrate, you can enjoy these vegetables in larger amounts than other foods, making them a great food option when you want to satisfy your hunger without compromising your meal plan. Here are a few simple tips for using nonstarchy vegetables to your advantage:
- Bulk it up. Nonstarchy vegetables can provide substance and flavor while adding healthy nutrients and very few calories to a recipe. Add an extra serving of nonstarchy vegetables into your meal by adding them to an omelet or a pasta dish (the bulk from the veggies may help you eat less pasta). Even if you’re not a big fan of vegetables, you can sneak in a serving by finely chopping some vegetables and “hiding” them in a pasta sauce or soup.
- Replace some protein with vegetables. You may be able to slightly reduce the fat and calorie content of a recipe and increase the fiber content by replacing some or all of the meat, seafood, or poultry in a dish with nonstarchy vegetables. This works especially well in recipes for combination foods such as soups, casseroles, pasta dishes, or even pizzas. These dishes have so many different ingredients that you may not even notice if you replace half of the animal protein with vegetables!
- Pay attention to sides. If you’re cooking a main dish that is a little higher in fat, carbohydrate, or sodium than you would like, pair it with healthier side dishes so you have a balanced meal. For example, if you’re cooking a burger for dinner, maybe opt for a side salad or a nonstarchy vegetable like baked zucchini wedges instead of making french fries.