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Make meals more nutritious with simple changes
Substituting certain ingredients for others and embracing new food preparation techniques can add nutritional value to some beloved foods.

Does the idea of eating healthy make you think that you have to give up all of your favorite foods? While it is true that certain foods may not make the healthiest choices, substitutions can add nutritional value to some beloved yet traditionally unhealthy dishes.

The United States Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines for Americans emphasizes the need for people to reduce the amount of added sugar, sodium and fat they consume, all the while increasing fiber consumption. Subtle changes may make it possible to boost beneficial nutrients and reduce the caloric load of various dishes. Here are some substitutions to keep in mind when aspiring to eat healthier.

Original: Butter and oil

Swap: Applesauce, mashed avocado or mashed banana

Plant-based alternatives can add moisture to baked goods without increasing saturated fat. Even swapping out a portion of the butter or oil with these alternatives can make the item healthier.

Original: Frying in fat

Swap: Different cooking methods

Baking, broiling, grilling, or roasting can produce delicious results. Many people utilize air fryers that employ convection to simulate frying without the need for all the oil frying requires.

Original: Sugar

Swap: Maple syrup or mashed dates

Many people think they need to give up on sweets when eating healthy. Sugar is an added ingredient in so many foods, so reducing consumption can help. In addition to slashing the amount of sugar recommended for recipes, swap out sugar with maple syrup, honey or even mashed fruits. These are better options than refined sugars.

Original: Salt

Swap: Herbs and other spices

Omit half of the salt recommended in a recipe. Replace the salt with spices or herbs to add flavor. Nutritional yeast can add a salty umami flavor to many dishes and also provide additional nutrients.

Original: White rice

Swap: Brown rice, quinoa or couscous

Add additional fiber and/or protein to dishes by swapping processed white rice with whole grains. Similarly, swap regular pastas with whole grain, and white bread with whole grain bread.

Original: Breadcrumbs

Swap: Almond meal or milled flaxseed

Breadcrumbs impart flavor and texture, but they add calories with no nutritional value. Consider breading foods in almond meal or milled flaxseed to provide omega-3 fatty acids.