Whether you have food restrictions (like needing a gluten free diet) or just want to live a healthier lifestyle, it’s inevitable that you’ll need to make a few substitutions when cooking. Performing a simple search online will give you all sorts of ideas like swapping in chia seeds for eggs or coconut milk for cow’s milk, but swapping one food for another in a recipe can make a big difference in the consistency of the finished product, which is why you want to be careful.

Making Recipe Substitutions

Don't miss these healthy recipe substitutions.

Don’t miss these healthy recipe substitutions.

The good news is creating a meat, nut, sugar or gluten free diet is possible! For example, if you’re allergic to peanuts you can always use almonds or cashews instead. Or, if you want to thicken gluten free soup, gravy or stew, use 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch instead of 2 Tablespoons of flour. Of course there are many more ways to tailor your recipes to your specific needs. Here are some helpful substitutions from Gluten-Free Living Magazine that will help you create a sweet taste to your culinary creations, even if you’re sticking to a diabetic friendly or gluten free diet.

  • Instead of barley malt or barley flavoring, use molasses
  • Instead of almond meal, use finely ground sunflower seeds
  • Instead of butter, use Vegan Earth Balance Spread
  • Instead of corn starch, use potato starch, tapioca starch or arrowroot
  • Instead of chocolate, use carob powder or carob chips
  • Instead of eggs, use egg replacer when baking (you can find it in powder form)
  • Instead of cow’s milk, use soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk or rice milk
  • Instead of rice flour, use sorghum flour, millet flour or teff flour
  • Instead of tree nuts, use sunflower seeds
  • Instead of cow’s milk yogurt, use coconut yogurt or soy yogurt

Greatist also compiled a huge list of substitutions you can make to keep a recipes’ sweet taste while maintaining a healthy diet. Here are some of my favorites I think you should try:

  1. Use black beans instead of flour. This is a great way to make brownies with a gluten free diet – and they even include additional protein! Just swap out 1 cup of flour for 1 cup of black bean puree (which ends up being about a 15 oz can).
  2. Use unsweetened applesauce instead of sugar, oil or butter. Applesauce can provide a nice, sweet taste to the recipe without the sugar. Just replace the sugar with the applesauce (it’s a 1:1 ratio), but make sure you also reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup for every cup of applesauce you use. If you’re using it instead of oil or butter (which is a great option for banana bread or muffins), swap it out for half the fat called for in the recipe.
  3. Use stevia instead of sugar. A natural sweetener, stevia is fewer calories and 300 times sweeter than sugar, so swap carefully. For 1 cup of sugar, all you need is 1 teaspoon liquid stevia or 2 Tablespoons of stevia powder.
  4. Use chia seeds instead of eggs. Instead of watching your chia pet grow, combine these seeds to use as a healthy substitution in your recipes. Let 1 Tablespoon of chia seeds combined with 1 cup of water sit for 15 minutes and you have a 1:1 egg replacement for baking.
  5. Use cauliflower as a starch. Grated and steamed cauliflower is a great replacement for rice, and mashed cauliflower is an easy and healthy substitute for mashed potatoes.
  6. Use kale chips instead of potato chips. Toss this leafy green in olive oil and seasoning like salt and pepper and bake them in the oven, making a much healthier alternative to regular chips.
  7. Use bananas instead of ice cream. Want something with a sweet taste? Freeze and puree a few bananas for a simple alternative.

No matter the recipe, there are usually ways you can add foods like chia seeds, coconut milk and olive oil to make changes for whatever restrictions you have. Need help tailoring your favorite recipes to fit your gluten free diet or desire for a healthier lifestyle? Contact me for a few specific ideas you can try!

Mary Hathaway, Owner of Dinner Diva, has been a personal chef since 2002. She cooks regularly for clients who have special dietary needs, value healthy cooking by using organic products where possible and those who want healthy family meals but have no time to cook. Whether it’s a dinner for 4, a holiday party for 20, or a set of meals for the week, all of the recipes are customized to her client’s needs or lifestyle. Go to: Dinner-Diva.com for more info.