My name is Julia, and I’m a foodie. It’s been a long road for me to finally admit this, but by finally doing so, I feel free. I approach recipes now not with reckless abandonment, but with a skilled approach and challenge to turn my favorite unhealthy dishes into nutrient-packed superfoods I can feel good about eating. These simple suggestions are tricks I use in the kitchen all the time and they are super easy to follow.
1) Substitute Dark Chocolate for Milk/Semi-sweet Chocolate
This was a hack I learned by necessity after moving to England. My local grocery store in the USA had an entire section dedicated to chocolate chips. Milk, semi-sweet, white, butterscotch, peanut butter… I could go wild on a chocolate chip recipe. In England, there is only one option – milk chocolate chips in the world’s tiniest bag. Dark chocolate bars were half off this day, and dark chocolate chip cookies were born.
This may seem obvious, but swapping a healthy, high-quality dark chocolate for milk chocolate chips adds antioxidants to the food. Cocoa naturally contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant, that helps mitigate free radical damage and has an anti-inflammatory effect.1However, milk chocolate only has a diluted amount of cocoa, with added sugar, milk, and cream. Dark chocolate, on the other hand, often contains less fat and sugar than milk chocolate and is packed with antioxidants. Dark chocolate gives cookies a richness unparalleled by milk chocolate. Speaking of cookies…
2) Substitute Eggs for Mashed Banana in Cookie Recipes
This is a good tip for people who are trying to keep vegan but still want to enjoy chewy baked goods like brownies – use one ripe mashed banana for every egg in the recipe. Better yet, add bananas to your recipe! I often throw ripe or overripe bananas (1 or 2 depending on the size of the batter) into the mixer while whipping up the “wet” ingredients to my recipe. This adds a fluffiness to the end result, plus a boost of vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber to the dessert.2
3) Substitute Potatoes for Cauliflower for a Healthy Take on Mash
I love using this hack when Thanksgiving and Christmas rolls around, or anytime there’s a family get-together and you need to bring a dish. Mashed potatoes are tasty and all, but are so full of fat and carbohydrates that it makes it a once or twice a year event for me. Not anymore! Take a head of cauliflower, chop and steam it for 15 minutes, discard the water and then prepare like regular mashed potatoes!
By substituting cauliflower for potatoes, you substantially lower the calories and carbs in the dish, and taste-wise, there isn’t much of a difference. It’s a win-win scenario!
4) Substitute Sugar for Honey
This is something I see a lot in paleo recipes, and in general I think it works well. Honey is a natural liquid that is sweeter than table sugar. It still has a lot of carbohydrates, but also contains iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium, and won’t spike your blood sugar as much as table sugar would.3
Replace 1 cup sugar with ¾ cup honey plus ¼ teaspoon baking soda. Also, reduce the liquid in your recipe (whether you’re using milk, water, etc) by around 3 tablespoons. Finally, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit or 10 degrees Celsius. This swap will make your final baked good denser and moister than if you used sugar – sounds good to me!
5) Substitute White Flour for Oat Flour
With so many people going gluten-free, it’s great to have a way of modifying a recipe to easily lose the white flour without it tasting weird. All you need to do is blend or grind down gluten-free oats or buy oat flour. That’s it. 1 cup of white flour equals 1 cup of oat flour. Who says gluten-free has to be difficult? This will make your recipe mealier than usual, but with so many health benefits, it’s worth the swap.
 Katz, D., Doughty, K., and Ali, A. (2011) Cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease. Antioxid Redox Signal. 15(10): pp. 2779-2811.
 The World’s Healthiest Foods (2016) Banana [online]. Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrientprofile&dbid=92 [accessed 24 March 2016].
 Whole New Mom (2015) How to Substitute Sweeteners [online]. Available at: http://wholenewmom.com/whole-new-budget/baking-with-honey-sugar-for-baking/ [Accessed 24 March 2016].