How to Adapt a Recipe to Make it HealthierBy
I’m often asked how much Sucanat to substitute for white sugar…or if whole wheat flour can be substituted one for one with white flour. I decided to share a little bit about how I adapt “regular recipes” to make them healthier! Please know that when I say “healthier”…I’m not talking “low fat”. To me, healthier means “real, whole food”. Click on the following links so read about how I feed my family and why I love real, whole foods!! Be sure to also check out this entire series on Simple Steps Toward Healthy Eating.
- If a recipe calls for vegetable or canola oil I switch it out one for one with melted coconut oil or melted palm shortening. It’s a little bit tough to measure out solid coconut oil to an exact needed amount. I just kind of “eyeball it”. If a recipe calls for 1/4 cup of vegetable oil, I make my best guess at how much 1/4 cup of coconut oil (or palm shortening) is while I’m scooping it out…then I melt it down in a small saucepan on the stove. If you are new to cooking/baking…you may prefer to melt it, then pour it into a measuring cup to be sure you have the correct amount.
- If a recipe calls for margarine (I gag and then) I switch it out one for one with real butter. This means that if the recipe calls for 1/2 cup margarine, I use 1/2 cup of butter.
- Usually butter and coconut oil can be used interchangeably. For instance, when I make muffins…sometimes I use coconut oil and sometimes I use butter. It depends on what I have on hand and what sounds good at the moment (coconuty goodness, or rich buttery flavor). If you are unable to eat dairy, you can substititute coconut oil for butter in most recipes.
- I almost always use melted palm shortening to fry foods (like french fries, onion rings, homemade corn dogs, etc.). Palm shortening does NOT create the same freaky effects from frying that vegetable or canola oils create. This means that foods fried in palm shortening (or coconut oil) are NOT unhealthy!
- I use olive oil if a recipe calls for just a few teaspoons or Tablespoons of vegetable oil.
- You can read more about the fats I prefer and why I prefer them here!!
- Sucanat (or Rapadura, which is the same thing…just under a different name) can be substituted one for one with white or brown sugar. This means that if a recipe calls for one cup of white sugar…you can instead use one cup of Sucanat. However, I generally cut the Sucanat down just a hair because the flavor is stronger…and because it is more expensive…and because wow…do we really need that much sugar? :) Sucanat, by the way, is dehydrated cane sugar juice and the healthiest form of cane sugar I’ve found. You can read more about it here.
- Honey can be substituted for white or brown sugar, but I usually use 1/2 to 2/3 the amount the recipe calls for. This means that if a recipe calls for one cup of white or brown sugar, I only use 1/2 to 2/3 cup of honey. Honey has a rich flavor and is sweeter than sugar. I have not found that substituting honey causes much difference in the consistency of a recipe, even though honey is a liquid and sugar is not. If anything, I find that honey makes quick breads, muffins and cookies more moist…and that’s never a bad thing if you ask me!
- Real Grade B Maple Syrup can be substituted for white or brown sugar, but I don’t often bake with it (ooh, except for Coconut Macaroons!). I use maple syrup for liquid treats like Chocolate Milk and Smoothies and Ice Cream. If a recipe calls for corn syrup, I use Grade B Maple Syrup instead, substituting it one for one.
- You can read more about the sweeteners I prefer and why I prefer them here!!
- I substitute my freshly ground whole wheat flour (made from hard white wheat) one for one in recipes that call for white flour. However, freshly ground whole wheat flour is often lighter in texture, making a one to one substitution possible.
- If you are using store-bought whole wheat flour, I find that this seems to be a heavier flour. Therefore, I recommend using a lesser amount than the white flour that is called for in a recipe. You may find that this is even true with my recipes that call for whole wheat flour, since I am using freshly ground flour. I receive quite a few comments, particularly on my Honey Whole Wheat Bread from people using King Arthur’s whole wheat flour or another store bought flour that they didn’t need to add in all of the flour the recipe called for. I suggest just adding flour until the dough is the correct consistency…then stop.
- If you want to soak the whole grain flour to break down the phytates, generally you can substitute a cultured dairy product (or water with lemon juice) for the liquid called for in a recipe…plus add the fat (butter or oil)…and stir these together with the flour for overnight soaking. If you have no idea what I’m talking about when I say “soak the grains“, read this post!
- You can read more about grains and grain mills in this series of posts!!
To make things a little bit easier…I created a free printable “Healthy Recipe Substitutions” download. Click the following link, print it off and keep it in your kitchen as a handy reference!
How do you feel about adapting recipes? Are you good at making substitutions…or do you prefer to follow a recipe exactly?