3 Easy Ingredient Swaps for Healthier Cooking

June 27, 2017
grapeseed oil

Hello there! One of the reasons why I love to cook at home is because it gives me the opportunity to choose exactly what goes into my meal. This means that I can eat really clean (for the most part) while at home – without sacrificing on flavor – and then I just enjoy myself when I eat out and don’t worry about it too much.

By making sure my pantry is stocked with feel-good ingredients I can use across many meals instead of regular pantry staples, I can make this pretty simple.

These are three common cooking ingredients that I NEVER use at home:

Canola Oil/Vegetable Oil

This is a big one. So many recipes you pull up these days use canola or vegetable oil as the main cooking fat. While canola oil is marginally better, both are super processed oils with limited nutritional value. They also contribute to an imbalance between Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids that can cause inflammation in the system. Furthermore, these oils are commonly used because of their mild flavor – but I have to say I really don’t care for the taste!

What to use instead:

High-quality extra virgin olive oil, that is cold extracted has enough antioxidants to help mitigate oxidative damage during the cooking process. Because of this it can be used at medium temperatures – some even say medium-high! For a milder flavored oil that can withstand high temperatures, cook with grapeseed oil. (This is a favorite of mine for making stovetop popcorn). And, of course, there’s always coconut oil for those dishes that can stand up to the stronger flavor!

Sugar/Brown Sugar

Sugar is in ALL OF THE FOOD these days, particularly if you’re here in the US. Seriously, next time you’re shopping, read the ingredients list. Its in bread, tomato sauce, and dijon mustard. It’s crazy. Sugar is the real health culprit – not fat – and accounts for much of our obesity epidemic and other health issues. So, I really try not to add it to anything that doesn’t actually need it. 

What to use instead:

Be creative! Two go-to’s of mine are grade A maple syrup, which contains minerals and B vitamins and honey, especially Mike’s hot honey. The hot honey is especially good in Asian dishes that require brown sugar.

Soy sauce

Now, I don’t think soy sauce is particularly unhealthy. It is high in sodium and contains gluten, but if you can tolerate those two things, then its not the end of the world. The real reason why I avoid soy sauce at home is just there are better alternatives that don’t compromise at all on taste or quality of the dish!

What to use instead:

The obvious go-to is tamari, which really doesn’t taste much different and spares you from the gluten. My real favorite though is Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. These are made from amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein – this makes it more nutritious, lower in sodium, and gluten-free. Plus, again, I can’t tell the difference in taste, so why not spring for something that’s beneficial?

Final thoughts

This is kind of just the tip of the iceberg, but the more you can find healthy alternatives to things that the recipes you make commonly call for – and keep them on hand – the easier it will be to keep your meals super healthy (and tasty) at home!

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