Your Health Ben Brown | 9 years ago

Smart Substitutions for Heart Healthy Cooking

So you have your favorite go-to recipes, but you're worried about the levels of fat, sodium, sugar and calories that may be lingering within. Fortunately, with just a few substitutions, you can make many of your favorite dishes healthier and enjoy guilt-free, heart-healthy goodness.

A healthy heart lets you stay focused on doing what you love.  Learn how Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute can help you keep your heart healthy. 

Cooking at Home

“One of the best substitutions you can make is using applesauce instead of adding fats, oils or sugar to your baking,” said Michelle Musselwhite, RD, LDN, registered dietitian with Carolinas HealthCare System’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute Cardiac Rehab Program. “It not only adds sweetness to recipes, but you also get the added dietary benefits of apples’ fiber. Applesauce has significantly fewer calories than sugar, and you’re cutting the saturated-fat content of baked goods when you eliminate the butter or oil.”

Low-Fat Options:

If a recipe calls for mayonnaise, choose a reduced-calorie mayonnaise-type salad dressing or reduced-calorie, reduced-fat mayonnaise. Lower-fat versions of some high-fat ingredients, like cream cheese, salad dressings or creamed soups, make for healthy substitutions that still maintain the flavor of the dish.

Whole Grains:

“In recipes using flour, pastas or breads, try using whole grain versions,” said Musselwhite. “Whole grains are packed with fiber and other nutrients like protein, B vitamins and antioxidants. A diet rich in whole grains – preferably the recommended three servings a day – has been shown to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart disease.”


Instead of ordering pizza with pepperoni, try different vegetable toppings to lower the fat content and calories of each slice. Thin strips of zucchini – or “zoodles” – can replace spaghetti for a lower-carb and gluten-free meal. Portobello mushrooms are thick and meaty in texture and taste, so try one on a hamburger bun instead of a traditional burger; or substitute button mushrooms for meatballs in your favorite spaghetti sauce.

Nonfat Greek Yogurt for Sour Cream or Mayo:

“Greek yogurt is becoming very popular in cooking and is a wonderful substitution if you want to cut the fat and calories from recipes that contain sour cream or mayonnaise,” said Musselwhite. “Nonfat Greek yogurt has far fewer calories and fat, but its consistency is similar to mayonnaise or sour cream.”


Iceberg lettuce is a staple in salads, but it doesn’t provide as many vitamins and minerals as the darker lettuces or other options like kale, which packs 3 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fiber and vitamins A, C and K into just one 33-calorie cup. Other choices to replace iceberg lettuce include romaine lettuce, arugula or spinach, which has nearly twice the recommended daily value of vitamin K, half the recommended value of vitamin A, and plenty of calcium and iron.