Saucy Substitutions

By Kara Glasco, MS, RCEP, HFS

Go to any fancy restaurant and I guarantee everything on the menu will come with a decadent and delicious sauce.  Sauces can instantly elevate the most mundane of dishes and can be secret calorie traps.  Some of the oldest diet tips are to avoiding cream based sauces (alfredo sauce), mayonnaise based sauces (ranch and blue cheese dressing)  and fat loaded sauces (scampi).  Where is the fun in that? I feel that often times the sauce is the best part of the meal!When trying to lose weight, cutting out nutritionally void calories such as the ones in sauces can be a big key to your success.  Another tip is to substitute an unhealthy sauce for another healthier one.  Sometimes I get the yummy, yet fattening, sauce on the side, lightly dip my fork into it and use the sauce sparingly.  When deciphering restaurant menus, look for any of these sauces that will be lower in calories but high in flavor:  salsa, guacamole, vinaigrette, marinara, salsa verde, tzatziki, and chimichurri.

Punch up the flavor
Lemon juice, mustard, vinegar, and hot sauce are great additives to jazz up the flavor of any dish without adding many calories.  I really enjoy adding lemon juice to my steamed veggies and sauteed greens so I don’t need to use butter.  Anything vinegar based will always be very low in calories such as hot sauce and mustard.  Try making a spicy marinade or mustard based rub instead of a ketchup or oil heavy marinade.

I love making buffalo chicken skewers and I marinate the chicken in only hot sauce for a buffalo flavor with hardly any added calories.  All the same flavors as your favorite wings with no added carbs, fat, OR GUILT!!

Another tip is to increase the amount of vinegar to oil ratio in homemade salad dressings.  I tend to make my dressings and marinades heavy on the vinegar because it acts as a meat tenderizer and makes a little go a long way.  I suggest using two types of vinegar or acid in salad dressings for a more rounded and less harsh flavor profile.  My favorites are balsamic, of course, lemon juice and any type of wine vinegar.

Slimmer Sauces
Another great way to save some calories in your sauce recipes is to swap out part of the fattening ingredients for chicken or vegetable broth.  Broth has only 5 calories per tablespoon and is packed with yummy flavor.  I suggest only swapping half of the liquids or fats for broth so you don’t completely change the recipes flavor profile.  As I mentioned in my healthy substitutions article, I use low-fat condensed milk in place of heavy cream for a rich consistency without hundreds of extra calories.

I found this pesto recipe years ago, loved it the instant i tried it and will never make a traditional recipe again.  This recipe is so light compared to the oil laden recipes most cookbooks use.  The flavors really shine through as well because the ingredients aren’t smothered with all that oil.  Traditional pesto has over 230 calories for 1/4 cup while this updated version is only 104 calories, what a savings!!!

Lighter Pesto Sauce
2 Tbsp pine nuts2 cups basil leaves, fresh

1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth (or homemade broth)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 or 2 medium garlic clove(s), peeled (depending on how much you like garlic)

1/2 tsp table salt

Over medium heat, toast pine nuts in a small pan for about 3 minutes. Toss frequently so they won’t burn. Pour pine nuts into a food processor. Add basil, broth, cheese, oil, garlic and salt. Process until it’s the smoothness and thickness of your liking. If you like, let it stand overnight for melding/thickening purposes. Serving Size is 1/4 cup.

Calories: 104 calories Fat: 9 g



Sneaking “healthy” into recipes

By Kara Glasco, MS, RCEP, HFS

Most parents will agree that it can be a nightmare to get vegetables into your kids.  As a personal trainer and foodie I always like to increase the nutritional value of what I am cooking.  Vegetables are full of flavor, low calorie, essential for losing weight and packed with vital nutrients.  Any nutrition expert will tell you to swap out vegetables for carbs when trying to lose weight, but what if the family won’t go along with your plan?  This is when “OPERATION: HIDDEN VEGETABLE” starts and man is it satisfying when your family gobbles down the meal and are none the wiser!!!

Add Flavor Not Calories

One of the best ways to keep the calories low without sacrificing the flavor is to add herbs and spices.  Fat does provide a lot of flavor but can send the calorie count through the roof.  Fresh herbs are one of my favorite ways to boost the flavor profile of any recipe.  I especially love adding fresh mint, cilantro, basil or oregano to salads.  The herbs help me limit the dressing since their flavor makes the salad so delicious.

I also enjoy using my crockpot for creating flavorful recipes such as chilis, curries or sauces.  The crockpot truly enhances the flavors of any meal because the spices simmer all day without the need to add extra fat.  Vegetables can also add great flavor to recipes, and my favorite thing to do is jazz up boring store bought sauces.  I take your off the shelf jarred tomato sauce, add a large can or two of plain tomato sauce and throw as many diced up vegetables as I can into the mix.  I sauté garlic, peppers, onions, and carrots until soft, and I add extra herbs and spices as well.  Not only does this save me money since jarred sauces can be very expensive, but I can control the sugar, fat, salt, and calories by “making” my own.

Another of my famous ways to sneak vegetables into a meal is to do the old standby, cover it in CHEESE!  I am always putting extra veggies into my casseroles, pasta dishes and lasagna. These are the best for hiding the extra veggies.  I have even add pureed broccoli into stuffed shells and manicotti, which decreases the amount of cheese filling and cuts down the calories.  My usual ratio for a casserole or baked pasta dish is 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 protein, 1/4 pasta.  Throw some cheese on top and watch them devour those veggies.

Like most college kids, I bought the prepackaged rice and pasta mixes not knowing how unhealthy they were.  I developed this recipe to resemble those packaged mixes with a little less guilt and A LOT less sodium.  I haven’t included a calorie count because this recipe can be modified in many different ways based on your individual taste.  Use any of the quick cooking white or brown rices and vegetable of your choice.  Make sure the veggies are finely diced so they cook quickly and are less noticeable to picky eaters. I throw everything into the food processor and blend until it looks “hideable.”

Creamy Vegetable Rice

1 cup of white rice (I love jasmine or basmati)

1-3 cups FINELY chopped veggies (i like broccoli, celery, onion, and carrot)

1 Tbsp  olive oil

½ cup water

Salt and pepper to taste

½ – 1 cup of skim milk

¼ cup parmesan cheese

In a medium sauce pan add olive oil, finely diced veggies and salt and pepper.  Saute for about 5 minutes or until soft but not browned.  Add enough water for cooking rice according to package directions plus an extra ½ cup.  Bring veggies and water to a boil and add rice.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until rice is done.  Once done, add enough milk to make a creamy mixture.  I may look soupy initially, but continually stir to bring out the thickening power of the rice.  Stir for about 1 minute and add more milk if needed.  Add parmesan cheese and stir to combine.  Enjoy!

Rice with eggplant, courgette and parsley

Rice with vegetables!

Are HIIT Workouts Right For You?


By Kara Glasco, MS, RCEP, HFS

There is no denying that high intensity interval training (HIIT) really works and I am a huge advocate for this style of workout.  The general idea is to burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time with small periods of recovery.  Essentially, anything can become a HIIT style workout whether it is cardiovascular training such as running or strength training based.  HIIT workouts will increase your cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, decrease time to fatigue, decrease body fat and increase lean muscle mass.  This may sounds like the perfect exercise routine, but there are some potential issues with this style workout.  See my comments below before beginning a high intensity interval style workout.
Tendons, Muscles, and Joint OH MY!

Now comes the ugly truth of extreme HIIT workouts such as T25 and P90X.  I’ve known my fair share of friends and clients that have injured themselves during these programs.  I had one client tear his achilles, two blow out a knee meniscus and countless other pulled muscles, especially the lower back.  This type of workout can be extremely rough on the joints since most include tons of body weight exercises such as push up, pull ups and lunges.  Tendon and ligament injuries can occur in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees and ankles due to the high amount of stress placed on these joints.  Due to the repetitive nature of HIIT dvd programs, tendonitis can be a real problem for overworked joints and may require physical therapy.

Muscle injuries are probably the most common issue with extreme HIIT programs.  Most DVD series generally start with a warm-up period, but even the warm-ups may be too intense for some participants.  Certains stretches could be more harmful than helpful for some clients especially if they have pre-existing joint issues.

Some DVD warm-ups may be too lengthy, include too many ballistic exercises and accumulate too many repetitions on already overworked joints.  Muscular fatigue from the warm-up also could cause potential problems during the rest of the workout.  Fatigued muscles can cause issues with form, balance and joint stabilization.

Muscles adapt and recover quicker than tendons and ligaments do after a HIIT workout.  A tendon’s reduced ability to recover after exercise can increase your risk of injury and joint damage.  Muscles recover quickly because of their increased blood flow, demand for nutrients and muscle-specific biological processes.  As you age, your ability to recover and rebound from exercise decreases.  This makes it especially difficult for middle-aged participants to complete the HIIT DVDs without getting injured.

The joints can also take a beating from HIIT DVDs and most participants experience painful and swollen joints at some point during the program.  Shoulders, wrists, ankles and knee joints are at the greatest risk from extreme exercise DVD programs.  Most DVD programs do an excessive amount of repetitions and have participants bend in every which way.  The sheer number of push ups and pull ups is almost the equivalent of asking your wrist, shoulders and elbows to run a marathon!

Think before You Jump

One of my favorite sayings is “It is better to do a QUALITY workout than to do a QUANTITY workout.”  Now, I am not saying that HIIT DVD workouts are a one way ticket to tendonitis, joint damage or muscle injuries.  But, if you have any other pre-existing conditions or lifestyle demands,  high intensity interval training may not be right for you.  I would never recommend an office worker with overexerted wrist muscles from typing perform multiple sets of wrist-supported exercises.  I would also caution sedentary office workers from moving through extreme ranges of motion like most DVDs require due to potential weak hip and back muscles from prolonged sitting.  My last sentiment is that it is illogical for a participant to further tighten muscles that are already excessively tight.  My example is, once agai,n the sedentary office worker with rounded and hunched shoulders resulting bad posture and very tight pec muscles.  Push-ups, planks, and other chest dominant exercises will only further these problem without solving the posture problem. Stay tuned for my next article on alternative exercises to do during HIIT DVDs that are safe and effective.

Sustaining Weight Loss, Part 2


by Kara Glasco, MS, RCEP, HFS

In this weight loss segment, I am going to address a few topics to think about when it comes to maintaining your weight loss.  Everyone knows that you have to workout and eat healthy to keep the weight off, but did you know how important sleep is for your weight?  Also, your hormones can play a huge role in your ability to maintain your weight.  If you haven’t been able to maintain your weight with diet and exercise alone, examine my information below for new strategies to get your weight back on track.

Sleep is Essential

Sleep can be the most beautiful and most elusive thing on the planet with our hectic lives and work schedules.  Having suffered with insomnia my entire life, I can truly attest to the miracle of a good night’s sleep and the effects sleep has on the body.  When it comes to weight loss and weight maintenance, sleep can have a huge impact on your ability to do both.  Many studies have linked a lack of sleep to high rates of obesity and weight gain.  People often turn to food, sugary beverages and comfort foods to keep them awake during the day.  With that being said, the more hours you are awake, the more eating opportunities you have.  A lack of sleep can make you feel unmotivated to exercise, sluggish while exercising and may hinder all performance related gains.  I use exercise as my natural sleep aide and when I don’t workout I generally don’t sleep as well.  This can be become a nasty cycle with both exercise and sleep affecting each other.  In addition, sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on our hormones by disrupting our circadian rhythms.  Studies have shown that a lack of sleep can can impact all the hormones I discuss in the next section.

Hormonal Factors

As if weight maintenance wasn’t hard enough, our hormones can play a major role in our ability to lose weight.  I am going to highlight a few of the many hormones that affect body weight, and the key players are insulin, ghrelin, leptin, and cortisol.  Insulin’s main job is to stimulate the storage of glucose from the foods we eat.  Chronically high insulin levels can cause excessive glucose storage and an accumulation of fat stores.  Leptin and ghrelin are hormones secreted by fat cells that signal the brain about our hunger needs.

Leptin is a long-term regulator that signals fullness, which can induce weight loss (1).  Ghrelin is a fast-acting hormone that signals hunger initiating our desires to consume food (1).  Some studies have shown that obesity can also cause elevated levels of leptin, which can lead to a leptin resistance much like insulin resistance (1).  The body becomes unable to recognize leptin hormones, which tricks the body into thinking that it is in a constant state of starvation (1).  This in turn stimulates the body to store fat and carbohydrate furthering obesity.

Cortisol is another hormone that greatly affects your ability to lose or maintain body weight. Cortisol is referred to as the “stress hormone” and can elevate and initiate certain things in response to physical and psychological stress.  Cortisol increases appetite, blood sugar levels, macronutrient metabolism, blood pressure, and immune responses (2).  Chronically high levels of cortisol can increase abdominal fat, lower thyroid function, cause blood sugar imbalances, and decreased bone and muscle mass (2).

In conclusion, factors besides exercise and diet can affect your ability to maintain your weight loss.  Certain factors such as elevated hormones can silently be hindering your success.  As always, consult with your doctor if you believe hormones may be causing undesired side effects.  When in doubt grab a few extra hours of sleep for numerous health benefits.


Klok MD , Jakobsdottir S, Drent ML. The role of leptin and ghrelin in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans: a review. Obes Rev. 2007 Jan;8(1):21-34.
Wilson, James L. Cortisol and Adrenal Function. Future Formulations, LLC, n.d. Web. 08 June 2015.

Sustaining Weight Loss, part 1



By Kara Glasco, MS, RCEP, HFS

Moving more and eating less may be the motto for losing weight, but keeping the weight off is so much more complicated.  Losing the weight is often times the easy part, burn more calories than you consume.  In order to keep the weight off you must exercise regularly, keep your metabolism running like a fine-tuned machine, and consume a very healthy diet.  As if that wasn’t complicated enough, there are many things to take into account when it comes to metabolism.  Your resting metabolic rate, eating frequency, macronutrient intake, sleep, and hormone levels all affect your calorie burning potential.   In this article I will address the basics of your metabolism and how food plays a major role in sustaining weight loss.

Resting Metabolic Rate

Resting metabolic rate very simply defined is the amount of energy or calories burned to maintain daily physiological functions.  These bodily functions include digesting food, repairing tissues, maintaining body temperature, and any other processes needed for homeostasis.  There are many different variables that affect your metabolic rate including: age, gender, height, weight, activity level, and body fat percentage (1).   I’m sure it seems common sense, but your exercise habits, eating habits, and food choices also affect your resting metabolic rate.  In general, the more you exercise the higher your metabolism tends to be.  To calculate your own metabolic rate click here and be sure to select your true activity level (2).  Most people are in the sedentary or lightly active groups.  If you feel you have a slow metabolism or have extreme difficulty losing weight consult your doctor because there may be an underlying reason.

Foods and Metabolism

Your diet greatly affects your metabolic rate with the timing of your meals and your food selection being equally important.  Low-calorie diets are the equivalent of flushing your metabolism down the drain.  A low-calorie diet tricks the body into thinking it is going into starvation mode, which greatly reduces the body’s desire to burn calories.  I like to think about my metabolism as a camp fire, it takes a combination of sticks (snacks) and logs (meals) to keep it burning.  All sticks and the fire will burn out quickly, but too many big logs and the fire won’t even get started.  Appropriate meal timing is also essential for keeping your metabolism elevated and maximizing your caloric burning potential.  I suggest you try to consume some sort of food source every 3 to 4 hours.  I would recommend breakfast, a morning snack, lunch, an afternoon snack, and dinner.  Depending on your activity level and fitness goals, an after dinner snack may even be warranted.  Certain foods can raise your metabolic rate since these foods are more complicated to break down.  This is called the thermic effect of food, a fancy term for the calories burned to break down food.  Complex foods such as protein, fat, and high fiber food have higher thermic effects therefore keeping you fuller longer.  In a study published by European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers examined the effect of a high-protein meal, high-carbohydrate meal, and a high-fat meal on subject’s satiety.  Each meal was calorically equivalent, and the high-protein meal had a much higher thermic effect and satiety rating.

In conclusion, many factors can impact our ability to maintain weight loss with diet and exercise being the most important.  Choose an appropriate daily calorie range, exercise multiple times per week, consume smaller meal portions, and snack frequently to keep your metabolism blazing.


Kelly, Mark P. “Resting Metabolic Rate: Best Ways to Measure It—And Raise It, Too.” The American Council on Exercise. ACE Certified News, Oct. 2012. Web. 05 June 2015.
“BMR Calculator / Basal Metabolic Rate.” BMR Calculator / Basal Metabolic Rate. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 June 2015.
Crovetti R, Porrini M, Santangelo A, Testolin G. “The Influence on thermic effect of food on satiety.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  1998 Jul;52(7):482-8.


Sweet Swaps


by Kara Glasco, MS, RCEP, HFS

I believe that everyone on the planet has a sweet tooth and I too am a fellow choc-aholic.  Sugar sure does taste good, but it is a well know fact that sugar can wreak havoc on the body.  According to neuroscientist Dr. Jordan Gaines Lewis, sugar sends signals to the brain that light up the reward pathways leading to the release of “feel good” hormones such as dopamine (1).  When this pathway becomes overstimulated the body needs more and more sugar to elicit that same pleasure response.  Artificial sweeteners can also increase sugar craving because sucralose is almost 400 times sweeter than table sugar. So what is one to do in a world surrounded by added and processed sugars?  Follow my tips below for satisfying your sweet tooth while cutting back on your sugar intake.

The Glycemic Index

The glycemic index simplistically interpreted is the way carbohydrates and sugars affect a person’s blood sugar.  Simple sugars such as those found in candies and fruit elicit a dramatic increase in blood sugar followed by a drastic drop in blood sugar.  Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and vegetables allow the blood sugar to gradually increase and decrease.  There is nothing worse than roller coaster blood sugar levels, which will leave you feeling like absolute sludge.  I recommend pairing simple sugars with fat or protein sources in order to prevent blood sugar spikes.  A great example would be an apple with peanut butter or greek yogurt and berries.

Satisfyingly Sweet

Simple and natural are always the best option when choosing a sweet treat.  Fruit is nature’s perfect solution for a sweet tooth because of the added benefits of vitamins, minerals and fiber.  I recommend choosing lower sugar fruits such as berries, apples, and pears rather than sugar loaded tropical fruits and melons.  If chocolate is the only thing that will do then I highly suggest dark chocolate with at least 50% cacao.  My favorite way to satisfy my cravings is to snack on a few tablespoons of dark chocolate chips that I use for baking.  Having lots of little chips makes me feel like I am getting more of a treat than 2 little squares.  If baked goods are your craving, I recommend creating your own healthy recipes (to see my baking substitutions article Click Here)  that allow you to control quality and ingredients.  Try the recipes below to satisfy your sweet tooth without making you feel guilty or spiking your blood sugar levels.


I have been playing around with my protein bar recipe for years trying to make them taste more like brownies than protein bars.  I love to change up the extracts and wet ingredients for more seasonal flavors.  I especially love dark chocolate peppermint flavored bars at christmas time.  Chocolate banana bars are also great with mashed banana instead of the applesauce and banana extract.  Another substitution would be to use brewed coffee instead of the water for a mocha flavored protein bar.

Cinnamon Baked Apples

Serves: 2

2 apples (any kind, I used granny smith)

2 tablespoons natural maple syrup

4 tablespoons oats



Core apples and slice into pieces.  Place apple slices into 2 ramekins and add half the maple syrup and oats to each.  Gently stir.  Top with cinnamon.  Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes until apples are tender.


Calories: 127   Fat: 1g   Protein: 1g   Carbs: 30g

Chocolate Protein Bars

Serves: 10

2/3 cup Oat Flour

3 scoops Chocolate Protein Powder

4 Tbsp Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

1/2 Cup Stevia

1/4 tsp Salt

1/2 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp Extract (vanilla, banana, or peppermint)

2/3 cup Unsweetened Applesauce or banana puree

3/4 cup Liquid Egg Whites

1 Tbsp oil (coconut or oil of your choicel)

2 oz Water


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray an 8×8 pan with non-stick spray.  Mix dry ingredients together, then add wet ingredients. Mix until you get out all the lumps.  Pour mixture into baking dish and bake for 22 to 25 minutes.  Take out of the oven and let cool. Once cool, cut into 10 bars.

Source adapted from:
Calories: 113  Fat: 3g   Protein: 12g  Carbs: 10g

(1)Gregorie, Carolyn. “This Is What Sugar Does To Your Brain.” The Huffington Post. N.p., 06 Apr. 2015. Web. 21 May 2015.


Healthy Snack Swaps

It’s 3:00 PM and the salty snack cravings hit you like a ton of bricks.  What to do, what to eat, how to make it healthy?  Most often when the snack cravings hit, we want to grab something unhealthy like chips, crackers, or pretzels.  Processed carbohydrates are loaded with empty calories, cause massive blood sugar swings and leave you feeling more tired than you were to begin with.  Below I will highlight some healthy food swaps that will satisfy your salty cravings without derailing your healthy habits.

Grab the protein

Protein is, in my opinion, the most important macronutrients and should be incorporated into every meal and snack.  Beef jerky is a powerhouse snack with 1 ounce containing about 12 grams of protein for only 80 calories!  Another great snack that packs the salty crunch are dry roasted nuts.  Almonds are one of my favorites with 1 ounce containing 14 grams of heart healthy fats, 6 grams of protein, and 3 grams of dietary fiber.  Soy nuts are another healthy vegetarian option with 1 ounce packing 12 grams of protein for only 130 calories.  My favorite part about these healthy snacks are they don’t have to be refrigerated, can be stored easily for on the go snacking and each has tons of flavor without a lot of calories.

Prep Ahead

I guarantee that if you ask any personal trainer, athlete, or extremely healthy person what their key to success is, it would have to be food prep.  It is so important to set yourself up for success with a fridge and pantry full of healthy grab and go items.  I spend at least 2 hours every Sunday getting my lunches and dinners prepped for the week.  I always have a few snack bags ready at my desk, in my purse and easily accessible at home to aid my healthy willpower.

Kale chips are all the rage right now, and they couldn’t be simpler to make.  You may still miss the potato chip, but at least you won’t have the guilt that goes with it!  I love roasted chickpeas as well especially when I’m getting burnt out on nuts.  You can flavor these little guys with anything under the sun and I especially like making them spicy.  Try out the recipes below. I suggest make double, triple, or quadruple the recipe because you are going to LOVE IT!


Roasted Chickpeas
Servings: 6

2 15-oz can garbanzo beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
Spices of your choice (garlic salt, creole, all purpose seasoning)

Directions: Preheat oven to 400F. Drain and rinse chickpeas in a strainer. Shake off excess water and pat dry with paper towels.  Try to remove all the excess water if possible.   Drizzle the olive oil over the beans and toss to coat. Roast for 30-40 minutes until the beans are a deep golden brown and crunchy.  Season with salt and spice blend.


Calories: 157  Fat: 3g  Protein: 6g  Carbs: 27g



Crispy Kale Chips

Servings: 4

1 head kale, washed and thoroughly dried
2 tablespoons olive oil
Spices of your choice (garlic powder, chili powder, all purpose seasoning)

Directions: Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Remove the ribs from the kale and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Lay on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, salt, and spices. Bake until crispy, turning the leaves halfway through, about 20 minutes.


Calories: 93   Fat:  7g  Protein: 2g  Carbs: 7g

By Kara Glasco, MS, RCEP, HFS

Swap Smart and Healthy for Fat and Empty Calories

by Kara Glasco, MS, RCEP, HFS

Bitten sugar glazed homemade donuts on marble table

I am very excited to start a series of nutrition articles since food has always had a special place in my heart.  There is no other way to say it, but this girl LOVES TO EAT!  One of my favorite mottos is “workout hard so you can eat hard.”  Not something you might expect to hear from a personal trainer right?

I am very excited to start a series of nutrition articles since food has always had a special place in my heart.  There is no other way to say it, but this girl LOVES TO EAT!  One of my favorite mottos is “workout hard so you can eat hard.”  Not something you might expect to hear from a personal trainer right?

I love all the junky food just like the rest of you, but with my line of work I have had to find ways to punch up the health factor.  One of my favorite things to do is rework a recipe to a healthier version.  Ever eaten out at a restaurant and the food just settles in your stomach like a bomb?  That is because the dish is loaded with unnecessary calories, fat, and sodium.  Avoid the belly ache and follow my simple rules for healthy food swaps below.

Better with Butter?

One of my favorite baking substitutions is swapping melted butter or oil for a healthier alternative.  Unsweetened applesauce, mashed banana, low-fat yogurt, or mashed avocado can be used in place of melted butter or oil.  Low-fat yogurt can give a creamy and tender texture to baking.  You may need to adjust the sweetness of the recipe to accommodate for the bitterness of yogurt.  I would also recommend thinning greek yogurt with milk or water so the batter isn’t too dense.

Black beans in a wooden spoon





I’ve also seen black beans substituted for butter in recipes as well.  A good friend of mine makes the best brownies and the secret ingredient is black beans!  Black beans greatly increase the protein and fiber content while drastically cutting the fat.  I would recommend starting with half butter/oil and half substitution to see how the recipe will turn out.  Why not cut some calories, increase the protein and make a healthier recipe?






Experiment with Flour

I’m sure we’ve all heard about the paleo diet or going gluten free.  There are many healthy benefits of cutting out refined carbohydrates and reducing your gluten intake.  Traditional gluten free products were made with unhealthy flours such as corn flour, rice flour and potato starch.  There are a whole host of extremely healthy flours on the market now that will cut the gluten and increase the nutritional value of your recipes.  Some flours to investigate are coconut flour, almond flour, or quinoa flour just to name a few.  One major tip when baking with alternative flours is to replace only a portion of the white flour with an alternative flour.  Nut flours, such as almond flour, will not rise the same as a gluten based flours so additional leavening agents may be needed.  When in doubt research paleo recipes or gluten free blogs online.

More Healthy Swaps

There are a few other substitutions I love to use when trying to cut the calories.  I often replace evaporated milk for heavy cream or half and half.  Secondly, I always swap low-fat cottage cheese for ricotta cheese.  I love the added protein that cottage cheese provides to italian dishes such as manicotti or lasagna.


My final substitution is mashed cauliflower for potatoes. Try using potatoes 50% potatoes and 50% cauliflower to drastically cut down the carb content and give “mashed potatoes” a light and airy texture.  Trust me, you won’t be able to tell the difference!

I hope these food swaps will inspire you to recreate some of your favorite recipes in a lighter and healthier version.

Bon Apetit!  Check back for more healthy eating tips from Kara.