A father and son cooking during the COVID-19 pandemic
Healthy Living

Can’t Find Everything on Your Grocery List? Get Creative with These Healthy Cooking Substitutions

Jun 3 2020

The grocery scene has changed in recent months. While stores are doing their best to keep their shelves stocked, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt our food supply chain. Whether you are ordering online, sending a friend to the store or going for yourself, there is a good chance you won’t end up getting everything on your list.

However, instead of giving up on the recipes you had planned, get creative. There are possible substitutions and replacement items for just about any food item you may need.

Vegetables substitutions

  • Fresh vegetables can be swapped for frozen when cooking.
  • Salad greens come in many varieties. If romaine and spinach aren’t available, try butter leaf, radicchio, bib lettuce and arugula. Heartier greens like cabbage and kale make great salads. They taste even better when allowed to marinade in the dressing for a bit before serving.
  • Canned vegetables work great as well. However, watch out for the sodium content. Look for “no-salt-added” versions or drain and rinse canned veggies before using them.

Baking and cooking substitutions 

Original Ingredient: ½ cup oil in baked goods
Substitution: ½ cup apple sauce
Tip: Keeps baked goods moist. You many need less sugar, as the apple sauce is already sweet.

Original Ingredient: ½ cup oil in baked goods
Substitution: ½ cup pureed zucchini or yellow squash
Tip: Peel the zucchini first before putting it in the blender, otherwise your baked goods with have a greenish tint.

Original Ingredient: 1 cup whole grain flour
Substitution: dry oatmeal (old fashioned, instant or quick)
Tip: For use in muffins and cookies. Pulse oats in a blender until desired texture. Try mixing some whole oats in with the finer flour to create different textures in your baked goods.

Original Ingredient: 1 egg in baked goods
Substitution: 1 tbsp ground flaxseed (aka flax meal) with 3 tbsp water
Tip: This works well when the egg is used as a binder in the recipe such as muffins and cookies. Chia seeds can also work here.

Original Ingredient: 1 tsp baking powder – double acting
Substitution: ¼ tsp baking soda with ⅝ tsp cream of tarter
Tip: Before using in baked goods, make sure your baking soda is still fresh by testing ½ tsp baking soda with 3 tbsp vinegar. If it doesn’t bubble, you need to buy a new box.

Original Ingredient: 1 cup buttermilk
Substitution: 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar with 1 cup milk
Tip: Let it sit for 5 minutes before using.

Original Ingredient: 1 cup mayonnaise
Substitution: 1 cup yogurt
Tip: Greek yogurt has more protein but also has a tangier taste. If you don’t like the tang, try low-fat or fat-free plain yogurt instead.

Original Ingredient: 1 cup bread crumbs
Substitution: ¾ cup crushed crackers of choice
Tip: Using whole-grain crackers provides more fiber.

Original Ingredient: 1 cup tomato sauce
Substitution: ½ cup tomato paste with 1 cup water
Tip: Add finely chopped vegetables to boost the flavor and texture of your sauce. Examples include mushrooms, onions, zucchini and squash.

Original Ingredient: 1 cup tomato sauce
Substitution: ½ can diced tomatoes, drained and blended
Tip: Use a can of Italian seasoned tomatoes or add your own spices. You can also lower the salt by using no-salt-added or rinsing tomatoes first.

Original Ingredient: 1 cup ricotta cheese
Substitution: 1 cup cottage cheese
Tip: Cottage cheese is also higher in protein and works great in baked dishes like lasagna.

Original Ingredient: 1 tbsp corn starch
Substitution: 12 tbsp flour
Tip: Use for thickening.

Using food items you already have

Take this time to dig a bit deeper into your pantry or freezer. Are there items you have stocked but forgot about? Even if the “best by date” has passed, you can still cook safely with these items.

Now is the perfect time to clear out the pantry and incorporate these forgotten foods. Not sure what to do with your random ingredients? Many recipe websites allow you to sort their recipes by ingredient.

Learn about the nutrition services offered at Mercy Health.

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