Healthy Kitchen: What's in, What's Out?

While you don't have to ban any of these food items completely, it no longer makes good nutritional sense to rely on them as everyday staples. Luckily, there are healthful substitutions for these tried-and-true ingredients.

OUT: All-Purpose Flour
IN: Whole-wheat pastry flour, spelt, oat flour, and brown rice flour

With such a great variety of flours available for baking, and healthier substitutes that can be used for "breading," there's not much reason to keep large quantities of white flour on hand. These alternative flours can be substituted for half to all of the white flour in most recipes.

OUT: Bread Crumbs
IN: Ground nuts and seeds

Ground nuts can be substituted in just about any dish that calls for bread crumbs, such as coated fish or chicken breasts, meat loaves, or toppings on casserole-style dishes like mac'n cheese. Nuts (and seeds) add healthy fats and vegetable protein. You can also try a combination of ground nuts and ground shelled sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

OUT: Butter
IN: Olive Oil

Almost anything you can make with butter, you can make with olive oil and other healthier plant oils. You may have to look for new recipes that substitute liquid fats for solid, but they're not hard to find. (Tip: If a recipe calls for melted butter, you can generally substitute an equal amount of oil.) If you don't want to give up butter completely, try a half-and-half combination of oil and butter.

OUT: Cold Cuts
IN: Grilled chicken or roasted turkey breast

What can we say? Not much good about processed meats of any kind. They are generally full of fat, salt, and fillers. If you rely on deli meats to make your lunch everyday, consider cooking extra chicken or turkey breast on the weekend to slice up and use for sandwiches and quick snacks throughout the week.

OUT: Cream Cheese
IN: Cottage Cheese

There are better ways to top your toast or bagel than with cream cheese that's mostly fat (or mostly fillers in low-fat versions). Instead, use a blender to puree a cup of farmers' cheese, part-skim ricotta, or cottage cheese and store in a covered container in the refrigerator to use as a substitute. You can add a ripe strawberry, or other small piece of fruit to the blender for sweetness, or a sprig or two of fresh dill or other herb for savory flavor.

OUT: Jellies and Jams
IN: Fresh Fruit

The less-healthful half of PB&J is nothing more than thickened, sweetened, fruit juice with little-to-no nutritional value. Next time you want to spread your bread with something sweet, try crushed or finely chopped fresh fruit, such as bananas, strawberries, peaches, and pineapple. For harder fruits like apples and pears, slice and use "as is" for crunch, or soften in a microwave oven for a minute or two before chopping or mashing.

OUT: White Bread
IN: High-Fiber Bread

Even soft and squishy-style whole wheat is a better choice if it contains more fiber. Check and compare the Nutrition Facts label on different types of bread, to make sure your "healthy choice" is actually healthier.

OUT: White Rice
IN: Brown, red, black, and wild rice; and grains such as barley and quinoa

Like flour, rice choices have evolved way beyond the pale. Whole-grain brown and wild rice mixtures that are higher in fiber are available everywhere, and more exotic red, black, and other types of rice are sold in ethnic and specialty markets. Or serve barley, which is higher in fiber, or quinoa, which is higher in fiber and protein, instead of white rice.

Susan McQuillan, MS, RD, reviewed this article.



University of Nebraska, Lincoln: Ingredient Substitutions