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Substitutions in Cooking Guide

About this Guide

You’ve already started mixing half of your ingredients together when you open the cabinet to find you’re missing something crucial. We’ve all been there. In the moment, you get creative, substituting things you have on hand for things you don’t, but did you know that cooking substitutions are for more than just eleventh-hour baking? They can be a quick and easy way to tweak your favorite recipes to lose weight, fit dietary restrictions, and keep things a little healthier.


Sugar Substitutes

The glycemic index measures how food affects your blood sugar. By monitoring the glycemic index of what you eat, you can cut sugar, lose weight and adapt recipes for diabetes.

Honey

1/2 cup honey

  • For best results: decrease other liquid in the recipe by 2-4 tbsp., add a pinch of baking soda, and decrease oven temperature by 25 degrees.
  • Best for those wanting: a lower glycemic index  than sugar, but similar amount of calories.
Agave

2/3 cup agave nectar

  • For best results: decrease other liquids by ¼ cup, increase cook time slightly, and decrease oven temperature by 25 degrees.
  • Best for those wanting: a low glycemic index, or those on a low-carb diet.
Maple Syrup

3/4 cup pure maple syrup

  • For best results: decrease other liquid in the recipe  by 3 Tbsp, add ¼ tsp baking soda per cup of maple syrup, and decrease oven temperature by 25 degrees.
  • Best for those wanting: more vitamins, minerals,  and antioxidants, fewer calories, or a lower glycemic index.
Coconut

1 cup coconut palm sugar

  • Best for those wanting: more vitamins and minerals, a lower glycemic index, or a 1:1 sugar substitute.
Applesauce

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

  • For best results: decrease other liquids by ¼ cup
  • Best for those wanting: lower cholesterol, lower  calories, or a lower glycemic index than sugar.

Dairy & Egg Substitutes

Whether you’re lactose-intolerant, eat a plant-based diet, or just don’t like the taste, there has never been an easier time to live a dairy-free lifestyle. These days, dairy substitutes can match or out-perform the calcium and protein content of dairy if you choose the right option.

For every one of the following, try one of our dairy-free substitutions.

For every cup of milk, try one of our dairy-free substitutions: cashew milk, coconut milk or almond milk.

  • For best results: choose an unsweetened, unflavored option.
  • Best for those wanting: a 1:1 substitute.

For every cup of heavy cream: 1 cup of canned coconut milk.

  • For best results: use canned coconut milk, not boxed. Shake the can well before using.
  • For whipped cream, refrigerate your canned coconut milk and do not shake. Skim the solid cream off the top and whip with chilled beaters.
  • Best for those wanting: a rich, creamy texture in sweet or savory dishes, a whipped garnish, a 1:1 substitute.

For every cup of buttermilk: 1 cup of canned coconut milk.

  • For best results: add the tang of buttermilk with 1 tbsp. lemon juice.
  • Best for those wanting: to add a tangy touch to any recipe.

For every cup of yogurt: 1 cup of coconut yogurt or applesauce

  • Best for those wanting: something a little thicker.

For every egg: 1 tbsp. chia seeds and ⅓ cup water

  • For best results: mix and let sit for 15 minutes to absorb the water.
  • Best for those wanting: something that mimics the binding texture of an egg.

½ cup of mashed banana

  • For best results: mash your banana thoroughly
  • Best for those wanting: a bit of added sweetness and less fat in their baking.

3 tbsp. peanut butter

  • Best for those wanting: an option with protein, but not necessarily fewer calories. Peanut butter will increase the caloric content of your dish.

Fat Substitutes

There are a few different reasons you may want to cut the fat in your recipes. With some clever substitution, you may be able to remove some, if not all, of the fat from your favorite dishes. Less fat can lower calories, make dishes more heart-healthy and aid in cholesterol control.

For every cup (2 sticks) of butter you’d like to replace, try one of the following:

Avocado

¾ cup of avocado

  • For best results: use in rich, chocolatey baking
  • Best for those wanting: A heart-healthy option, fewer calories, or a dairy-free option.
Applesauce

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

  • Best for those wanting: to lower cholesterol, cut calories or decrease fat.
Greek Yogurt

½ cup of Greek yogurt

  • For best results: try replacing half the butter in your recipe with Greek yogurt.
  • Best for those wanting: to reduce calories and saturated fat.
Banana

½ cup of mashed banana

  • For best results: reduce cooking time slightly.
  • Best for those wanting: a heart-healthy option, fewer calories, or a dairy-free option.

For every cup of sour cream, use:

Greek Yogurt

1 cup greek yogurt

  • For best results: use plain, nonfat yogurt.
  • Best for those wanting: to reduce the fat content of a dish.

For every cup of vegetable oil, use:

Applesauce

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

  • This substitution works best in baking.
  • Best for those wanting: to add fiber and cut fat in their baked goods.

Want to keep these health substitutions on hand? Print a copy of our healthy substitutions quick reference sheet.

Additional Resources

At MyHealthKC, our goal is to be a health and wellness resource and empower the people of Kansas City to live happier, healthier lives. This starts before you step foot in a doctor’s office with our guides. Each one of our guides covers a different topic and gives you the information necessary to make smart, healthy decisions.

Busy Person's Guide to a 7-Day Cleanse
What is “clean eating?” How do I know where to begin? The Busy Person’s Guide to a 7-Day Cleanse will show you exactly how to restart your gut and jumpstart your health in one week.

AdventHealth Shawnee Mission Diabetes & Nutrition Care
Looking for more help with managing your diet? Whether you have diabetes, food allergies or just want to lose weight, the Outpatient Nutrition Clinic has a skilled team of professionals ready to help you.

Nutrition Classes from AdventHealth
If you’d like to take a deep dive into the world of nutrition, try one of AdventHealth’s nutrition classes. We offer a variety of informational, affordable classes on food and wellness.

AdventHeath Shawnee Mission Heart & Vascular Center
Looking for ways to stay heart healthy and prevent heart disease? AdventHealth’s Heart and Vascular Center can help.

HeartAware Risk Assessment
Do you know your risk for heart disease? This short survey will help you identify and address medical and lifestyle factors affecting your heart health.

Lemon Honey