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Finding ways to substitute healthier foods

February 24, 2012

New Year’s resolutions are being forgotten as the thought of those Valentine sweet treats weigh in on your conscience and scale. The February fade is in high gear for many as the initial resolve to eat healthy, the No. 1 New Year’s resolution according to Ryan Joseph, a writer and researcher on health, battles with the temptation of baked goods. Like any habit, unhealthy eating is hard to beat.

When facing the challenge head on, sugar and baked goods are the first to be cut from ones diet. The problem is, eventually your blood sugar takes a nose dive right into that bowl of candy sitting on your desk. Sugar cravings lead to splurges on chocolate and other sugary delights that offer a fast boost to blood sugar levels. Don’t be fooled, this quick fix will only sustain you temporarily and now that you’ve opened Pandora’s box, the urge to maintain that intake of chocolates only increases.

Eating healthy doesn’t mean you need to nix the desserts. Instead focus on moderation and substitutions. For starters, try to increase your fruit intake. A natural source of sugar is a great way to keep you satisfied when the sweet tooth starts to bite.

Another approach is the one-a-day. No, not the vitamin, this one comes in the form of those oh-so-cute cupcakes screaming at you from the café treat case. One sweet a day is not bad for you, in fact, many dieticians and nutritionists recommend this approach. Lisa Dorfman, RD, licensed nutritionist and director of sports nutrition and performance for UHealth at the University of Miami, realizes that an overly restrictive diet leads to excessive indulgence on the unhealthy food choices you love.

In the article Incredible Weight Loss Myths Exposed on MSN’s nutrition and health page, fitbie Dorfman suggests, “eat great 80 percent of the time, and allow room for small treats the other 20 percent.” As long as you pay attention to the amount and ingredients you’re consuming, you’ll remain on track with healthy eating.

Accomplish this by avoiding store bought and café treats. Café treats, such as a fruit muffin, for a quick lunch may sound healthier than fast food, but that is where we are misled. According to Caribou Coffee’s nutritional information available on, one blueberry muffin totals 410 calories. This is more than a Whopper Jr. at Burger King.

Even grocery stores and restaurants can be risky with their promotions of large portion sizes. Often an individually sold bakery muffin found in the large display case is 99 cents compared to a pack of six more properly portioned for about $5. Obviously you’d prefer to pay the dollar, but you’re forfeiting portion control. The muffins found in the display cases are usually about two times that of normal size.

Instead, opt for baking your own treats. This allows you to control the portion size as well as ingredients. Healthy ingredient substitutes can usually be found right on hand without changing the flavor. Let’s start with the most common culprits of fat grams found in desserts: butter, oil and egg yolks.

Light or fat-free cream cheese, Neufchatel, and applesauce are all great substitutes for butter. Applesauce can also be used in placed of oil as can fruit puree such as banana, pumpkin, or prune. For eggs try using egg whites instead. A good ratio is usually two egg whites for each whole egg the recipe calls for. Keep in mind when you are substituting ingredients in recipes you really have to watch the ratio of dry versus wet ingredients. Cookies in my opinion are often more finicky with substitutions whereas quick breads and muffins are easier to adjust. You may end up experimenting a bit with the amounts until you achieve the right consistency of batter, but it’s worth the results.

Just switching out these three ingredients with lighter, healthier options will take you far in your goal to eat better. Next time your eyes start to do a double take on that display case, remind yourself that you can have something just as good, and good for you at home.

Brittney Pfenning­-Wendt is a columnist for the Student Voice.