LIVING

Your Food Upgrade Guide

08/28/2013 05:16 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
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Salad in glass bowl

Feeding yourself and your family is a balancing act -- how do you compromise between eating what you like and eating what's good for you? Luckily, you don't always have to choose; eating healthy doesn't mean trading your favourite meals for food that tastes like cardboard. Lots of traditionally unhealthy foods can be replaced with much more nutritious versions that are bursting with flavour. Here are some of our favourite food substitutions:

Your Food Upgrade Guide

Instead of oil in your baking, try applesauce

Love to bake? Watch how much oil you're putting into your muffins, cakes and cookies. Looking for a healthier alternative? Look for recipes that use unsweetened applesauce -- it has zero fat and fewer calories than oil. It sounds weird but it works, and as an added bonus, you'll find that your baking comes out fluffier and lighter. Pureed bananas can also be used in place of oil in some recipes.

Instead of ground beef, try ground chicken or veggie alternatives

Cut fat and calories in your burgers this summer by switching to leaner meat and alternatives. Lean ground beef and ground chicken have less fat and calories than traditional full-fat beef. Want an even healthier option? A grilled portobello mushroom has zero fat and is low in calories. You can add flavour with lower sodium marinades, spices and lower fat cheeses.

Instead of sugar and salt, try spices

When our food tastes bland, we immediately reach for the sugar or the salt to give it some zing. But next time you're trying to add flavour, why not try something new? Vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg can add depth to your coffee and desserts without adding calories. Similarly, garlic, pepper, oregano, paprika, lemon juice and rosemary might taste great in place of salt in your favourite recipes. Get creative -- you never know what flavour combinations will work.

Instead of flavoured yogurt, try plain yogurt

Yogurt has long been touted as a healthy food, but these days the supermarket shelves are stocked with flavoured yogurts that are so full of sugar that they're almost as calorie-laden as ice cream. Next time you go yogurt shopping, skip the fruit-filled ones and grab a plain, low-fat version. Then add your own fruit to it.

Instead of iceberg lettuce, try nutrient-rich greens

Iceberg lettuce isn't bad for you, but in terms of nutrients you could do better. Dark, leafy greens such as spinach, kale, dandelion leaves, and romaine lettuce give iceberg lettuce a run for its money by offering nutrients like iron, folate, and Vitamins A, C and K. Plus they taste better; arugula, for instance, gives your salad a peppery kick.

Instead of sour cream, try plain yogurt

Next time you're dressing that baked potato or creating your famous dip, try trading the sour cream for a non- or low-fat version of plain yogurt. It will taste just the same but with half the calories.

Instead of pasta, try spaghetti squash or zucchini

For an occasional change on spaghetti night, try replacing pasta with a vegetable alternative in your favourite recipe. Cooked spaghetti squash is surprisingly good with your favourite pasta sauces, and thinly-sliced zucchini works well as lasagne noodles.

Instead of ice cream, try frozen bananas

There's nothing better than a delicious ice cream on a hot day, but the calories aren't always worth it. You can enjoy a creamy frozen treat without all the fat by mashing up frozen bananas in your food processor or blender. For an added treat, try drizzling some melted dark chocolate over your creation at the end.

Instead of mayo, use hummus

Mayo is a staple in so many recipes and sandwiches, but you might be surprised to learn that hummus is a great substitute. We dare you to try it in your tuna salad sandwich -- you'll be addicted after the first bite. Avocado is also a healthier alternative to mayo that works well in most recipes.