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healthy substitute

8 Healthy Substitutes, Debunked!

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You can lighten up some of your guilty pleasures by using a healthy substitute. But all substitutes aren't equal. We've separated the facts from the myths.

We’re always on the lookout for how to make our favorite foods healthier, especially our guilty pleasures—cakes, cookies, dips, comfort foods. Some of these substitutes are the real deal but unfortunately, some of them are just too good to be true. It’s time to separate the myths from the facts. Find out which get a stamp of healthy approval. 

The Claim: Diet soda in place of oil and eggs in cake mix.
By using a can of diet soda instead of eggs and oil, you reduce fat and calories for a weight loss friendly treat.
The Verdict: MYTH
Why: First, you don’t really save calories. In a store-bought cake mix, you usually add two eggs and one-third cup of oil to cover the entire cake. So, the majority of calories are coming from the mix, not what you add. Additionally, diet coke isn’t so good for you. It’s filled with artificial ingredients, which studies show may actually stimulate appetite and trigger fat storage. Saving 20 calories isn’t worth it. If you’re going to splurge, you’re better off just enjoying a regular slice of cake. 

The Claim: Apple sauce in place of sugar, butter, and oil 
The Verdict: FACT
Why: All baked goods should be consumed in moderation, but this substitution is worthy of reducing the guilt. There are about 770 calories in one cup of sugar compared to about 100 calories in one cup of unsweetened applesauce. It can also be used as a healthy substitute for butter and oil, particularly in breads. Don’t wrinkle your nose until you try it!

The Claim: Greek Yogurt in place of Sour Cream 
The Verdict: FACT
Why: The consistency and taste of Greek yogurt is similar to sour cream but with a lot less fat and fewer calories. One cup of light sour cream has about 320 calories with 200 coming from fat. If you go for the full-fat version you’re looking at 480 calories per cup with 360 from fat. That’s more than a meal! By using non-fat plain Greek yogurt you eliminate the fat and cut the calories by more than half at 140 calories. You won’t even taste the difference in this swap.

The Claim: Ground turkey in place of ground beef
The Verdict: IT DEPENDS
Why: Red meat is linked to heart disease, so it seems like a healthy choice to switch to ground turkey. However, you aren’t necessarily coming out ahead. A turkey burger ordered at a restaurant can have just as much fat as a regular burger. Why? Turkey breast is lean, but the dark meat is full of fat, which is often included in ground turkey. Although it’s a little pricier, you can purchase lean ground turkey at most supermarkets. If you prepare the lean version at home, you do save yourself a significant amount of fat and calories. 

The Claim: Sweet potato fries for French fries 
The Verdict: MYTH
Why: Fries are fries. Although sweet potatoes boast numerous health benefits—high in cancer-fighting beta-carotene, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals—once they are put in the fryer and covered in grease, you don’t come out ahead. In fact, sweet potato fries and regular fries have the same amount of calories.

The Claim: Soy milk in place of cow’s milk 
The Verdict: IT DEPENDS
Why: According to Columbia Health, one cup of cow’s milk provides adults with 8 grams of protein, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 30 percent of their calcium needs and 50 percent of vitamin B12 and riboflavin requirements. The amount of fat can vary. Many people are sensitive to lactose in milk, which isn’t present in soy milk. Soy milk, unfortified, has 7 grams of protein, 4 grams of carbohydrate, 4½ grams of fat, and no cholesterol. It doesn’t contain a lot vitamin B12 or calcium, but it’s sold fortified to include these nutrients. This substitute is a personal preference, just stay away from the flavored versions of soy milk to avoid added sugar. 

The Claim: Reduced-fat peanut butter for regular peanut butter
The Verdict: MYTH
Why: Peanut butter is high in monounsaturated fat, which can help lower cholesterol and reduce your risk for heart disease. It’s the kind of fat you want to be eating. Reduced-fat peanut butter replaces that good fat with processed sugars, which doesn’t do your body any good.

The Claim: Zucchini for noodles in lasagna 
The Verdict: FACT
Why: Fewer carbs, packed with vitamin A, and high in water content and fiber to keep you full, there’s no doubt that this healthy substitute is a great addition to your medical weight loss plan. Just slice the zucchini thin and layer like you would regular lasagna noodles, and you have comfort food at your fingertips.

Next Steps: 
Learn 7 reasons to eat Greek yogurt 
Find out the top healthy eating myths
Find a center near you to schedule a consultation with a CMWL physician



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