Do Healthy Substitutes Stack Up In Flavor?

You've seen the charts making the rounds on Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr listing healthy substitutes for fatty — but delicious — ingredients. Some seem pretty obvious, such as using applesauce rather than sugar, but other substitutions, such as using avocado in lieu of butter, not so much.

Avoiding heavy cream and sugar means saving about a bajillion calories and will go a long way toward keeping those arteries unclogged, but does it mean sacrificing taste? I decided to put some of these healthy alternatives to the taste test.

Applesauce for sugar

Cut the sugar you use in some of your favorite baked treats in half, and combine ½ cup with ¾ cup of sugar-free applesauce. I tried this with my chocolate chip banana bread recipe and even left out the vanilla extract, since applesauce is such a wet ingredient. My bread was moist, and I felt significantly less guilty about throwing in those chocolate chips.

Avocado for butter

Avocado instead of butter. Surely you jest, you may say, and I certainly thought my friend was kidding when she told me about it. She recently informed me that she tried chocolate mousse prepared with avocado. After I was done scrunching my face into its finest "Gross!" expression, she assured me she could not detect the avocado and wasn't told until after she delighted in the rich, chocolaty results.

Yogurt for cream

It certainly feels like everyone is using plain Greek yogurt as a substitute for lots of fattier ingredients, so it's not surprising that some people are using it in lieu of heavy cream. Heavy cream makes for some very tasty soups, chief among them butternut squash and tomato Cheddar. You don't have to give up your favorite fall soups anymore. I was skeptical about using Greek yogurt and wondered if it might result in a tart soup that lost its punch. But I tried it out with my tomato Cheddar soup and was pleased with the creamy, flavorful results. What I did lose was that underlying sweetness you get with heavy cream, but I didn't miss it, nor did I miss the many calories.

Evaporated milk for cream

Want to avoid using heavy cream but don't have plain Greek yogurt on hand? No problem. A can of fat-free evaporated milk and a couple of tablespoons of flour will do just nicely. I tried it out for my vegetarian Italian sweet sausage pasta dish that calls for a white creamy sauce. The sauce's texture was not affected in the least, nor did it overwhelm the combination of flavors of the other ingredients, which included garlic, oregano, basil, and onion, along with the vegetarian Italian sweet sausage. (Hey, don't knock it 'til you've tried it!)

— Vivian Gomez, HellaWella


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