Cart Smarts: Can't go all-in on healthy foods? Try meeting your goals half-way

I was invited to speak at a local business last week for their employee wellness programming. My theme was simple swaps for better nutrition. I provided aisle-by-aisle trade-ups and included a special feature on holiday substitutions that would decrease calories but increase nutritional value.

I filled my display table with three baskets of foods from the grocery shelves and literally talked my way through the supermarket, pointing out healthy alternatives in each category. Although these seemed like "simple" swaps to me, I could sense a bit of hesitation from some of the attendees. After I finished explaining how to cook spaghetti squash and how you could serve it as a pasta substitute, I opened up for questions and comments.

"What if my family is resistant to change? I want to eat healthy but I am afraid my family wouldn't try some of these foods."

My solution was half and half — not the creamer, but the strategy of making half-substitutions in a recipe. I understand that it can be scary to jump from one extreme to another. So, if you or your families are interested in eating healthier but hesitant to make over your favorite recipes, here are some half-and-half substitutions to consider:

• Substitute whole-wheat flourin place of half the all-purpose flour called for in your baking recipes. Depending on the recipe, it may be better to use whole-wheat pastry flour specifically. If you are making banana bread, the standard whole-wheat flour will work great because you're expecting a dense texture. But if you're looking for a lighter texture in your favorite chocolate chip cookies, for example, then I would suggest substituting whole-wheat pastry flour instead.


• Combine spaghetti squash with spaghetti noodlesto introduce this new vegetable. This trick worked really well at my house. As you may recall, our first experience with spaghetti squash wasn't so successful with the kids. But, the second time I served it, I mixed those "yellow noodles" with real noodles, pasta sauce and meatballs — and the boys never knew the difference.

• Try boiling and mashing cauliflower with your potatoesif you want to lower the carbohydrate and calorie level. The cauliflower cooks quickly, so just add it in for the last five minutes or so. You won't notice a color or texture difference with this substitution and, with the half-and-half strategy, you won't notice a flavor difference in your mashed potatoes, either.

• Mix in extra-lean ground turkey breast with ground beeffor your favorite meatball recipe. This will cut down on saturated fat and calories, but won't get too dry.

• Stir beans into your taco meat mixtureto stretch the meat, increase dietary fiber and decrease fat. This works with either black beans or fat-free refried beans.

• Try nonfat plain Greek yogurt in place of mayonnaiseto decrease fat and calories. This trick works great in chicken salad.

• Substitute unsweetened applesauce for half the butter or oilin your baked goods. Applesauce measures cup-for-cup like oil and will save you more than 900 calories for each half-cup substitution.

Hopefully these examples help you understand the half-and-half strategy for recipe modification. I am including a recipe for a healthier pumpkin bread, featuring whole-wheat flour and unsweetened applesauce so you can put these tricks into practice.

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