10 Things That Can Go Wrong With Healthy Food Substitutions

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. | Oct 31, 2017

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Many of you will be hosting family and friends this holiday season. Most likely, you will need to plan menus around food allergies or intolerances. But accommodating your guests’ dietary needs isn’t as simple as swapping ingredients in your favorite recipes. Read on to see what can go wrong with recipe replacements.

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Egg replacer

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Egg replacer can seem heaven-sent for the approximately .2 to 7 percent of people who are allergic to eggs. Egg replacer often comes as a powder and is usually made up of potato starch and tapioca flour. Because my son was intolerant of eggs for over a decade, I frequently used egg replacer. I was grateful it was available. However, while it can be a great substitution for eggs in baking, it lacks the right consistency for omelets or quiche.

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Almond milk for dairy milk

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Non-dairy milks such as almond milk have been increasing in popularity. However, processed almond milk can contain a high amount of sweeteners and can change the flavor of a recipe, especially if you are going for a more savory taste.

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Honey for sugar

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Honey and sugar are both made up of a combination of glucose and fructose. Honey has a higher calorie count than sugar per tablespoon. According to the Arizona Cooperative Extension, changes to a recipe must be made if honey is used. They recommend using 1 part honey for every 1 1/4 parts sugar. Also, add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for every cup of honey used, since honey can increase the browning of baked goods.

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Stevia for sugar

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Stevia is a naturally sweet sugar alternative derived from a perennial shrub that is native to Brazil and Paraguay. Different companies make stevia and their products can vary. According to the Cleveland Clinic, stevia is 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar, so if you’re using it as a substitute in baked goods, be sure to make modifications.

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Coconut oil for peanut oil

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Allergies to peanuts are becoming more common, so avoiding peanut oil in cooking and baking is a good idea. Coconut oil can be a great substitute. However, depending on the temperature that the coconut oil was stored, it can be either a liquid or a solid. If you are substituting the oil for butter and the coconut oil is solid, you can do a 1:1 substitution. If the oil is solid, and the recipe calls for a liquid measure, microwave the coconut oil for 20 seconds before measuring.

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Avocado puree for butter

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Avocados are known as one of Mother Nature’s superfoods because they are nutrient dense and contain good fats. Avocados can also be used for baking instead of butter. However, before you change all your holiday cookie recipes to include avocado instead of butter, remember that avocados are green and not everyone will enjoy a green dessert. Even in this amazing tasting brownie recipe, you can still see flecks of green in the brownies which is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Brownie Recipe

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (melt first before measuring)
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • (if the mix is too dry, add a splash of milk)

Grease an 8x8-inch baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour in mix and bake about 25 minutes.

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Gluten-free pizza crust for regular pizza crust

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It is unbelievable how many choices there are for gluten-free pizza crusts now compared to 10 years ago. Because my son was gluten free for over a decade, I know that not all gluten-free crusts are created equal. If you are unfamiliar with which one to buy, ask someone who is gluten free. The crusts come premade and as a mix. The mixes can be delicious, but can be stickier and more difficult to get to rise than regular pizza crusts. You may want to buy one for practice before depending on it.

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Brown rice for white rice

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Brown rice contains all the parts of the grain, which is why brown rice is sometimes preferred to white rice. However, brown rice can take longer to cook, so check the package directions. Also, you may need to add more water to brown rice compared to cooking white rice. White rice can also be fluffier when cooked, and therefore soak up the juices of a dish better than the denser brown rice.

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Spaghetti squash for pasta

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Squash is loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. This explains all the rage over substituting spaghetti squash for pasta. There are several things to consider if you are planning to make a substitution. First, is that if you are cooking for children, remember not all kids like squash, even if it is shaped like noodles. Also remember that in order to make spaghetti squash, you need to roast the squash close to an hour, compared to cooking regular spaghetti for 8-10 minutes.

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Almond butter for peanut butter

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Almond butter can make a relatively easy substitution for peanut butter. This is especially important if you are hosting children who may have a peanut allergy. Keep in mind that almond butter may be hard to find and you may have to look in a large grocery store or a health food store. Also, it can be expensive. It is not uncommon to pay 8-10 dollars for a 15 oz. jar.

NEXT: 10 Things to Know About Food Allergies in the Classroom