Recipe and Meal-Planning Tips

The Physicians Committee
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Food for Life

Recipe and Meal-Planning Tips

Here are some suggestions on how to modify some of your family’s traditional recipes into more healthful fare.

Oil Alternatives:

Sautéing: Water or vegetable broth 

Baking: Apple sauce or any variety of mashed beans can be used in place of oil, using a 1:1 ratio. Black beans are easily camouflaged into brownies and white beans into banana bread, as examples.

Egg Substitutes:
There are many great-tasting alternatives to eggs that will not change the texture or flavor of your favorite dish. In baking, eggs typically act as binders and help to hold ingredients together. The foods below are substitutes that can act in a similar way. Many egg substitutes used for baking, such as banana and applesauce, may be already available in your kitchen. You can also buy commercially available egg-replacement products.

Egg Replacements for cooking/baking: 
If a recipe calls for just one or two eggs, you can often just skip them. Add two extra tablespoons of water or aquafaba (the liquid found in canned beans) for each egg eliminated to balance out the moisture content of the product. Other suggestions include chia and flax seeds, oat flour, or oats.

1 egg is equal to the following replacements:

  • 1/4 cup of tofu blended (any kind) with the liquid ingredients in the recipe. Reduced-fat tofu cuts down on the fat and calories in the recipe
  • 1/2 mashed banana
  • 1/4 cup applesauce or pureed fruit
  • 1/2 cup soy or rice yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed meal + 3 tablespoons water + 1 tablespoon mild flavored cooking oil + 1 teaspoon low sodium baking powder + 1 teaspoon tapioca or potato starch or corn starch.
  • 1/4 cup mashed white potatoes or sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoon potato starch, cornstarch, or arrowroot
  • 2-3 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup cooked oats
  • 2-3 tablespoons of bread crumbs
  • 2-3 tablespoons of flour

Dairy Substitutes:
Many dairy substitutes can be used in recipes without any additional measurement modifications.

Commercial nondairy products vary in taste, and you will probably find that there are some varieties that you like and some that you don’t like. There are many great brands out on the market, so never give up. You can get nondairy milk products now made from seeds, nuts, grains, and legumes. Here are some easy ways that you can substitute for dairy products in cooking and baking.

Butter: Can be easily replaced by dairy-free nonhydrogenated margarine, applesauce, nut butters, or hummus for cooking, baking, or spreading.

Milk: Try soy, rice, almond, cashew, oat, and hemp milk. These are all excellent replacements to cow’s milk and are often fortified with vitamins, and calcium. There are dozens of brands available at the store and they all taste different, so don’t give up until you find the one that's right for you. You can also make your own (see recipes below).

Creams: Almond milk (or any nut milk), soy milk, coconut milk, mashed potato, pureed garbanzo beans, pureed tofu, nondairy sour cream, soy whip cream, and soy creamer are great replacements for cream in desserts, soups, and baked goods. See below recipes for different homemade nondairy cream sauces.

Cheese: Cheese, including cream cheese, can be replaced by soy-, rice-, and nut-based cheeses or nutritional yeast. Unfortunately, many commercial brands still contain milk proteins such as casein and whey. Or spread a fresh avocado on your bagel instead!

  • Ricotta cheese: Blend firm tofu (drained) with a squeeze of lemon. This tastes great in lasagna!
  • Parmesan cheese: You can buy commercially available brands or use nutritional yeast!

Meat Substitutes:

Veggie burgers, can be homemade from veggies, beans, leftover rice, and other grains (see garbanzo burger recipe). You can buy commercial brands of both soy- and grain-based vegetarian burgers.

Tempeh, made from fermented soybeans, has a distinct flavor and meaty texture, which can be used in place of ground meat, and works well in curries, chilis, and stir-fries.

Seitan, made from wheat gluten, has a meaty flavor and texture especially well-suited for shaping into roasts or for replacing strips or chunks of meat in recipes such as fajitas, stews, or stir-fries. Seitan can be purchased ready-made or in easy-to-make packaged mixes (see recipe).

Portobello mushrooms have a meaty texture and savory flavor, especially after being marinated in low-fat dressing and then grilled or heated in a frying pan. Use portobello mushrooms as “burgers” at your next barbecue or to fill the meat layer in your lasagna.

Tofu, a curd made from soybeans, is mild in taste and easily absorbs the flavor of any recipe. Soft tofu works well in soups, sauces, and desserts, and firmer varieties work well in stir-fries and other recipes requiring tofu to hold its shape. For a denser texture, freeze tofu, thaw, and squeeze out excess water before using it in your recipe.

Textured vegetable protein (TVP), made of defatted soybeans, provides a meat-like taste and texture and can substitute for ground meat in a variety of dishes. “Veggie ground round” can also easily replace ground meat.