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Cooking substitutions to keep New Year’s diet resolutions

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

Eat smart to ditch those holiday pounds

The reason we always fail on our diet-related New Year's resolutions is simple — we're trying to force ourselves to eat food we don't like instead of making permanent behavioral changes we can stick to. Even if you can't get away without a hardcore diet, try these easy food substitutions to reduce calories in your favorite recipes.

Baked potato with yogurt topping

Did you know you can cut a lot of calories just by changing your shopping list? We've put together a list of some simple changes you can make to reduce your daily caloric intake without completely depriving yourself.

Sour cream

Any Tex-Mex or baked potato fanatic can't live without this tart, cream topper. But you could definitely live without the calories. Opt instead for nonfat plain yogurt, which has almost one-third the amount of calories per serving. No-fat yogurt is almost as good (though it does have a few more calories per serving), so that's also an option.

Either works especially well in flavorful dips. Experiment with different brands. Which one you prefer often depends on what it is you like about sour cream.

Ground beef

Ground beef is one of the most convenient go-to proteins when you've had a long day at work. It's versatile in that it can work in a variety of dishes with different flavor profiles. It's also got more than 200 calories in just 3 ounces! Even extra lean ground beef tops 200 calories. Vegetarian "beef" crumbles, on the other hand, have 75 percent fewer calories without sacrificing much flavor. Most recipes can be easily modified to use them.

They're supposed to be used in place of precooked beef, though, so in long-cook recipes, you may need raw meat. In that case, opt for ground turkey. It has more calories than the veggie crumbles, but a lot less than ground beef. Add a bit of Worcestershire to either the crumbles or the ground turkey to get a richer, meatier (more beef-like flavor). (Note: Ground chicken usually isn't a good substitute for beef.)

Eggs

While eggs aren't considered the danger food they once were, they are higher in fat when used whole. Substitute two egg whites for one whole egg in most recipes.

Oils & fats

When cooking, skip the oil for sauteing and go with cooking spray instead. If you have to use oil, use oils low in saturated and trans fats, like olive oil, safflower oil, peanut oil and corn oil.

If you're making a marinade, you can ditch any oil altogether and substitute chicken or vegetable stock. You can do the same for salad dressings by simply skipping on oil altogether and using flavored dressings.

When baking, fruit purees often make a good substitution for fatty ingredients. They'll change the texture of the final product, though, so you may need to reduce other liquids, too. Vegetable purees, on the other hand, can be used in place of fatty sandwich spreads or in casseroles instead of other binding ingredients.

MozzerallaCheese & Milk

You need the calcium from milk and cheese, but you don't need the extra calories. For milk, use skim, 1 percent or 2 percent versions instead of whole. You can also opt for soy milk, but you should know it doesn't contain any calcium, so supplements may be in order unless you get your calcium somewhere else.

For cheeses, opt for lower-fat cheeses, like part-skim mozzarella or feta. If a naturally lower-fat cheese won't do for your recipe, look for 2 percent milk cheese instead of most yellow cheeses. Substitute Neufchatel in place of cream cheese.

More food substitutions

In a pickle: What to do if you're out of eggs
Sweeteners that make you fat
10 Healthy recipe substitutions

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