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A Guide to "Healthifying" your Family Recipes

Updated: May 12, 2021

Around the holidays, it can be hard to avoid breaking your usual nutritional habits. Especially when it comes to delicious (but unhealthy) family recipes!

And while sometimes the splurge is well worth it, we’ve compiled a list of ways you can make simple changes to make make your old recipes delicious and nutritious!

Reducing amounts:

  • Fat- The fats in baked goods, like butter, shortening, or oil, can be reduced to only ½ the normal amount. Substitute the other half with unsweetened apple sauce or mashed bananas!

  • Sugar- You can cut the sugar by one-third or one-half without sacrificing flavor! Especially if you add in other spices like cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg!

  • Salt- Most dishes can retain their flavor with half or no salt. In baked goods that don’t require yeast, you can remove the salt altogether.

Healthy Substitutions:

  • Flour- If you’re trying to turn recipes gluten-free, try using an alternative flour. But keep in mind alternative flours will alter the taste and texture of some recipes. Below is a list of alternative flours and when to use them:

    • Buckwheat- despite the name, yes- it is gluten-free; buckwheat is good for crepes, pancakes, and yeast bread

    • Millet flour- with a slightly nutty flavor, it’s good for all baking, especially pancakes and waffles.

    • Sorghum flour- this flour is close to the texture and taste of wheat flour, good for all baking needs.

    • Black beans- beans are best to use in chocolate-based baked goods, to mask the flavor of the beans.

    • Coconut flour- more absorbent than other alternative flours, coconut flours can maintain the fluffiness of traditional gluten baked goods. However, this flour should be mixed with other types of flour or the amount should be lowered by 2/3 or 3/4 as it does fall apart on its own.

    • Almond flour- while lower-carb and full of nutrients, almond flour can be sweeter than regular flour. This flour is great for pie crusts, muffins, and other baked goods.


  • Milk- If you’re trying to turn your recipes dairy or milk-free, try using alternative milk. But, keep in mind that alternative milk will alter the taste and texture of some recipes. Below is a list of alternative milks:

    • Nut milk- almond, pistachio, or a different kind of nut milk can be substituted for equal amounts of regular milk. However, it will add a nutty flavor, so choose flavors that mesh well will nuts.

    • Oat milk- oat milk is much starchier than cow’s milk, so using more than 1/2 cup may affect the texture.

    • Rice milk- an equal amount of rice milk can be swapped for cow’s milk. Just be sure to avoid sweetened rice milk.

  • Sugar- To lower the sugar content in your recipes, try an alternative to granulated, white sugar. These natural substitutions can offer fewer calories and may contain some minerals.

    • Brown sugar- brown sugar can be used as a 1:1 substitution for granulated sugar. It may alter the flavor and make it more caramelly, but will also make the texture softer and moister.

    • Agave- to substitute agave in your baking recipe, reduce the requested amount by 1/4.

    • Bananas- mashed bananas can be substitutes in many baking recipes, so use half the requested amount.

    • Coconut sugar- coconut sugar can be used as a 1:1 substitution for granulated sugar. However, it will change the texture and make it less moist and more crumbly.

    • Honey- for every cup of granulated sugar, use half or two-thirds cup of honey and reduce the liquid in the recipe by one-fourth cup. Honey will provide a more floral sweetness.

    • Maple Syrup- for every 1 cup of sugar, use three-fourths of maple syrup and reduce the liquid in the recipe by one-fourth cup.

For a comprehensive list of healthy substitutions, click here!

Transforming a Johnson Family Recipe:

One of Dr. Johnson’s favorite family traditions is cooking sweet potato biscuits on holiday mornings. While delicious, the original recipe is also high in gluten and sugar content. Here’s how we would transform it:

  • 2.5 cups flour → replace with 1 cup coconut flour and 1.5 cup almond flour

  • 3.5 tsp baking powder

  • 2 tsp salt → lower the salt to only 1 tsp

  • 5 tbsp shortening → replace with 5 tbsp butter (or coconut oil)

  • 2 cup sweet potato

  • 3/4 cup sugar → lower the amount of sugar to 1/2 cup

With these easy substitutions, the fluffy, flavorful taste of the biscuits will be maintained while also being lower in calories and fat content with no gluten!

Keep in mind that while following a healthy diet and lifestyle is key to staying on your journey to optimal health, keep in mind that it's okay to stray every once and a while! Just make sure you enjoy the foods you eat and use the healthiest, organic ingredients possible!


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