Healthier Substitutions Made Simple

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By The Paula Deen Test Kitchen

Most of us wish we could be healthier, but sometimes it’s hard to make or find the right amounts of moderation for yourself and your family.  Here’s a set of guidelines to help you develop some healthy alternatives, so you can decide what works best for your palate, budget, and lifestyle. It’s not all about total deprivation, soy cheese, and compromised baking (though we may be better off cutting back on sweets).  These are mostly fast, easy changes, small adjustments you might even come to prefer.

Curb the Carbs
Rather than eliminate any particular food group from your diet, opt for moderation.  And when it comes to sugar, you will notice that the less you have it, the less you crave it!

1. Less bread: replace breadcrumbs with rolled oats, quinoa, wheat germ, or crushed bran cereal.  Swap croutons for nuts, ideally almonds, which have relatively low fat and high protein content.
2. Less potato: try cauliflower or turnips for mashers, sweet potatoes for fries (still sweet, but less sugar, more fiber and vitamins), or kale chips .
3. Less pasta: try forming carrots, zucchini, or other squash into thin ribbons on a mandolin.
4. Switch to unsweetened drinks (seltzer waters, even for cocktails, ice tea, coffee).
5. For the relentless sweet tooth, try using fresh fruit, purees, or other sweeteners such as honey, agave, Stevia, or Splenda, like in Magical Peanut Butter Cookies, or Apple Dumplings.

Trim the Fat
The best case is to eat less fat altogether, but as a general rule, the mono- and poly-unsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocados, and bananas are preferable to those in butter, red meat, and junk food products. Also, unless you make your own food, you may be consuming far more fat (and salt) than you think; this goes for anything from salad dressing to mac and cheese!

1. Buy olive oil or grapeseed oil.  Olive oil mayonnaise and cooking spray products are now widely available.
2. Tweak your egg and dairy choices by using egg whites or egg substitute, as in Paula’s Egg White Omelette.
3. Replace cheese, sour cream, and cream in sauces, fillings, dips and desserts with reduced fat yogurt, cottage cheese, and ricotta (other common lower fat cheese options include mozzarella, pecorino, feta and parmesan). Try this delicious Asparagus, Sausage and Arugula Pizza.
4. Get creative with your baking.  There’s lots of tricks involving butter replacement, but if you don’t feel like reading up on it, check out our many “Bobby’s Lighter” dessert recipes using Greek yogurt, reduced fat cream cheese, and evaporated skim milk or buttermilk, like his Lighter Gooey Butter Cake, or Blueberry Tart.

Swap meat
Choose skinless, white meat poultry or fish where possible, with dry-rubs or marinades if you’re missing flavor, and start to consider the veggie version (for quick veggie chili).

1. Try alternatives to hamburgers, steaks, or hot dogs, such as ground turkey, tofu, veggie patties, fish melts, or chicken burgers.
2. Bacon, tough one: turkey bacon is healthier, though die-hard bacon lovers may prefer substituting pancetta, lean prosciutto, Canadian bacon, or other lean smoked turkey or ham products.
3. For individual protein cuts, seek out local lean game meats like venison, bison, elk, or rabbit

Bring on the Produce
Eat fresh fruits and vegetables whenever you have a choice.  They have more flavor and retain more nutrients than canned ones, which often have added sugars like corn syrup, tons of extra sodium, and other chemicals, so frozen or dried are generally better than canned.

1. Make a filling, nutritious smoothie: throw some veggies (and your new best friend Greek yogurt) in the blender. Our favorites are Jack’s Favorite Smoothie and Good Morning Green Smoothie.
2. Combine fruit with frozen yogurt instead of ice cream with candy toppings:
3. Experiment with citrus and herb garnishes and sauces for guilt-free flavor bursts (and eye-popping presentation), such as with Avocado and Black Bean Salad.

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Reader Comments:


Love you Paula!!

By Cheryl Rhodey on November 29, 2013


YOUR ARE LOOKING VERY GOOD AND SO BEAUTIFUL I wish I had your strength to loose weight as I am a diabetic also. Love u

By Helen Lewis on April 23, 2013


Thank you Paula for all the information. I have been watching your show since you were at your producers house. I have several of your cook books and one day I hope to give one to my friend Georgann Baker to try and get it autographed. She has been on several of your cruises with you. You look wonderful after your weight loss, I am trying again but not having as much luck as I would like, but I will keep trying thats for sure.

By joanna shurzinske on September 16, 2012


Some substitutions are hard, others are easy, but after a while you start to get used to the changes. Our family used to drink sodas, and since cutting way back we can hardly finish one. It tastes too sweet now! But we love our taters!

By Hope @ Fairhope Supply Co. on September 10, 2012


I just finished making a fat free lemon cake. Topped with low fat cool whip. My husband needs to watch his food intake due to diabetes. I have just finished losing almost 30lbs. Fresh Veggies and I got off salt and sugar. Very harmful. Thinking clearer and reduced my cholesterol med's from 80mg to 20mg. Blood pressure 110/70. I am hot for my age. Thanks for your help getting us back on the right road to better health. Love Ya Paula. Katie Workman

By Katie Workman on September 06, 2012


Bonjour, je ne parle pas anglais mais pour lire des recettes en anglais un peu. Je me demandais où je peux trouver des livres de recettes de Paula Deen au Québec.J'ai trouvé aujourd'hui un bol à volants ( ruffle bowl )( acheté neuf et je n'ose pas dire le prix dans un magasin '' Village des Valeurs'') et il est très beau. Et j'ai eu l'email de Paula pour le petit collant qui était encore collé dessus.Ou si des personnes ont déjà fait de ses recettes et veulent me les patager, en m'indiquant ''recette de Paula''. Mon email est : Merci

By Pierrette Raymond on September 01, 2012



By SUE CAMPBELL on August 31, 2012


To the a.m. do you any kind of Tofu, dry soya beans receipies? Thanks

By yaffa on August 31, 2012


Paula I have been hoping you would come out with some recipes that will help all of us that have high blood sugar. Food is one thing that I know nothing about that keeps blood sugar at a reasonable level. Mine just get out of control and I can't find out why it is so high. I take insulin and other diebetic drugs watch my carb intake, no sugar, and still I have problems. I have read book after book after book and nothing that I have tried has helped. I love your shows and was wishing that you could help with some recipes with low carbs that will help. Thank you for all that you do and I'm so sorry that you have this monkey on your back also. God Bless.

By Janice on August 30, 2012


I'm 5ft tall and I'm asking the Lord to help me lose weight ! And I keep hearing where food is concerned,Find a more healthy food alternative! So, with God's help,I'm sseking more healthy options. For all foods! Thank you for your helpful information!

By June s. Wetzstein on August 30, 2012


There is no need to trim the fat! Geez! This is a MYTH! Fat is NOT UNHEALTHY unless it is the fake fats in vegetable, canola, soybean oil, etc. Animal fats are GOOD. Fish oils are GOOD. Oils from nuts and seeds are GOOD. Wheat, however, is TOXIC and should be avoided, along with all other grains, starches and sugars.

By Lissa on August 30, 2012


Paula, Love your weight loss, you're beautiful. Just wanted to let you in on something the doctor told us. Hubby has chronic pancreas disorder, so no fats. We have to use Canola Oil & Canola Spray for everything, as it has NO fat & olive oil does. I had bought olive oil and thought it was the better choice too!

By Mary Narramore on August 30, 2012


Hi Paula, I saw you on "the Chew" you look great and I read your book on your memories....great read. Your are an inspiration. Lois Thompson

By Lois Thompson on August 30, 2012


A note, studies have found that people who ate whole eggs instead of egg substitutes or egg whites raised their HDLs (good cholesterol) Folks, be sure you are reading up on things before starting substitutions, and talk to your Dr. a TV celeb is not who you should be getting health advice from even if she is a chef.

By Angelique on August 30, 2012

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Paula, I love watching you and your family. I miss seeing your show, I watched you everyday. My son lives in Charleston S.C. He took me to the Lady & Sons to eat. Oh my goodness! People are always telling me that I look just like the cooking lady Paula Deen. I always tell them that you are my hero. May God Bless You Mary Ann
Mary Ann Tharp in A Summer of Burgers on August 15, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Add a few spoonfuls of parmesan cheese to the flour and cornmeal breading and it kicks the tomatoes up another notch. Bev
in Crispy Fried Green Tomatoes on August 15, 2014 at 10:33 am

I just bought Paula's Peach Salad Dressing and wondered if anyone has a good recipe that they use it in?
Melissa in Taste Testing 101 on August 13, 2014 at 8:36 am

Congrats Bobby. Loved the family picture miss you Paula on TV will be watching online. Jack is getting big. Looks like his mom but Matt aka moose has your face. Your eyes cheeks hair even falls to his face like yours except to the left. Good luck on your next venture. You give us other 60+ yr women strength to move on. Keep up the good work.
Carol Bryant in Love at Last on August 11, 2014 at 6:12 pm