14 simple swaps to make your favourite dishes healthier

INSIDERThere are healthy alternatives for all your favourite comfort foods.

One of the hardest parts of dieting – or just making a healthier lifestyle change in general – is saying goodbye to all of your favourite comfort foods. Who wants to give up pasta, mashed potatoes, and all the yummy stuff you’ve been in love with since your mum made it for you as a kid?

But eating healthy doesn’t have to mean that you can never eat comfort food again. By using some of these hacks to swap out the most calorie, carb, and sugar-dense ingredients in your favourite recipes, you can still chow down and feel like you’ve made a healthier choice.

Use pumpkin in all of your baking instead of flour, oil, and eggs

ShutterstockPumpkin can be used in a lot of backing.

This hack sounds unreal, because how could it possibly work? But somehow, it does – and you don’t even necessarily have to love pumpkin to use this trick. As Very Well Fit points out, a box of chocolate cake mix plus canned pumpkin will yield yummy brownies that don’t even have a pumpkin taste. Love pumpkin? Try combining spice cake mix with canned pumpkin instead for a healthy treat that tastes just like a pumpkin latte.

Two words: cauliflower rice

AS Food Studio/ ShutterstockCauliflower can substitute all your favourite carb dishes.

There’s a reason why cauliflower rice has been so popular lately – it totally works as a substitute for all your favourite carb-y dishes. You can even make cauliflower fried rice. And thanks to what a moment this veggie is having, it’s easy to find riced cauliflower in almost any grocery store if you don’t feel like doing it yourself.

And mash your cauliflower instead of potatoes

Nataliya Arzamasova/ShutterstockMashed cauliflower is very similar to mashed potatoes but with much less calories.

Unfortunately, mashed potatoes and a healthy diet don’t always mix, especially if you’re the kind of person who loves to sit down with a giant bowl of buttery spuds as the main course. Instead, try mashing cauliflower for very similar results. You can even include a few real potatoes if you want a lighter dish but aren’t quite ready to make a huge change.

While we’re at it, use it for pizza crust, too

Is there anything cauliflower can’t do? Of course, there are tons of recipes out there that will walk you through making your own cauliflower pizza crust, but some grocery stores now sell frozen crust, too. Add your toppings and enjoy, knowing that you’re getting tons of veggies at the same time.

Substitute pasta with spaghetti squash

Flickr/Marco VechSpaghetti squash can replace any spaghetti.

If you haven’t tried spaghetti squash yet, you’re missing out. It’s fairly simple to make by roasting it in the oven, and it’s versatile enough to use in any pasta recipe you want, whether it’s the classic spaghetti and meatballs or even shrimp scampi.

Add butternut squash to your mac and cheese

Trader Joe’sAdding butternut squash to mac and cheese can cut out the need for heavy cream.

Mac and cheese is amazing, but it can be pretty unhealthy when eaten in large amounts – but it doesn’t have to be. By adding butternut squash to your favourite mac and cheese recipe, you’ll get an extra veggie kick and that creamy consistency without having to use heavy cream.

Swap your ground beef for ground turkey in recipes

flickr user PathWithPawsGround turkey is a better option than ground beef.

And that’s all you need to know. Whether you’re making chilli, tacos, sloppy Joes, or burgers, you can make your meal a bit lighter and healthier by using turkey, which tastes almost identical to ground beef. It’s an easy change to make without even really thinking about it.

Use zucchini or eggplant in place of noodles in lasagna

ShutterstockZucchini is a great swap for any type of lasagna noodles.

If you’re craving lasagna but trying to stick to a healthier lifestyle, this one is for you. Zucchini lasagna swaps out some of the pasta for thinly sliced zucchini, adding in veggies and flavour without compromising on taste.

Bake chicken instead of frying it

Oksana Shufrych/ShutterstockBacked chicken is tasty alternative to fried chicken.

Fried chicken is amazing, but it’s definitely not an every day kind of food. Fortunately, there are ways to get your crispy chicken in, and all you have to do is bake it instead. This baked chicken is almost like the real thing, but it uses cornflakes for the breading instead … and a lot less oil.

Pre-portion your meatloaf

AS Food studio/ShutterstockMake mini meatloaves to ensure you don’t overeat.

Even if you’re not down with swapping your beef for turkey in your meatloaf, cooking it in smaller portions can really help you out. By using a muffin pan, these mini-meatloaves are topped with cheese and will totally make you relive your childhood.

Don’t underestimate the power of chickpeas

Wikimedia commonsChickpeas can be a cookie dough base.

You can use chickpeas to make cookie dough – what more could you possibly need on a Friday night in? According to this recipe from Popsugar, combining chickpeas, agave, chocolate chips, vanilla, and peanut butter yields a low calorie and healthy imitation of cookie dough that might even be better than the real thing.

Swap out ice cream for frozen banana in a food processor

bigacis/ShutterstockBlended frozen bananas are very similar to ice cream.

Using a blender or food processor, you can blend frozen chopped banana pieces to create a yummy frozen banana treat that’s very similar to ice cream – and depending on your tastes, you can add in other ingredients like chocolate or Nutella to sweeten the deal. Plus, it’s totally dairy free.

Roast other veggies instead of potatoes for a similarly satisfying side dish

Flickr/SprogzRoasted veggies are a healthier side dish.

Even though roasted potatoes and french fries go well with practically any dish, they can actually be replaced by a few different veggies without sacrificing flavour. Instead, try roasting carrots, butternut squash, or sweet potatoes instead with a little olive oil and kosher salt.

Make your own ramen seasoning

ShutterstockMaking ramen seasoning from scratch is a good way to keep sodium low.

For some of us, ramen noodles are total comfort food, but eating processed food isn’t always the best idea. Instead, grab some noodles and instead make this ramen seasoning from scratch with the spices you have in your kitchen, minus all that extra sodium.

For more great stories, head to

INSIDER’s homepage


NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.