Here are a few easy ingredient swaps that can make your recipes significantly healthier.

Does changing the way you cook seem like a daunting undertaking? A few easy ingredient swaps could make your recipes significantly healthier. Following are some swaps that work well.

Fat Swaps
Fat is an essential nutrient, but it is important to choose the right kinds of fat and to cut fat calories where we can.
Avocado puree for butter. Both avocado puree and butter are fats, and they share the same creamy consistency, but avocados have far less saturated fat and fewer calories than butter. One-half cup of pureed avocado has 184 calories and just 2.4 grams of saturated fat compared to a half-cup of butter with 814 calories and 58 grams of saturated fat. The avocado puree also adds eight grams of fiber to your diet. This substitution works best in dark chocolate batters and frosting and usually can be substituted in equal amounts.
Fruit for oil or butter. Unsweetened applesauce, pureed prunes, pumpkin puree or mashed bananas can all be substituted for oil or butter in recipes. Start by replacing half the fat in the recipe with an equal amount of one of these fruits. This works especially well with boxed muffin and cake mixes.
Greek yogurt for sour cream or mayonnaise. Greek yogurt has half the fat and calories of sour cream with nearly identical taste and texture. Plus, the Greek yogurt offers an extra dose of lean protein. For a mayonnaise substitute, add some herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Sugar Swaps
Sugar doesn’t provide any essential nutrients and is a major contributor to extra calories. Cutting back on sugar and still satisfying our sweet tooth is a win-win.
Unsweetened applesauce for sugar. One cup of applesauce has about 100 calories, compared to 1 cup of sugar at 770 calories. Substitute cup for cup, but reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup.
Simply reduce the amount of sugar by half. This can be done in most recipes for baked goods. Adding cinnamon, vanilla or nutmeg can help intensify the sweetness so the missing sugar won’t be noticed. Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla for every two tablespoons of sugar you eliminate.
Frozen bananas for ice cream. This swap saves sugar and fat. Peel bananas and freeze until solid. Place in a food processor and blend until creamy. Add a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder if you want chocolate. This creamy frozen dessert can satisfy your craving for ice cream.

Carb Swaps
Carbs have an undeserved bad reputation. Although often blamed for weight gain, carbs are essential sources of energy. Choosing the right carbs will trim calories and add fiber to your diet, which helps fill you up.
Black beans for flour. Drain, rinse and puree a can of black beans and use them cup for cup in place of flour in brownie and cake recipes. This is a great way to add some extra protein and fiber.
Zucchini ribbons or spaghetti squash for pasta. Who couldn’t stand to add more vegetables to their diet? This substitute will save about 200 calories and 35 grams of carbs per cup.
Turnip or cauliflower mash for potatoes. This works as long as you don’t overdo the butter and milk you add for taste. Except for fewer carbs, the nutrient profiles for turnips and cauliflower aren’t significantly better than the potato’s.
Lettuce leaves for tortillas or bread. Wrap your sandwich fillings in lettuce leaves and save on carbs and calories, while sneaking in another vegetable serving.
Whole wheat flour for white. Substituting 7/8 of a cup of whole wheat flour for a cup of white flour will add some fiber to your recipe. Use whole wheat pastry flour for softer baked goods, such as cakes and muffins. degrees.
Anita Marlay, R.D., L.D., is a dietitian in the Cardiopulmonary Rehab department at Lake Regional Health System in Osage Beach, Mo.

Black Bean Brownies
Makes 12 brownies
1 1/2 cups black beans (one 15 oz can, drained and rinsed)
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup pure maple syrup or honey
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine everything but the chips in a food processor and blend until completely smooth. Stir in the chips, and then pour into a greased 8-inch square pan. Bake15-18 minutes, and let cool in pan at least 10 minutes. If brownies look undercooked, place them in the fridge to firm up.
Cut into 12 brownies.
Nutrition Information: 115 calories, 5.5 g fat, 15 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 2.5 g protein