Wooden spoons full of various herbs and spices.

Modifying a recipe can feel daunting if you aren’t a seasoned chef, but put your worry aside: Many of your favorite everyday recipes are more like guidelines than rules. Changing them to fit your lifestyle isn’t only allowed — it’s encouraged. And we’re here to help teach you how to modify a recipe to make it healthier. Once you make a few swaps, you’ll have the confidence to cook in a way that makes sense for your dietary choices.

Here are five easy and healthy swaps we love.

Use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream or mayo

High-protein, low-fat plain Greek yogurt is such a versatile ingredient that you’ll want to have it on hand 24/7. If it’s something you buy regularly for smoothies or to eat with granola and berries, it can save you from having to buy sour cream or mayonnaise for a new recipe.

Greek yogurt has the tang of sour cream and the richness of mayonnaise, so it fits in easily as a substitute for either ingredient in dips, dressings and even marinades. You can sub it in for mayo in dishes like egg salad and even add it into baked goods, such as a sour cream pound cake.

Replace your starches with cauliflower

There’s a reason you might be seeing cauliflower pop up in just about everything. This versatile and healthy vegetable can moonlight as a substitute for rice or be pureed to have the starring role in mashed potatoes thanks to its creamy consistency. Fresh cauliflower can sometimes be more expensive than potatoes or rice, but if you plan ahead, you can cut costs in other areas of your meal by shopping smart (more on this later).

Amp up the herbs to decrease the salt

Salt can certainly enhance the flavor of food, but too much salt can be hard on your heart health and blood pressure. Amp up the flavor by reducing the salt and adding in more herbs (fresh or dried both work). This swap is up to you based on what you like and have available.

  • Basil always works great with tomato-based dishes.
  • Try rosemary with potatoes and poultry.
  • Cayenne or árbol chile is great wherever you need a little kick.

This is a great way to use what you have lingering in that spice cabinet — and who knows? You may come up with a new twist to your favorite dish in the process.

Cut down on fat by using applesauce instead of oil

If you’re a baker who’s wondering how to modify a recipe to make it healthier, try swapping in applesauce instead of oil for desserts or muffins. This tip can often be found on the side of brownie or cake mixes. The swap is generally a 1:1 ratio, which makes it easy. Use unsweetened applesauce to avoid adding too much sugar into your already sweet baked goods.

Use mushrooms instead of meat

Mushrooms are a great way to add meatiness to a dish while cutting down on the actual meat, which is often high in fat. You can swap mushrooms in entirely, or modify a recipe to be a meat/mushroom mix. For example, use a portabella mushroom cap instead of a hamburger patty, or use a half-portion of mushrooms/half-portion of meat in a once-meat-laden lasagna.

Keep an eye out for portabellas, shitake and king oyster mushrooms in the produce section of your local grocery store, as they work best for meat-based swaps.

Plan ahead to keep costs down

Unfortunately, making a recipe healthier sometimes means purchasing a more expensive ingredient. As mentioned, cauliflower costs more than rice. Mushrooms can be more expensive than certain types of red meat per pound. And we all know how pricey the spices and herbs aisle is.

While you likely won’t find mega sales or coupons on fresh produce or spices, you can find coupons for the other categories of your shopping list. So, check if there are offers on our website that match up with your list before you go to the store. You might find deals on beverages, snacks or that Greek yogurt we mentioned so you can balance out the increased spending you might be doing in the produce section.

With a bit of planning ahead, mindful shopping and creative cooking, you can make mealtime healthier, and with limited added cost. That’s a win-win in our book.