101 Easy Ways to Make Recipes Healthier

You don't have to give up your favorite treats to stick to healthy recipes. Here are 101 quick and easy ways to cut calories and boost nutrients in your everyday dishes.

In a world of Whole30 meal plans and keto diet foods, it’s no wonder that making healthy recipes sometimes feels more complicated than your fifth grader’s math homework. Sure, eating clean and sticking to a stringent meal plan may work for some. But many of us need a little more wiggle room.

You can simplify healthy eating by making tweaks to the recipes you already love. Just one small change like adding kale to your morning smoothie or substituting mashed avocado for high-calorie mayo can make a healthy impact.

101 Tips for Making Healthy Recipes

  1. Serve taco ingredients over brown rice instead of taco shells for more fiber.

  2. Use zoodles instead of noodles to cut carbs and calories.

  3. Mix pureed carrot or sweet potato into your muffin batter to sneak extra nutrients into your breakfast.

  4. Try riced cauliflower instead of white rice to add nutrients and cut starch.

  5. Use ground turkey instead of ground beef to cut fat and keep the flavor.

  6. Use sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes for more nutrients and fewer calories.

  7. Saute your vegetables in olive oil instead of butter to cut saturated fat.

  8. Drizzle avocado oil instead of butter over popcorn for a hit of healthy fats. (Find it here.)

  9. Add nut butter to smoothies for healthy fats and protein.

  10. Add finely chopped vegetables to your meat loaf to cut down on the meat and add antioxidants.

  11. Used cooked cauliflower instead of noodles in mac and cheese to cut carbs and calories.

  12. Use mustard instead of mayo on sandwiches to cut fat and calories.

  13. Try an open-faced sandwich with one slice of bread to cut carbs and calories.

  14. Try a zucchini pizza crust to cut carbs and calories.

  15. Switch to sparkling water from soda to cut sugar and other additives.

  16. Snack on roasted nuts instead of chips to cut greasy calories.

  17. Switch to Greek yogurt for more protein to keep you full.

  18. Sprinkle cinnamon instead of sugar over treats for a broad range of health benefits.

  19. Opt for air-popped popcorn instead of a microwaved bag to cut calories and avoid preservatives. (Buy a microwaveable air popper here.)

  20. Snack on frozen, blended banana slices instead of ice cream to cut fat and calories.

  21. Use mashed avocado instead of mayo on sandwiches to add antioxidants and healthy fats.

  22. Spray olive oil spray in a pan instead of pouring from a bottle to cut back on fat and calories. (Find it here.)

  23. Use quinoa instead of rice for more protein and fiber.

  24. Top your pizza with veggies instead of pepperoni or sausage to cut back on fat and preservatives.

  25. Start your day with oatmeal instead of cereal for less sugar and more fiber.

  26. Use cauliflower to thicken soups to cut down on high-calorie cream.

  27. Top your oatmeal with fresh fruit instead of sugar for natural sweetness without the extra calories.

  28. Add pureed vegetables to your slow cooker chili for hearty flavor and nutrients.

  29. Try a hard-boiled egg instead of a fried egg to cut calories at breakfast.

  30. Enjoy an iced coffee with almond milk instead of a latte to cut sugar and calories.

  31. Use a lettuce wrap instead of a hamburger bun to slash carbs.

  32. Munch on baked kale chips instead of potato chips for an antioxidant-rich snack.

  33. Try a veggie burger instead of a beef burger for less fat and more nutrients.

  34. Top tacos with fresh salsa instead of cheese to add vitamins.

  35. Use nutritional yeast instead of Parmesan to add flavor without the calories. (Find it here.)

  36. Try a veggie tomato sauce instead of creamy Alfredo to nix fat and add vitamin C.

  37. Make your own salad dressing to cut fat and preservatives.

  38. Order thin-crust pizza instead of deep dish to keep the flavor and cut the carbs.

  39. Mix fresh fruit into plain (Greek) yogurt instead of buying flavored yogurt.

  40. Add peanut butter powder to a smoothie instead of peanut butter to add flavor without extra fat. (Find it here.)

  41. Dilute your fruit juice with water to enjoy juicy goodness without extra calories.

  42. Enjoy roasted chicken breast instead of dark meat for lean protein.

  43. Top chili with mashed avocado instead of sour cream for healthy fats.

  44. Use thin slices of zucchini instead of lasagna noodles to cut carbs.

  45. Start your day with an English muffin instead of a bagel to cut back on carbs.

  46. Make chicken salad with mashed avocado instead of mayo to add healthy fats and antioxidants.

  47. Fold fat-free plain Greek yogurt into guacamole to add creaminess and protein.

  48. Roast sweet potato fries instead of french fries for fewer carbs and calories.

  49. Snack on apple slices with cheese instead of crackers for more nutrients and fewer carbs.

  50. Use baked whole-wheat tortillas instead of tortilla chips for less fat.

  51. Mix pureed butternut squash into your mac and cheese to create a creamy sauce without extra cheese.

  52. Top your chili with radish slices instead of chips to decrease the fat but keep the crunch.

  53. Try quinoa pasta instead of regular noodles for increased fiber and protein. (Find it here.)

  54. Make lasagna with eggplant slices instead of noodles for more fiber and fewer carbs.

  55. Stuff your omelet with veggies instead of bacon to cut fat and add vitamins.

  56. Top pancakes with yogurt and nuts instead of syrup to add protein.

  57. Try mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes to cut carbs.

  58. Opt for turkey bacon instead of regular bacon to cut some major fat and calories.

  59. Snack on salted edamame instead of chips for more protein.

  60. Roast sliced carrots instead of french fries for more vitamins.

  61. Enjoy crunchy jicama slices instead of chips for less fat and sodium.

  62. Add mashed sweet potato to pancake batter for a naturally sweet taste without the sugar.

  63. Use homemade tomato sauce instead of store-bought jars to cut sugar.

  64. Toss up a spinach salad instead of iceberg lettuce to add more healthy nutrients.

  65. Add plant-based protein powder to your smoothie instead of whey to up the nutrients and cut the preservatives. (Find it here.)

  66. Sip green tea instead of an energy drink for tons of antioxidants without all the chemicals.

  67. Use cauliflower pizza crust to cut carbs and keep the crispy crust.

  68. Top your burrito with plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream for more protein and less fat.

  69. Snack on frozen grapes instead of popsicles to cut sugar and calories.

  70. Add mashed banana to your cookie recipe instead of eggs to cut the cholesterol.

  71. Bake with almond flour to add protein and healthy fats to your desserts. (Find it here.)

  72. Add torn kale leaves to your smoothie to increase fiber and antioxidants.

  73. Make Buffalo cauliflower bites instead of chicken wings to cut fat and calories.

  74. Mix pureed fruit into your French toast batter for extra sweetness and vitamins.

  75. Serve hummus instead of a creamy dip to add protein and fiber.

  76. Bake with applesauce instead of oil to add rich flavor without the extra fat.

  77. Used cooked lentils instead of ground beef to keep the texture and cut the fat.

  78. Add pureed cauliflower to scrambled eggs to add nutrients and cut back on cholesterol.

  79. Add minced mushrooms to your meatball recipe to add vitamins and minerals while cutting back on saturated fat.

  80. Add shredded veggies when making burgers to add flavor and cut back on fat and calories.

  81. Add frozen avocado to smoothies for healthy fats to keep you full.

  82. Dip your tortilla chips in guacamole instead of queso to cut saturated fat and add flavor.

  83. Use plain Greek yogurt instead of calorie-rich cream to thicken soups and stews.

  84. Bake with maple syrup instead of sugar to add natural sweetness without spiking your blood sugar.

  85. Serve pitted dates instead of caramels for dessert to cut sugar while keeping the caramel flavor. (Find them here.)

  86. Treat yourself to dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate to cut down on sugar and increase antioxidants.

  87. Sprinkle stevia over your oatmeal instead of sugar to cut calories. (Find it here.)

  88. Use mashed black beans instead of ground beef to make burgers for extra fiber and less fat.

  89. Add flaxseed to oatmeal or smoothies for an extra hit of healthy fats to keep you full all morning. (Find it here.)

  90. Add chia seeds to your morning smoothie for healthy fats and antioxidants. (Find them here.)

  91. Try a creamy almond milk latte instead of whole milk to cut saturated fat and calories.

  92. Add pureed vegetables to your lasagna sauce for extra nutrients that no one will notice.

  93. Add canned pumpkin to your bowl of oatmeal for extra nutrients and rich fall flavor.

  94. Add mashed black beans to your brownies for extra fiber and protein.
  95. Use cauliflower puree when making chicken or tuna salad to cut down on calorie-rich mayo.

  96. Use portobello mushroom caps instead of pizza crust for a low-carb treat.

  97. Mix mashed navy beans into creamy ranch dip to increase the fiber and protein while cutting fat.

  98. Add pureed butternut squash to cheese quesadillas to add vitamins and minerals.

  99. Mix mashed chickpeas into chocolate chip cookie dough to cut back on butter and add fiber.

  100. Use cauliflower to make low-carb breadsticks.

  101. Use mashed banana and eggs to make pancakes to cut carbs and add protein.

See? It doesn’t take much to health-ify your recipes! Keep a list of the most helpful reminders on your refrigerator, so you remember to reach for the Greek yogurt instead of cream, or add vegetables to every dish you make.

If you loved these tips, check out these healthy weeknight dinner recipes to get more ideas for nutritious meals.

Your Favorite Comfort Foods, Lightened Up
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Carrie Madormo, RN
Now a freelance health and food writer, Carrie worked as a nurse for over a decade. When she isn't hunched over her laptop with a baby in hand, you will find her cooking her grandmother’s recipes, lacing up her running shoes or sipping coffee in the bathroom to hide from her three young children.