Six Ingredient Swaps that Slash Calories

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Significantly lower calories with these clever ingredient swap.
What is your favorite lower-calorie ingredient swap? Try some of mine!

People frequently ask how I lost all my weight – and how I continue to keep it off. I tell them about my favorite apps that allow me to track my food and calories. And, I share with them about exercising. However, I often forget about one of my favorite weight loss hacks.

It’s pretty simple. I use lower calorie ingredients in place of higher calorie ones.  These six ingredient swaps are all substitutions that come so naturally to me that I forget to point out the change – so I do that with some of my recipes here.

Which is your favorite ingredient swap?

  1. Applesauce for sugar

    So, you’re doing some baking.  Do you know how many calories lurk in a cup of sugar?  770 calories!   One cup of unsweetened applesauce only has 100 calories.  For each cup of applesauce, decrease the overall recipe liquid by 1/4 cup.  This ingredient swap is a smart food substitution because applesauce also adds fiber and vitamin C.

  2. Agave for sugar

    Substituting applesauce for sugar is all well and good – unless you are a diabetic.  Many diabetics limit sugary fruits in their diets because it may cause unwanted blood sugar spikes.  Agave syrup has more calories tablespoon for tablespoon than sugar.  However, agave is sweeter than sugar, so you use less of it, consuming fewer calories in the process.

    Substitute 2/3 cup agave for each one cup sugar.  As with applesauce, reduce recipe liquids by 1/4 cup for each cup of sugar substituted. You won’t sacrifice sweetness, and you save 180 calories.  It’s not quite the calorie reduction that you get subbing applesauce, but this ingredient swap is low-glycemic.

  3. Marshmallow Fluff instead of frosting

    I use marshmallow fluff instead of melted marshmallows in my Rice Krispies treats as a vegetarian alternative.  You can also use it instead of frosting on cakes.  Add a few drops of your favorite flavoring extract (and possibly food coloring if you desire).  You just saved 30 calories and half the sugar per tablespoon!  Doesn’t this ingredient substitution feel intelligent?

  4. PBFit for traditional peanut butter

    substitute PBfit for peanut butterOf all the powdered peanut butter on the market, PBFit is my favorite.  I love the flavor.  Just add water to two tablespoons PBFit powder until it reaches the desired consistency. Traditional smooth peanut butter has about 190 calories in a two-tablespoon serving.  Whereas, PBFit only adds 55 calories.  PBFit is also higher in iron and vitamin C.  Oh, and did I mention? It’s all-natural!

    While a decent substitute in a classic PB&J, PBfit makes an excellent substitute for peanut butter in peanut sauces in dishes like my African Maafe Stew.  This lower-calorie ingredient swap changes the game!

  5. Mashed Bananas for Oils and Other Fats

    Substitute one cup of mashed overripe banana for one cup of oil.  Mashed bananas impart the same mouth-feel but slash calories!  One cup of oil adds 1,910 calories, while one cup of mashed bananas only adds 200.  Wowzers!  Not to mention, bananas add fiber and potassium!

    Check out my recipe for Nature Muffins in which I used a mashed over-ripe banana as an oil replacement.  This lower calorie food substitution saves money by minimizing food waste, too!

  6. Try one of these smart ingredient swaps to slash calories from your favorite recipes
    Try one of these smart ingredient swaps to slash calories from your favorite recipes

    Plain non-fat Greek yogurt for sour cream or mayonnaise

    Non-fat Greek yogurt makes an excellent low-calorie ingredient replacement for mayonnaise or sour cream.  The next time you make a dip or a soup recipe that calls for a dollop of sour cream, substitute plain nonfat greek yogurt.

    Mayonnaise and sour cream are both hefty contenders in the creamy condiment field.  Comparatively, mayonnaise adds 900 calories a cup.  One cup of sour cream adds over 400 calories. But, nonfat greek yogurt only adds about 120 calories for the same cup.  However, it matches sour cream’s calcium content, providing 25% of the RDA, and adds a whopping 20 grams of protein.  Sour cream cannot match that.  Not only does this sneaky ingredient swap slash calories, but it also adds a significant nutritional punch.

    Check out my Roasted Red Pepper soup recipe where I substitute yogurt for the sour cream!

Do you have any sneaky food swaps to share?  Which of these do you use?  Which will you try?

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Happily married to the love of my life. It's just us, our 5 cats, and our beautiful woods. I'm loving living back in the Florida panhandle being close to family. I love cooking, living a healthy lifestyle, taking care of our cozy home, and trying new things.

We enjoy hosting parties and my husband and I are both avid gamers. You can find me on PS4 as SunshineFlaGirl. We also play tabletop RPGs and eurogames.

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Alicia Taylor

Happily married to the love of my life. It’s just us, our 5 cats, and our beautiful woods. I’m loving living back in the Florida panhandle being close to family. I love cooking, living a healthy lifestyle, taking care of our cozy home, and trying new things.

We enjoy hosting parties and my husband and I are both avid gamers. You can find me on PS4 as SunshineFlaGirl. We also play tabletop RPGs and eurogames.


  • Leana Jay

    September 17, 2016 - 4:42 pm

    I’ve heard of using greek yogurt for substitue but the others are new to me. I would like to try the marshmallow fluff instead of frosting. Hey is there a recipe for marshmallow fluff as a cake frosting? That I would like to try.

  • NYC Tech Mommy

    September 17, 2016 - 12:31 pm

    Love ingredient swaps! Apple sauce is my favorite these days 🙂

  • milenabarrett

    September 17, 2016 - 7:09 am

    I’ve heard of a few of these especially the applesauce swap. I hadn’t heard or ever Fluff. I have seen it in the store and I’d like to try it!

  • Marisa Atwood

    September 16, 2016 - 10:07 pm

    I’ve tried all of these except substituting marshmallow fluff for frosting. I would have never thought of that, thanks!!

    • Alicia Taylor

      September 17, 2016 - 12:12 pm

      I don’t bake a lot of cakes, but it’s a calorie saver.

  • Cynthia

    September 16, 2016 - 9:06 pm

    These are some great ideas for swapping out calories. I do try to use applesauce, but have never thought about the other ideas you share.

  • Rebecca Bryant

    September 16, 2016 - 2:56 pm

    I knew about swapping apple sauce for oil but not sugar. my question is how can you reduce the calories of a box cake mix without losing flavor or moist texture?

    • Alicia Taylor

      September 16, 2016 - 3:28 pm

      On boxed cake mixes, you could sub the applesauce – or mashed banana – for the oil. That’s about the only suggestion I can think of for a boxed cake mix.

  • erinconefrey

    September 16, 2016 - 12:47 pm

    Great tips! I have used (and love) applesauce, bananas, and greek yogurt as healthy swaps! Yum! 🙂

  • diadarling3

    September 15, 2016 - 4:05 pm

    The one I have really been loving is the apple sauce swap. It’s like “Who new” also zoodles for traditional noodles.

    • Alicia Taylor

      September 16, 2016 - 4:53 pm

      Yes! I love zoodles. Several of my recipes use them – and cauliflower rice

  • caendicott

    September 15, 2016 - 8:53 am

    Greek Yogurt for mayo and sour cream. It will work for most things.

    • Alicia Taylor

      September 16, 2016 - 4:54 pm

      Yes – it will! It’s the perfect texture. Of course, it’s no substitute on a sandwich, but works great for dips, sauces, and soups.

  • Annemarie LeBlanc

    September 15, 2016 - 12:24 am

    Thanks for the information you’ve provided. I love the swap ideas, especially the one with using applesauce instead of sugar. I have not tried PBFit yet, and now I think I need to get them the next time I do my grocery shopping. We love peanut butter in this house, it is the extra fat and sugar we don’t need. 🙂

  • carrie@thelavenderhytta

    September 14, 2016 - 10:11 pm

    These are great substitutions! I have been thinking about trying to switch out the sugar with some homemade applesauce!

  • Valerie Gray (@valmg)

    September 14, 2016 - 9:17 pm

    I have used apple sauce instead of sugar on occasion. I like the flavor that it gives a little more than just using sugar.

  • Dana

    September 14, 2016 - 6:10 pm

    I tried PBFit years ago when it first came out and sadly, just couldn’t jump on the bandwagon. I know it’s been great for a lot of people, however. I am a tried and true natural peanut butter fan…

    • Alicia Taylor

      September 14, 2016 - 6:15 pm

      Honestly, I prefer it in my peanut sauces. I’m not a huge fan of PB&J’s, but PBFit is great for sauces. Have you tried any of the other powdered peanut butters?

  • More Than A Mom Of 3 (@MoreThanAMomOf3)

    September 14, 2016 - 5:52 pm

    I love these substitutes! I have to check out the PBFit I dont think I have seen that before, is it available at specific store?

    • Alicia Taylor

      September 14, 2016 - 6:08 pm

      I have found it at Sam’s in big jugs, but I think it’s also available at Walmart and Target.

  • Heidi

    September 14, 2016 - 4:18 pm

    I love to swap yogurt for sour cream, and sometimes I swap applesauce for oil in recipes. Thanks for more swap ideas!

    • Alicia Taylor

      September 14, 2016 - 4:20 pm

      Yep – Greek yogurt still has that zing – and maybe even more of it!

  • kage2015

    September 14, 2016 - 4:17 pm

    I use some of these substitutes. Peanut butter we will never change.

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