Dietitian Recipe Substitutions and Tricks

These dietitian-recommended tips will help you transform recipes into something healthy.


By Linzy Ziegelbaum


As a dietitian, I love to look at recipes and find ways to make them healthier. Sometimes I make a substitution in a recipe to save calories, and other times I make a substitution to add nutrients. When a client has a food allergy, I also try to change recipes to make them free from that allergen.

Here are some of my favorite recipe substitutions:


Substitute a banana 1:1 for butter or oil in baked goods.

Bananas are a good source of potassium, B6, manganese, vitamin C, biotin and copper. By replacing butter or oil with mashed banana, you will add vitamins and minerals to your baked goods while saving on both fat and calories. Adding mashed banana will also increase sweetness to your recipe allowing you to cut back on sugar and save even more calories.


Substitute pumpkin puree 1:1 for the eggs and oil in boxed brownie mixes.

This is such an easy trick that will add fiber, vitamin A, vitamin K, iron, manganese, and potassium to the brownies while decreasing the calories and fat content.

Flax eggs

Substitute ground flax seeds for eggs, as ground flax seeds can be made into an egg replacement.

To make 1 flax egg combine 1 tablespoon of flaxseed with 2.5 tablespoons of water and let sit for 5 minutes. This is great trick for anyone with egg allergies, or anyone looking to reap the benefits of flax seeds. Ground flaxseeds are a good source of fiber and plant based omega 3 fatty acids.

Greek Yogurt

Plain Greek yogurt can be used in place of sour cream for baking, and also in dip recipes. I also like to use Greek yogurt as a base for fish marinades, and as a baked sweet potato topping. This substitution will save you calories and fat.


Oats are a great substitute for bread crumbs! I recommend using gluten free oats in place of breadcrumbs for those with gluten intolerance. You can grind the oats up to resemble breadcrumbs, or you can use them in their original form. My favorite way to use oats in place of breadcrumbs is in meatball recipes. This is an easy way to increase the fiber content of meatballs!


Use avocado in place of mayonnaise in your favorite mayonnaise containing recipes. I prefer to use avocados instead of mayonnaise because mayonnaise often contains preservatives and extra ingredients. When compared to mayonnaise, the same amount of avocado is lower in calories, fat, sodium and cholesterol.

My favorite way to use this substitution is to replace avocado for mayonnaise in tuna salad. I like to add red pepper flakes to my tuna salad with the avocado spice it up.

When using substitutions in recipes, I recommend experimenting and using one substitution at a time. For example, if substituting an egg for ground flaxseeds, don’t also try substituting a banana instead of an egg. Once you try the recipe with the flax egg, next time maybe try using the banana too.

Linzy Ziegelbaum, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and owner of the private practice LNZnutrition LLC. She provides nutrition counseling and education to clients of all ages with many nutrition needs. Linzy enjoys sharing her love and nutrition expertise with others through counseling, her LNZnutrition blog and social media pages, including Facebook and Instagram.

Main Photo Credit: Signe Leth/; Second Photo Credit: Paulo Vilela/; Third Photo Credit: id-art/; Fourth Photo Credit: Larisa Blinova/

May 17, 2017

Great and very helpful article!!! I sub coconut oil in my desert recipes with applesauce!!! 🍎🍎

Jun 6, 2017

I went out for breakfast and showed the chef this picture. He made it for me. A real head turner and do healthy when you cut the bread out and half the bananas and 1/4 the avocado.

Jun 9, 2017

That looks really good

Aug 5, 2017

Banana on toast normally scares me but this looks good