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Substitutes for Vegetable Oil and Other Healthy Eating Alternatives

substitutes for vegetable oil

Refined vegetable oils are controversial in the food world, with a recent study published in the BMJ raising questions about the overall healthiness of vegetable oils. So for many people looking to eat healthier, finding substitutes for vegetable oil is at the top of their list.

Here are a few vegetable oil alternatives that you can try in your recipes, plus advice on healthy food substitutes that can help you to reduce your intake of artificial sugars and salt.

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Substitutes for vegetable oil

While oils aren’t a food group, they still provide our bodies with some essential nutrients. You can use them to prepare foods or make salad dressings and other sauces. However, not all oils are created equal. According to Healthy Eating Politics, refined vegetable oils like canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil and more are made with mechanical and chemical processes. The final products not only lack nutrients, but they also oxidize easily, which makes them more likely to break down into cancer-causing free radicals in the body, according to the National Cancer Institute.

In addition, most refined vegetable oils are also hydrogenated. This process further destroys nutrients and creates trans fatty acids, which the American Heart Association says can increase your risk for heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes when consumed in excess. To benefit your body, try adding a vegetable oil substitute to your diet. Olive oil is an antioxidant-rich alternative that’s great for baking breads and preparing sauces, marinades and more.

Here are some ways you can swap out highly processed and refined vegetable oils for nutritious alternatives, courtesy of

Applesauce and bananas

If a recipe calls for 1 cup of vegetable oil, replace it with ¾ to 1 cup of applesauce or mashed bananas. This swap is best used for baking. Not only are applesauce and bananas high in vitamins, they’re low in calories and fat.

Plain or vanilla low-fat yogurt

Try replacing 1 cup of vegetable oil with 1 cup of plain or vanilla low-fat yogurt. This is also best used in baking recipes. Yogurt is packed with fatty lipids and good bacteria that aids in digestion.

Olive oil

Replace 1 cup of vegetable oil with 1 cup of olive oil. This switch is best used when preparing pastas, sauces, salad dressings and marinades. Olive oil is rich in antioxidants and monounsaturated fat.

substitutes for vegetable oil
Loading up on fresh fruits and vegetables will help trim sugar and salt from your diet.

Other healthy food substitutes

Replacing artificial sugars

When it comes to sweets, processed foods with added sugars offer little to no nutritional value. They increase the risk of obesity and contribute to various health problems, says the American Heart Association. That means the next time you’re out grocery shopping, try skipping the sodas, cookies and candies. You should even skip the fruit drinks, which can be loaded with added sugars. Instead, stock up on fresh fruits and veggies, which have naturally occurring sugars and plenty of additional vitamins and minerals. Fresh fruits like apples and strawberries make the perfect sweet snacks, and are loaded with vitamin C, potassium and other heart-healthy benefits.

Have a bit of a sweet tooth? Don’t worry, there’s still room for sugar in your life. The American Heart Association recommends using no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar (for women) and 9 teaspoons of sugar (for men) daily. That’s more than enough to sweeten a tea or add some flavor to a red sauce. Just remember, if you’re going to use sugar, make sure it’s the real thing. Try to avoid artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes.

Substitutes for high-sodium foods

Yes, salt is an essential nutrient for our bodies, but most Americans are getting way too much. Thanks to restaurant food and takeout, some of us are consuming more than two times the AHA recommended 1,500 mg of sodium a day. Just take a look at these top six surprising salty foods outlined by the American Heart Association.

So how do you get your sodium levels down? Cooking at home is a great way to start. It’s impossible to know just how much salt is going into the food you order at restaurants. Chances are you’re consuming way more sodium than you think. So start preparing your own meals. And here’s a quick tip: The next time you’re out grocery shopping, try to compare nutrition labels (especially when buying frozen or prepackaged meats and fish). Different brands may have different sodium content for the same product, some of which can send your sodium levels skyrocketing. Try to swap your usual choices for lower-sodium options.

When you’re making lifestyle changes, it’s best to start with small changes. And making a few healthy food substitutes each month is a great way to kick-start your journey. In no time you’ll have better eating habits, and a healthier and happier you!

Are there any healthy food substitutes that you swear by? Share them in the comments below!


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