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Food Bloggers’ Best Healthy Cooking Tips and Swaps … with Recipes!

Very Best Healthy Recipes Series: Part 1

~ Looking for the best healthy cooking tips, tricks and swaps? We’ve always got a lot up our own sleeves here at Two Healthy Kitchens, but we were curious about other bloggers’ favorite secrets, too. So we asked them … hundreds of them! And here’s what they had to say … ~

Collage of four recipe photos with text "Best Healthy Cooking Secrets ... with Recipes".

The best. Absolute favorite. Most loved. Bestedy-bestest.

That’s what we’re all about here at Two Healthy Kitchens – the very best final version of all our recipes, the very best ways to make recipes more healthy and also more delicious, the very best resources and tips and secrets for healthy cooking.

The best.

Sure, we’ve got our THK-favorites. But we were curious: what about other bloggers? What are their very best, most beloved, healthy recipes and secret strategies?

So … we just came right out and asked.

We asked literally hundreds of other food bloggers for their favorite, best, tip-top, bestedy-bestest. And we’re so excited to share their answers with you over the next few weeks! So much wonderful inspiration!

First up, this week: we asked those hundreds of fellow bloggers to tell us about their favorite healthy cooking tip, trick or swap … and to share a recipe that showcases it.

You’re gonna love what they had to say!

So many ideas that are perfectly in line with what we’re always doing here at THK, plus many more great suggestions and recipes that we’re dying to try … and we know you will be, too!

In no particular order, here we go … enjoy! (And try not to drool on your keyboard.)


#1 – Eat More Veggies

By far, this seemed to be the most common theme, woven through so many responses we received. And food bloggers are insanely creative in their strategies with veggies! From swapping in “zoodles” (you know … Zucchini + nOODLES = zoodles!), and that darling-of-the-moment (cauliflower), to simply amping up ingredient lists with more vegetables … the tips came pouring in!

One of the hottest, amp-up-the-veggies strategies right now is subbing in vegetables in place of pasta … like using spaghetti squash instead of spaghetti (because … well, they’ve both got that spaghetti-thang going on). Or using shaved or spiralized veggies like zucchini as your noodles – yup, seems like “zoodles” are everywhere these days!

We’re absolutely ga-ga over these four brilliant sub-in-the-veggies recipes (clockwise from top left):

Collage of 4 recipes using zoodles and other vegetables to replace pasta for healthy cooking.

Christine at Cook the Story pretty much hit the veggie-nail on the head when she told us, “We skip the meat a couple of times a week and make the vegetable and/or a healthy grain the star!” So easy, right? (And about those healthy grains … be sure to see tip #2 below …)

Christine continues, “To that veg or grain, we add a bit of decadence so that it’s not boring and so that everyone wants to dig in. In my meatless Italian Cauliflower and Quinoa Bake we have a lot of veg, healthy quinoa and then some oozey melted cheese to make it all come together.”

Mmmmmm … we hear ya, Christine! It’s hard to argue with this …

Baked casserole in glass dish on white background.

All in all, we think Kirsten from Farm Fresh Feasts sums Tip #1 up perfectly: “Get vegetables into your kitchen! Because once you’ve got healthy food (already paid for) in your kitchen, you have more incentive to figure out what to do with it, or you’re wasting your own money!” Brilliant, right? And so simple!

Kirsten shared her wonderful post, filled with lots of other great suggestions for wheedling in tons more veggies, plus her recipe for Roasted Celeriac and Potatoes, as a delicious example:

Closeup of cooked vegetables on blue-patterned plate.

And hey – if you’re loving this idea for pumping up nutrition, simply by adding in loads of veggies, you’ve found a home here at THK. It’s one of our favorite healthification strategies, too! We could go on and on listing recipes where we’ve used that very same technique, but here are just a few you’ve really gotta try (clockwise from top left):

Collage of three recipe photos showcasing eating tip of how to eat more vegetables.


#2 – Cook with More Whole Grains

Ok, this is another of our favorite little tips here at THK – there are just so many nutritional benefits to subbing in whole grains to replace white pasta, white rice and other less healthful choices. From more vitamins and micronutrients, to a big wallop of fiber, to better glycemic index profiles – whole grains are a quick, easy swap with big dividends!

Dara at Cookin’ Canuck had an awesome take on this, saying, “If I had a dollar for every healthy benefit that whole grains offer … well, I’d go out and buy more of them!” Yup – well played!

Here’s her recipe showcasing just how jaw-droppingly gorgeous that big nutritional wallop can really be: Hearty Mushroom, Farro & Ginger Soup (yeah … yum …)

Overhead of left half of orange-enameled soup pot full of cooked soup with wooden spoon dipping in.

Kevin over at the blog Kevin is Cooking swaps wheat berries in place of basmati rice, specifically for his better half, who suffers from Type 2 Diabetes, since wheat berries “are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolized and cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and, therefore, insulin levels.”

But wonderfully nutty, chewy wheat berries are a nutritionally fabulous sub even if you don’t have diabetes! Try Kevin’s recipe for Saffron and Orange Wheat Berries with Pomegranate and see for yourself …

Overhead of grain salad on gray-rimmed, white-scalloped plate with spoon, herbs and whole pomegranate at edges.

Want even more nutrient-rich, fiber-pumped, whole-grain inspiration? Here at THK, we’re bursting at the seams … from quinoa to freekeh to farro to whole wheat pasta … the list goes on and on! And we’ve written a couple of posts to help you get started. You’ll be cooking whole grains like a pro in no time …


#3 – Ditch the White Flour in Baked Goods

Now that we’ve got you on board with swapping out white rice and pastas in favor of more nutritious, whole-grain options, let’s talk about baking. White flour just doesn’t have the nutrition – the fiber, the protein, the micronutrients – that lots of other options offer. It’s one of the first places we look when we’re trying to amp up the healthfulness of baked goods.

Johlene at Flavours and Frosting offers a brilliant idea for this. She explains, “I love making my own flour with whole almonds like in my Homemade Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies.” Be sure to check these cookies out because (double-score!) they’ve even got honey instead of refined white sugar!)

Several cookies propped against a glass jar of milk.

Since baking is such a science, subbing out flour can be tricky at first, but it’s worth the effort. Start slowly, by swapping out just a quarter or maybe a third of the white flour in your favorite baking recipes, and gradually increasing from there.

Or, start with tried-and-true recipes … where someone else already did all the recalculating and testing for you! Here are some of our THK faves for cookies, muffins … even pancakes … that all feature nutritious whole grains … and are a fully-tested slam dunk, every time! (clockwise from top left):

Collage of three recipes (bar cookies, pancakes, muffins) that use whole grains for more nutrition.


#4 – Swap Avocado for Butter in Baking

Wait … what?!?!?

No, really, stick with us on this one for a sec!

Since we’re talking cookies and baking, now’s the perfect time for this crazy-awesome swap!

We’ve all been subbing things like applesauce and fruit purees into certain baked goods for years now. So, this isn’t really such a big leap at all, and Taylor over at Food Faith Fitness is a true healthifier extraordinaire (so, we were really intrigued to see which make-it-healthier strategy from her arsenal she chose to share with us as her fave)!

Taylor explains, “This recipe uses avocado as the fat, which contains the super heart-healthy mono and poly-unsaturated fat that is so key for our bodies to function.” And – yay, Taylor – she’s also cut out the processed white flour and subbed in whole wheat pastry flour! Bonus! (See the subbing whole grains tip, above.)

Still not convinced? She swears, “You know when you freshly bake a batch of cookies and they’ve got that pillowy-soft-fresh-from-the-oven thing goin’ on? These cookies keep that always. Even days after baking them, and letting your freezer do it’s worst. No joke.”

And you know we don’t joke about yumminess around here, friends. Give Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies a try! And then … mail us some … 🙂

Closeup of three cookies on small, square white plate with glass of milk and additional cookie in background.


5) Make Recipes Creamy-Dreamy … Without the Cream!

Sure, making sauces, casseroles, and even drinks wonderfully, lusciously creamy is super easy if you use cream, full-fat milk, even half-and-half.

But … with a little creativity, you don’t have to! We thought these much healthier ideas were deliciously fabulous!

Laney at Life is But a Dish explains, “You don’t need heavy cream to make soup silky smooth! Try using almond or coconut milk instead!” Works like a charm in her crazy-richly-creamy yet so-much-healthier Butternut Squash Soup:

Flatlay of tan-rimmed bowl of soup garnished with fresh herb, on blue, purple and orange patterned cloth.

And hey there, mac-and-cheese! You could use a little makeover, too, you fat-filled, comfort-food little devil!

We’re so impressed with how Sam at Pancake Warriors ingeniously used (wait for it … ) VEGGIES ( ahem … refer to trick #1, above!) to create the creamy, satisfying sauce for her Secretly Healthy Macaroni and Cheese. So smart! She says, “All of the flavor with none of the guilt! Seriously, this cheese sauce made me rethink everything I knew about macaroni and cheese.”

Well, ok then … how do you NOT give this one a shot?!?!

One orange ramekin of healthy mac and cheese on red and orange patterned napkin with forks, bowl of salad and second ramekin nearby.Kristy, who blogs over at The Wicked Noodle, gave us other great options. She suggested, “I use cottage cheese or tofu in smoothies. I also use tofu in creamy soups in place of cream.” Such simple swaps that add up to a big difference in the long run!

Check out these strategies in action in Kristy’s recipe for Creamy Summer Corn & Potato Chowder, and her beautiful Tropical Smoothie Recipe (3 Ways)

Two glasses of smoothie topped with little skewer of fruit, with banana, lime wedges and herbs on cutting board in background.


#6 – Bake Instead of Fry

French fries, fried fish, fried pickles … well, it’s right there in the name, isn’t it?!? “Fried”! And it’s gonna end up right in your arteries, too. But you can get all the crispy-crunchy texture you love without the frying! Simple and so much better for you!

Case in point: these scrumptious Za’atar Baked Onion Rings from Carla at Chocolate Moosey. Panko bread crumbs yield a big crunch, without the frying!

Several onion rings on turquoise plate with little bowl of dipping sauce.Mmmmmmm … and while you’ve got that oven fired up, you might want to try our own spin on healthier fries … Cheesy Oven-Baked Pizza Fries!

Oh, yes we did! And you should, too!

Baked pizza fries on platter, with one being lifted up.


#7 – Sub Greek Yogurt in Place of Butter, Oil and Mayo

Ahhhhhh … another of our THK-favorite strategies! Gotta love Greek yogurt! Thick and rich and tangy … and loaded with protein but not all that fat. No wonder so many bloggers said using Greek yogurt as a sub for naughtier, higher-fat ingredients was their favorite healthy cooking trick!

Christie at Food Done Light showcases this in her recipe for Thyme, Rosemary & Yogurt Marinated Turkey Breast:

Cooked chicken breast on square, lemon-printed plate with several rosemary sprigs and halved lemon.

And Ari at Ari’s Menu uses Greek yogurt in place of mayo in her Cranberry Apple Chicken Salad (just like we do in our own Healthy Chicken Salad with Grapes, Apples and Tarragon-Yogurt Dressing).

Ari promises, “No one will know the difference when there are other flavors hangin’ out in there.” We couldn’t agree more! This strategy is a must-try, and so is Ari’s chicken salad recipe …

Side view of chicken salad sandwich with top bread slid back so you can see filling.

We’ve got lots more Greek yogurt inspiration for you, too! From dips to salads, sweet to savory … here are just a few more ideas from our own blog (clockwise from top left):

Collage of four recipes that use Greek yogurt as a healthy eating swap to replace mayo.


#8 – Make Your Own Condiments

A surprisingly large number of the bloggers we polled said that one of their favorite healthy cooking strategies was making their own condiments and dressings. Makes sense, though, right?!?

When you make your own, you can totally control what goes in, and avoid the preservatives, fat, high-fructose corn syrup and soaring sodium levels that sometimes ride along inside those store-bought containers. As an added plus, making them yourself can often save money, too!

With these easy recipes for all sorts of condiments and dressings, making your own is a snap … and so very delicious! (clockwise from top left):

Collage of six recipes for homemade, healthy condiments in various jars and bottles.


#9 – Plan Ahead

What can save you from swerving into the McDonald’s drive-thru, glumly ordering a dinner that you really don’t feel good about serving up? Planning, friends … planning!

You know we’re always looking for ways to help you pre-plan for healthy eating success … with make-ahead tips, freezing instructions, and big-batch cooking ideas. So, we were thrilled to receive these great, save-the-BUSY!-day ideas from other bloggers, too!

As Sara over at The Organic Dietician says, “… a little thinking ahead can make a huge difference between fast food and real food. Keep your freezer full of already prepared meals, prepped recipe ingredients, and grocery staples.‪” She’s got a great post full of ingenious freezable meal ideas, plus this terrific recipe for (totally freezable!) Green Lentil Chili

Overhead of chili in white bowl on green scalloped plate, surrounded by colorful napkins.

Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean (a fellow Ohioan – shoutout on that one!) is in total agreement, and with her Freezer Chicken Tenders, which bake straight out of the freezer, you won’t need to head to the drive-thru … and your kiddos won’t want you to! Total win, even on busy nights! And so easy …

Flatlay of one tender being dredged in breadcrumbs, with blow of egg an baking sheet of raw, breaded tenders surrounding.

Mmmmmmm … and the great make-ahead recipes ideas just kept coming! We’ve been drooling over this super-easy Layered Chicken Enchilada Pie from Marjory at The Dinner Mom. (Psssst … this one’s doubly-awesome because it includes a Greek yogurt swap, too! Yep – tip #7 is woven right in, along with all the make-ahead convenience! Double bonus points for this one!)

One slice of enchilada pie on pea-green plate with fork, colorful napkin in background.


Whew! That’s gotta be enough healthy cooking inspiration to keep ya busy for at least the next week!

But don’t worry … we’ll be back next week with a brand-new healthy recipe! And we’re so excited to share more bloggers’ best recipes in this Best Healthy Recipes Series in the weeks to come.

So many more deliciously nutritious ideas we just can’t wait to tell you about!



    1. Thanks, Lori! We had so, so many wonderful submissions and suggestions from lots of terrific bloggers – it was a ton of fun reading through them all, but so hard to whittle the healthy tips and the corresponding recipes down to just a few to feature here! It’s incredible what fantastic ideas bloggers have! I guess that’s what happens when you pretty much think about food 24/7, right?!?! πŸ˜€

    1. I just love sneaky tips and tricks like that! It’s so easy to make delicious food when you can use as much butter, cream, sugar, etc. as you want, without caring a bit about nutrition. But I always think the real fun – the real challenge and reward – comes from perfecting ways of creating just-as-delicious recipes that are so much healthier, too! If you’d like – please feel free to pop back and leave a couple of links to some of your healthy soup recipes that use that technique – I’d love to have them here for my readers to find and hop over to your site to try them! πŸ˜€ ~Shelley

  1. Shelley thank you so much for including me here with so many amazing cooks and their delicious AND healthy recipes. I’m sitting here drinking my espresso and drooling for lunch and dinner with all of these great ideas! Your tips and suggestions are wonderful. Thanks again and have a fantastic day. πŸ™‚

    1. I’m was just thrilled to include your tip and your awesome recipe! I thought the story of how you created the recipe, so that Dave could enjoy it even with diabetes, was so sweet and something that a lot of my other readers would really appreciate and relate to. And honestly, as my son, Ty, was scrolling down through, proofreading the post for me, one of the recipes he specifically exclaimed over was your Wheat Berries! Yum! It’s so gorgeous and so bursting with great nutrition! Thanks a million for being a part of this post … and have a lovely weekend! πŸ˜€ ~Shelley

    1. You’re so welcome, Tracy! That ketchup recipe is so quick and easy – such a perfectly brilliant healthy cooking tip – I just had to include it! And I’m glad you liked the other tips, too! Have a fabulous weekend! πŸ˜€ ~Shelley

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