Clever Recipe Substitutions and Switches for Healthier Summer Eating

We love to indulge our tastebuds in the Summer and the heat leaves us with less energy to cook healthy meals.  That combination can set us up for one big diet fail.  These easy recipe substitutions and switches can prevent seasonal sabotage over the Summer and throughout the year.

You’ll find clever ways to improve your Summer diet of burgers, hotdogs, wings, sauces, dips and desert. We even threw in a healthier potato salad recipe for your Instant Pot. Add some fresh produce for toppings and salads for a cool, vitamin-packed meal.

Substitutions for Healthier Summer Eating

DIY Buffalo Wings

One of the main ingredients in your favorite wing sauce is butter. The butter helps the sauce to thicken and gives it that velvety smooth consistency. To make your recipe healthier, opt for canola oil, safflower oil, extra virgin olive oil, or coconut oil instead of the butter.

You can skip the sauce entirely if you use a spicy dry rub instead. This lets you control the amount of sugar and sodium you put on the wings and you don’t need any fats at all to create the flavour you love. A dry rub is a concoction of spices that give the chicken wings flavor, without the added calories.

Wing Dip

Typically, wings are served with a side of bleu cheese dip, celery sticks and carrot sticks. Unfortunately, most pre-packaged bleu cheese dip is loaded with sugar. Make your own with a recipe that includes only a few basic ingredients, like crumbled bleu cheese, light sour cream or yogurt, and maybe some light mayonnaise. Double the amount of celery and carrots and enjoy a much healthier treat!


Hotdogs come in a variety of types and flavours. You can choose hotdogs made with beef, chicken, turkey, or pork, as well as vegetarian and vegan versions. Start by reading the label and choose the product with the healthiest ingredients.

There are a wide variety of different combinations of toppings that compliment hotdogs. For the healthiest toppings, choose vegetables like tomatoes, banana peppers and sauerkraut. Mashed pinto beans, diced onion, shredded leafy greens, mustard, and low-fat sour cream are also healthier choices for toppings.

Be careful with toppings like chilli, cheese, and ketchup as these may be loaded with fat and sugar. If you can’t get by without these fun toppings, cut back or use healthier varieties. For instance, instead of prepared chili, mash beans and sprinkle with chili powder. Mozzarella cheese is naturally lower in fat than regular sharp Cheddar. Make your own ketchup at home to control the sugar, or switch to a good mustard to skip the sugar entirely.

You can make a better version on corndogs too. Wrap the hotdog in a batter made of Panko Crumbs and and freeze-dried, minced onions. Bake them in the oven for a “corndog” that has all the crunchy texture, but none of the fat of a bun or batter. You can also replace the hot dog bun with tortilla wraps. A piece of whole wheat or multi-grain bread would be a healthier choice as well.

If you’re trying to duplicate fancy food truck hotdogs, have fresh diced tomatoes, jalapenos, sauerkraut, diced onions, and lots of mustard ready to top the hotdog with, no matter what you’re wrapping the hotdogs in.


Choose lean, top-grade meats or poultry to form the basis of your burger. Sneak some extra healthy ingredients into your burgers to boost the nutrition level, such as pureed leafy greens and fresh herbs. Mix in an egg and/or mashed beans for more protein and fiber, which also makes more burgers for a lower price.

Mexican Favourites

Refried beans are a Mexican staple, but not the most healthy choice. Change up the nutrition and flavours by using different kinds of beans. Black beans make a great substitute, whole or mashed, and will give your Mexican dishes wonderful texture and flavour without any frying at all. Other beans to try are pinto, cannellini, butter, great Northern, kidney, or navy beans.

Turkey or chicken are great for making tacos lighter and for added variety. Additionally, you have a whole array of seafood to choose from. Create fish or shrimp tacos using red cabbage, cilantro, and lime.

Tweak the usual Mexican fare with ingredients borrowed from other regions. Add a taste of the Caribbean with Jamaican jerk-seasoned chicken, covered in pineapple and mango salsa.

BBQ Sauce

If you’re making your own, always start out with the least amount of sugar and salt, then taste and add more if necessary. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much less sugar and salt you use when you do this. If you still crave the sweet taste, you can make the sauce a bit healthier by using a more natural product like a raw sugar, maple syrup or honey. Again, start small. Keep in mind that the salty taste increases as the sauce sits.

Barbecue sauce is surprisingly easy to make yourself, and it seems everyone who does it ends up declaring theirs as the best in the world. The basic ingredients are tomato sauce or paste, minced garlic, onion, sugar, salt, oil and little cayenne powder. For a dry rub, just leave out the tomato. By reducing some of the ingredients or deciding on more natural forms of them, you will be able to take back control of your diet while still enjoying the rich taste of barbecue.

Raw sea salt and a dash of seaweed powder will pack barbecue sauce with added minerals and vitamins. Barbecue sauce has a strong enough flavour to mask all sorts of healthy supplements or pureed veggies, if you’re so inclined.

Soya Sauce

If you don’t want to make your own healthier version of salty soya sauce, a decent alternative is Bragg Live Foods Soy Seasoning (liquid amino acids in the US). They have the same soya sauce taste with less sodium, and the amino acids are actually beneficial to your body. Amino acids help your body break down and absorb the nutrients from the foods you eat.

Healthier Potato Salad Instant Pot® Recipe

Healthier Potato Salad Instant Pot Recipe


3 lbs. small red potatoes, cleaned and quartered
3 large eggs
1 c. water

Dressing Ingredients:

1 c. plain Greek yogurt
2 large stalks celery, chopped
½ medium red onion, chopped
3 T. fresh dill, chopped
1 T. sugar-free Dijon mustard
1 T. apple cider vinegar
½ t. garlic powder
¼ t. turmeric powder
Sea salt & black pepper, to taste

½ t. paprika for garnish

Tip: For best results, use a steamer basket insert to keep potatoes and eggs out of the water. If you do not have one, use the trivet that comes with the Instant Pot® and cut the potatoes large enough to rest on top of it.


  1. Place a steamer basket inside your Instant Pot® and place potatoes and eggs inside. Add lid and lock into place. Switch the vent to “Sealing” and set the “Manual” setting to 4 minutes on high pressure.
  2. When cook time is complete, allow pressure to release naturally for 5 minutes, then manually release any remaining pressure. Place eggs in an ice bath for several minutes to cool.
  3. While the eggs and potatoes cook, prepare the dressing by combining the Greek yogurt, celery, red onion, dill, Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, and garlic powder in a large bowl. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Set aside.
  4. Chop the eggs and add to a large bowl along with the potatoes. Spoon the dressing on top and carefully stir to combine. Season with additional salt and black pepper and sprinkle with some paprika.
  5. Serve warm or cover and place in the refrigerator to chill before serving.

Apple Crisp (Crumble)

This healthy-sounding dessert can have a lot of hidden calories. Reduce the sugar content by eliminating that can of apple pie filling and replace it with fresh, ripe apples cut into wedges. For an even tastier creation, use a blend of apple varieties. You’ll find different tastes and textures in different apples. Plus, using a sweeter apple will allow you to reduce the sugar in your recipe even more. A generous sprinkle of cinnamon provides the classic flavour and it’s really good for you too.

??? Do you have any tips or tricks that make Summer healthier? Please share them in the comments below.

✔ You may also be interested in reading:
Low-Fat Substitutions for Butter (Infographic)
Light Turkey or Chicken Ranch Bake
The Big Guide to Planning and Building an Outdoor Kitchen


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Rose Anna

More food…less guilt…I’M IN! HAHA Thanks for the ideas but they made me hungry.


OMG……I SO failed at dieting this summer and now it’s almost time for the holidays!! Do you have anything for the holidays to save me from myself??? 😉 Keto is SO unforgiving!