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10 Food Substitutions to Get Bikini Ready

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Bikini season is just around the corner! There's still time to get in top bikini shape, and what tastier way than with these easy, simple, and delicious substitutions. Great tasting food doesn't have to be bland, boring, and flavorless. As the Bikini Chef, my food philosophy is fresh, fresh, fresh. Fresh citrus, fresh herbs, fresh natural ingredients that wake up your taste buds, are pleasing to your palette, and give you the satisfying flavors your body craves. In fact, most people love the lower calorie, lower fat substitutions once they've tried them and have gotten past their fear of trying what they perceive will be tasteless food. The best part to these substitutions, besides achieving your bikini goal, is that they are simple substitutions you can make every day. Easy, affordable, and flavorful, these simple tips will help you stay in bikini shape all year long.

1. Using ½ wheat flour and ½ plain flour will make your scones more bikini-friendly, but adding fresh wild raspberries, blueberries, or blackberries will also liven up the flavor, wake up the color, and give a fresh, flavorful twist to an otherwise boring biscuit.

2. Cream sauces and creamy soups get most of their creaminess from fat- and calorie-laden heavy whipping cream. Use ½ nonfat milk and ½ nonfat sour cream instead for the same creamy texture without the unwanted creamy fat that will sabotage your bikini body.

3. Eggs vs egg whites. Some people go the extreme and swear off eggs forever, using only egg whites. However, using only egg whites can get expensive, and eggs are necessary as a binding agent for many recipes. For breakfast, use 2 egg whites for every one egg for a leaner, lighter breakfast, and when baking or making dishes such as burgers, use ½ whole eggs and ½ egg whites to keep the texture but save on calories, fat, and cholesterol. As a side note, the majority of protein in eggs comes from the egg whites, not the yolk, making them a deliciously healthy option all around.

4. Cut back on the beef. If you crave a hamburger, make your own lighter, leaner version by using ½ lean ground beef and ½ lean ground turkey. You'll find you sacrifice nothing on flavor or texture, but save yourself plenty on fat and calories. Enjoy these leaner burgers as smaller sliders for lunch, dinner, or for tasty bites at summer pool parties.

5. Nonfat vanilla yogurt is a delicious substitution for mayonnaise. Use as a healthy substitution in chicken salad, tuna salad, and dipping sauces such as aioli. It is very flavorful and naturally creamy so you don't need to use a lot of it.

6. Cut the cheese. Skip the cheese altogether, but if you must have cheese, go for lower fat versions such as reduced fat cream cheese, reduced fat Monterey jack, reduced fat feta. If you must have your full fat versions, opt for freshly grated parmesan or parmiggiano reggiano and cut back on the amount you use. Fresh, good quality cheese such as this has great flavor, so a little goes a long way.

7. Add a little citrus. The rind, or zest, of lemons, oranges, and limes is edible and adds a refreshing flavor to steamed or grilled vegetables, sauces, meat dishes, practically everything. Cut back on salt, which causes bloating, and add a little fine grate citrus zest for tons of flavor with no fat or calories.

8. Most people love crispy bacon, but it adds loads of fat and calories that are often an afterthought for many dishes. If you must have crisp bacon crumbles on your salads or even for breakfast, use leaner turkey bacon instead. It has great flavor and crisps nicely like traditional full fat bacon. Or, better yet, skip the bacon all together. If you are having a luscious salad, add fresh, crisp asparagus tips or diced fresh zucchini. For breakfast, substitute crispy no-sugar added bran cereal or fresh berries. Pass on the bacon, it's just not worth it.

9. Watch out for sugary pasta sauces and dipping sauces. Sugar has empty calories that add up quickly. Instead, use freshly diced tomatoes with a little freshly chopped basil leaves or cilantro leaves. Add a hint of lemon zest, drizzle of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil (½ tablespoon each) and finish with a small pinch of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Toss with pasta such as penne or fettuccini or serve with baked wonton crisps.

10. Wonton wrappers are perfect as crispy crackers instead of crostini and tortilla chips. Buy the squares and cut into triangles. Brush lightly with olive oil and bake in a 225º oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until crisp and golden. Top with salsa, serve with chicken salad or other dips as you would crostini and chips. As a bonus, they are inexpensive, and unused wonton wrappers keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.

© 2010 Chef Susan Irby, author of Substitute Yourself Skinny: Cut the Calories, Keep the Flavor with Hundreds of Simple Substitutions!