In celebration of Labor Day and our American rights as workers, let’s let freedom ring — in the kitchen! Many of us follow recipes to a T, but it’s time to embrace creativity (and our personal health and wellness) and get playful with our traditional approach to cooking. In today’s recipe brainstorming article, we reveal tasty and creative ingredient swaps that will instantly power-up the nutrition and immunity-boosting properties of any meal. And all without sacrificing the flavor of your favorite dishes.

Swap This For This: Easy and Tasty Ingredient Substitutes to Make Any Meal Healthier

1. Unsweetened Yogurt Instead of Sour Cream

Whether you’re whipping together a veggie dip or celebrating Taco Tuesday, sour cream adds a delightful bit of creamy tartness to dips, dressings, soups, burritos, and other dishes. Unfortunately, sour cream is mostly saturated fat (of the 5.8 grams of fat in a serving of sour cream, 3 grams of it is saturated fat!). All this saturated fat may raise your levels of unhealthy LDL cholesterol.

Unsweetened yogurt adds that same creamy tartness, without all that saturated fat. Even better, it’s rich in protein and is high in probiotics that enhance your gut health and supports optimal digestion. Multiple studies have also found a strong link between your gut health and your immune health, making yogurt a great immunity booster to swap into any meal that calls for sour cream.

2. Nutritional Yeast Instead of Parmesan Cheese

Parmesan is great sprinkled on everything from pizza to salad to popcorn. But it’s also high in calories and may trigger a dairy reaction for those who are sensitive to milk products.

Nutritional yeast adds that same umami flavor as parmesan cheese, yet it’s dairy free (in fact, it’s completely vegan!). Nutritional yeast is very high in immune system-supporting nutrients like B1, B2 and B12, and it’s also a great source of important minerals like mangenese and zinc.  Studies have also found that it’s one of the best sources of glutathione and selenomethionine, two powerful antioxidants that may reduce your risks of cellular damage and even help your body detox from toxins.

3. Whole Food Sweeteners Instead of White Sugar

Excessive sugar intake suppresses your immune system, and the average American eats three times more sugar than the recommended amount. Instead of using refined white sugar, try natural sweeteners made from whole foods. Examples include:

  • Rapadura sugar (also known as unrefined non-centrifugal sugar)
  • Coconut palm sugar
  • Raw honey
  • Real maple syrup

While they still contain sugar, they’re also higher in antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins whereas refined white sugar is completely stripped of any nutritional value.

4. Fruit Instead of Butter

If your next dish or baking idea calls for butter or shortening, try reducing the amount you use with a fruit substitute. For example, prune puree, a mashed avocado, mashed bananas, or apple sauce can be swapped in for 1/3 to 1/2 of the amount of butter or shortening a recipe calls for.

It will keep the dish creamy and moist, while dramatically reducing the fat and calories in your dish. Plus, the fruit adds important fiber and immune system-enhancing antioxidants!