What comes to mind when you hear the term “healthy eating?” Raw vegetables? Tiny portions? Bland, flavorless food? No wonder the idea of changing your diet for the better is often so unappealing. The good news is that with a little thought and some creative, healthy recipe substitutions, anyone can improve the way they eat and have fun doing it!

If you’re focused on putting more vitamins and nutrients into your body and less fat, salt, sugar and cholesterol, consider these five favorite healthy kitchen swaps.

Squash Pasta

Anyone who loves pasta knows how hard it is to live without. It turns out squash is a secret healthy ingredient substitute that makes the perfect swap for carb-loaded pasta. Next time you crave a bowl of linguini Bolognese, use thinly sliced ribbons of zucchini to sop up that savory meat sauce. The appropriately named spaghetti squash is also an excellent substitute for traditional pasta capable of tantalizing your taste buds while reducing your calorie intake.

Applesauce Sweetener

Sugar typically tops the list of ingredients begging for a healthy kitchen swap. It contains no necessary nutrients, can contribute to serious health conditions like fatty liver and diabetes and rots your teeth. Applesauce does a fantastic job standing in for sugar, especially when baking confections such as muffins and cupcakes. You get less fat, calories and cholesterol because applesauce not only subs for sugar but also butter, eggs and oil.

Fruit Soda

Consider this: Drinking a can of soda is roughly the sugar equivalent of eating a candy bar. If eating candy every day or all day long sounds crazy to you, then so should drinking sugary sodas. Instead, try squeezing a generous amount of fresh fruit — citrus works great — into carbonated water as a healthy recipe substitution that’s far more interesting and refreshing.

Avocado Spread

If you’re a fan of sandwiches, wraps or even toast and bagels, avocado is a healthy ingredient substitute for mayo, butter and oil that tastes even better. Try brightening up your next meal with some fresh, creamy avocado spread across your bread, tortilla or pita. Yes, avocado is high in cholesterol, but it’s the good kind that can help lower your bad cholesterol count.

Banana Ice Cream

Virtually every ingredient found in ice cream is on the danger list for diet-conscious people. Instead of a dessert loaded with sugar, cream and eggs, try a healthy kitchen swap by mashing and freezing sweet bananas. It’s a simple one-ingredient recipe that can be further enhanced by adding fresh berries or even a little chocolate — if you’ve been good — for a cold treat that truly satisfies.

That’s our favorite healthy ingredient substitutes. If you’re thinking of eating out in the Naples, Florida area and looking for a restaurant with plenty of delicious and healthy options, visit the USS Nemo online and check out our lunch and dinner menus.