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Substitutions for Cream Cheese

Cream cheese is a common addition to bagels, English muffins, and even toast--unfortunately, it is loaded with fat and calories. Why not try to choose a spread that is just as delicious as cream cheese but is much healthier? Below are three great alternatives to cream cheese that pack a flavor punch without the added fat and calories.

Hummus

While hummus doesn't have the same taste as cream cheese, it makes a great alternative when spread on warm bagels or English muffins. In addition, while cream cheese contains lots of fat and calories that are guaranteed to make your weight sky-rocket, hummus is actually pretty healthy. It typically is made from garbanzo or pinto beans, which are good sources of protein. It also contains less fat than traditional protein sources like beef and chicken.

While hummus does contain some fat, it is a "healthy" fat which actually is helpful in the treatment and prevention of heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. In order to have the healthiest hummus available, why not make it yourself? Simply combine pinto or garbanzo beans with extra virgin olive oil and a dash of salt--and don't forget to put in some basil, rosemary, or thyme for an added flavor booster.

Greek Yogurt

Yogurt will provide you with a flavor and texture that is more similar to that of cream cheese. In order to make your yogurt seem even more like cream cheese, drain it before use. Do this by placing a clean, dry cheesecloth over a large bowl and spooning the yogurt into the cheesecloth. Let the yogurt sit overnight. By the next morning, most of the moisture will have drained out, and you will be left with a product that is thicker and more spreadable. You can add chopped onions, shallots, and even carrots to mimic garden cream cheese, or simply try it plain.

Tofu

Tofu is a great product because it really has almost no taste. Therefore, it can be altered to produce the taste of whatever dish you are trying to prepare. Before you begin to cook with tofu, you must first understand how it is sold. Typically, tofu is sold in a variety of textures ranging from "soft" to "extra hard." For a cream cheese substitute, you will most likely want to choose a variety of tofu that is on the softer side. Strain the tofu in the same method described above for yogurt, and place in a clean bowl. When working with tofu, it is essential to remember that if you do not season the product, it will have no taste at all. Therefore, it is essential to add herbs, spices, and other flavoring in produce the taste you desire. If you are using a seasoning packet, try to find one that is low in added salt and preservatives in order to achieve optimal results.

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