More than one person this summer has asked about better choices when it comes to those cold coffee milkshake-like beverages that you see many people happily slurping away on hot, humid days.My answer has been the same each time: If you’re in the mood for one, have it and enjoy it, but perhaps make it a small one and forgo the added whipped cream and toppings.Some of those drinks, depending on the size, can pack as many as 640 calories — something you may want to avoid having daily if you’re trying to shed some weight. Or else count on throwing in some added exercise time to counterbalance that craving.Calories in vs. calories out.It made me think of a woman who wrote to me not long ago, asking why she felt she wasn’t losing weight as quickly as she wanted to despite eating healthy food more often than not and having oatmeal “every day.” Granted, she admitted, if it wasn’t oatmeal for breakfast, she would have several oatmeal cookies in the afternoon — but oatmeal is oatmeal, no?Um, no, not quite. I couldn’t help but chuckle at that one.But I thought we’d look at substitutions a little more closely, and who better to know than someone who’s written a new book on the very subject?Susan Irby, also known as the Bikini Chef, recently wrote Substitute Yourself Skinny (Adams Media, $21.99).The book is dedicated to cutting calories while keeping foods flavourful. The secret, she says, is in the substitutions.When I spoke to her from her home in California last week, she said it’s not about diets anymore, but rather lifestyle changes.“It’s so important to bust that diet thinking,” she said. “People who diet think they can’t have this or they can’t have that, and they live a life of deprivation,” she said.“It’s like one of the lines in the film The Devil Wears Prada where one of the characters says she only ate a cube of cheese — you can eat a lot more than that!Irby, who was born and raised in the Southern U.S. and loves southern cooking, never had weight issues until not so long ago.“I was kind of in a funk,” she said, “and I packed on close to 30 pounds, which was difficult for me since I was always used to being lean and fit.”Irby set about losing the weight, which in part led her to write the book. “I wanted to lose the extra weight but still enjoy some of my favourite foods.”Irby said there are people for and against calorie counting, but we all know if you’re trying to lose weight, you have to start with cutting calories.“Unfortunately, people also think that healthy food can be boring and dull, but that’s not the case. … Your taste buds have to be satisfied too,” she laughed.Irby canvassed friends and family for their favourite foods and — lasagna to be among the top picks.In her recipe, she cut 308 calories -the original recipe simply by using the leanest ground beef available (better yet, use lean ground turkey, she says), and skipping the top layer of noodles and replacing high-fat cheese with non-fat ricotta and cottage cheese.Irby says people should stop thinking negatively about non-fat foods.’You can take a bland, boring non-fat mayonnaise, for example, and kick it up a notch simply by adding fresh herbs and citrus zest to it,” which adds flavour but not fat. The same goes for non-fat yogourt. “Add orange or lemon zest to it; it changes it completely.”Irby is also a fan of replacing sugar with things like applesauce and fresh pineapple or prunes, which add sweetness naturally.I asked Irby for her favourite recipe in the book. She had several, but her molten chocolate cake was at the top of the list.“Who doesn’t love chocolate?” she laughed. “In this case, you can have your cake and eat it, too.”Smitten for Molten Chocolate CakeServes 8The original recipe had 451 calories per serving; this one has 191. Cutting back slightly on the amount of whipping cream and using fewer eggs are great ways to maintain flavour and texture without sacrificing the consistency of this dessert favourite.6 tablespoons (90 mL) butter, plus extra for greasing4 ounces (125 g) semi-sweet chocolate2 tablespoons (30 mL) whipping cream2 tablespoons (30 mL) plain flour1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla extract2 eggs2 egg yolks2 tablespoons (30 mL) powdered sugarPreheat oven to 400F (200C). Lightly grease eight ramekins or custard cups with butter.In the top of a double boiler, combine the butter and chocolate, and heat until both are melted. Stir gently to combine. Stir in the whipping cream. Add the flour. Gently stir to combine.In a medium-size mixing bowl, beat together the vanilla, eggs, egg yolks and sugar until well combined and the mixture is thickened, about eight minutes, Using a rubber spatula, fold one-third of the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture until well blended. Repeat until all is combined.Pour equal amounts of the mixture into each ramekin, filling about three-quarters full. Bake for seven to eight minutes until the edges are set and the centre is jiggly.Note: If you’re a certified personal trainer, I’d like to hear about your philosophies regarding diet and exercise, since everyone has their own theories on the subject. We’re thinking of spotlighting trainers in my column every once in a while, so let me hear your thoughts.—Some useful tips from Susan Irby- Both non-fat plain and non-fat vanilla yogourts are at the top of my list of fave substitutions! Skip the mayo in your favourite salads like tuna salad, chicken salad, and creamy mayonnaise-style dressings. A little dollop of yogourt will do it, and perk up flavour by grating a little fresh lemon zest into your dish.- Enjoy cream sauces without the cream! Substitute equal parts non-fat milk and non-fat sour cream for heavy whipping cream in your favourite creamy pastas for all the flavour and none of the guilt.- All-beef burgers are delicious; however, beef can be high in fat. Substitute leaner ground turkey for burgers, meat sauces and meat loaf. If you don’t want to go cold “turkey,” use half lean ground beef and half ground turkey to start and still reduce your fat and calorie intake. Then work up to the all-turkey burger!- Whole-wheat flour helps digest proteins and fats through your body. When making muffins, scones and breads, use half whole-wheat flour and half white flour to increase the fibre in your diet without going “all-wheat.”- Our bodies need carbs. Get natural carbs from fruits and vegetables like apples and portobello mushrooms. For sandwiches and burgers, skip the bun and use meaty portobellos as your “bun.” Not only are they flavourful, they keep you slim and trim at less than 20 calories each and less than one gram of fat! An added benefit is they pack in fibre so you feel totally satisfied.