Wellness: Nutrition

Modifying Recipes for Better Health

Eating a healthy diet is one of the best ways to reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and obesity.

And modifying your favorite recipes is an easy way to go. Make them more nutritious and lower in fat by reducing high-fat ingredients or substituting healthier ingredients.

The following suggestions are designed to help you lighten up your recipes to improve your and your family's health and weight.

Cut fat and calories:

  • Reduce the amount of fat used in baked products by a quarter to a third. For example, if a cookie, quick bread, or muffin recipe calls for 1 cup of oil, use 2/3 cup instead.

  • Substitute half the oil in a recipe with an equal amount of applesauce. 

  • Substitute canola or olive oil for solid fats, such as shortening, lard, and butter. Use about a quarter less than the recipe calls for. For example, if a recipe calls for 1/4 cup of shortening or butter (4 tablespoons), use 3 tablespoons of oil instead.

  • Use plain low-fat or nonfat yogurt for sour cream. You also can substitute buttermilk or blended low-fat cottage cheese. This cuts 350 calories and 45 fat grams per cup.

  • Substitute skim milk or 1 percent milk instead of whole milk or half and half. Doing so cuts 200 calories and 25 grams of fat per cup if you were using half and half.

  • Cook with nonstick pans. It will reduce the amount of oil needed for cooking by half. Using a nonstick cooking spray in place of oil and butter provides further fat savings.

  • Cook with reduced-fat products. Try reduced-fat varieties of sausage, cream cheese, mozzarella and cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, and sour cream.

  • Use fewer egg yolks by substituting egg whites for one or more of the yolks. Egg whites are fat- and cholesterol-free. For instance, if you're scrambling three eggs, remove one of the yolks. Or use fat and cholesterol-free egg substitute.

  • Substitute cocoa powder for solid chocolate in recipes. To do so, use 3 level tablespoons of cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon of canola oil for each ounce of chocolate. This will not save you calories, but will change the fat from saturated to unsaturated.

  • Reduce sugar by a quarter to a third in baked goods and desserts. Add cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla to enhance the impression of sweetness.

  • Cook white- instead of dark-meat chicken. Substitute chicken breasts for thighs.

  • Make tuna salad and other tuna dishes with water-packed tuna instead of oil-packed.

  • Remove the skin from poultry. Trim all of the fat from beef, chicken, and pork.  

Add fiber:

  • Substitute whole wheat flour, oatmeal, or cornmeal for part of highly refined bleached flour when baking. Whole wheat flour can be substituted for up to half of all-purpose flour.

  • Add grated, sliced, or diced vegetables to soups, stews, and stir-fries.

  • Leave the skin on apples when making applesauce and on potatoes when making fried potatoes.

For salt-restricted diets:

  • Cut salt called for in recipes in half.

  • Use low-sodium soy sauce and chicken broth in recipes.

  • Drain liquid and rinse canned foods when cooking beans or vegetables.

  • Reduce the salt in cooking water.

  • Add herbs, spices, and citrus juice instead of salt.

Remember, recipes are merely suggestions of how to prepare dishes. In most cases you can cut amounts of high-fat, high-sodium ingredients by a quarter to a half with no noticeable difference in flavor or texture but with a big change in the benefits to your health.

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