Do you have some favorite recipes that you have stopped making because they are too high in fat, sugar, sodium or calories? You can lighten up just about any recipe, at least a little. Following are some tips on what will and what won’t work when altering recipes.
Reduce the fat
When making baked goods, such as cakes or quick breads, applesauce or other fruit purees can be used in place of some or all of the fat. Start by replacing half the amount of oil, butter, margarine or shortening in a recipe with applesauce, mashed banana, prune puree or pumpkin. If you like the results, replace more of the fat the next time. This won’t work well with cookies, though. Instead, try just reducing the fat called for in the cookie recipe by 25 percent.
When choosing and preparing meat, lower the fat by choosing lean cuts, taking the skin off poultry, or just reducing the amount of meat in the recipe. Remember, a portion is 3 to 4 ounces of cooked meat per person. Examine your cooking methods to determine if you can cut out some fat. For example, use a nonstick pan and spray with a nonstick cooking spray instead of using oil or butter to sauté.
Choose low-fat dairy products as well. Instead of whole milk, substitute skim milk or 1 percent milk. Use reduced-fat cheese in your recipes, and cut back on the total amount of cheese you use. Stick with reduced-fat sour creams, cream cheeses and non-fat, plain yogurts, instead of their full-fat counterparts.
Reduce the sugar
Sugar has about 800 calories per cup. Therefore reducing sugar in recipes can be a good way to cut calories. If a recipe calls for one cup, you can usually reduce that to 3/4 cup or 2/3 cup in most baked goods without noticing a big difference. Sugar is necessary in baked goods, not just for sweetness but also to give them a moist, tender texture and promote that desirable golden-brown color. Reducing sugar may result in a lighter-colored product that is slightly less tender.
Don’t reduce the sugar if the recipe has yeast. Sugar is needed to make the yeast work properly. You also cannot reduce the sugar in candy recipes – they just won’t turn out right. Sugar substitutes like Splenda can be used in place of sugar, but be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions.
Reduce the sodium
Most of the sodium in our diet comes from foods that have already sodium added during processing. The best way to reduce sodium is to pay attention to food labels and avoid highly processed foods containing more than 300 mg sodium per serving.
There are some other things you can do, as well. For most recipes, you can reduce the salt in a recipe by half or eliminate it completely. You also can switch to low-sodium or reduced-sodium ingredients, like broths, bouillons, canned soups, canned vegetables or soy sauce. You can also reduce salt in baked goods with the exception of recipes that call for yeast. For those among you who home-can vegetables, you can reduce or even eliminate salt altogether.
Reduce portion sizes
Sometimes recipes just can’t be changed and still have satisfactory results. In this case, the one thing you can do to reduce calories is to limit the portions you eat. Also, it helps to prepare less so that there are fewer leftovers. Recently, I made my husband’s favorite birthday cake, German chocolate. Knowing that he wouldn’t be satisfied with a healthier version, I chose instead to make just one fourth of the recipe. I baked it in two 6-inch cake pans for a mini cake. This resulted in just a few pieces, so we didn’t have an entire large cake to deal with.
What’s the big deal about fiber? Fiber helps maintain the health of your GI tract. But, fiber also helps with weight control because high-fiber foods cause you to feel fuller with fewer calories.
You can add fiber to your recipes by using whole wheat pastas, flours, high-fiber cereals and whole grains, and by adding beans, nuts, seeds or fruits and vegetables. To substitute whole-wheat flour, start by replacing just 1/4 to 1/2 of the all-purpose flour in a recipe. If you don’t like the flavor or texture the whole-wheat flour imparts, you’re in luck. You can now buy white whole-wheat flour that has all the fiber and nutrition of traditional whole-wheat flour but is milder in flavor and lighter in texture. Whole-wheat pastry flour is an option, as well. It has a lighter, softer texture than regular whole-wheat flour and is good to use in cookies, cakes, muffins or pastries.
Little changes can really add up, especially if you consistently apply them in your recipes. Experiment with your own ideas to see what changes you can make.
Anita Marlay, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian and cardiac rehab dietitian at Lake Regional Health System in Osage Beach, Missouri, where she helps patients make lifestyle changes for heart health. She writes a weekly nutrition column for the Lake Sun Leader and is a frequent contributor to other magazines in her area. As a Kids Eat Right member, Anita also provides nutrition education to parents and children through the local Trim Kids program. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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