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10 Ways To Make Your Recipes Healthier
Last reviewed by Faculty of Harvard Medical School on January 16, 2013
By Sarah Flinn, Dietetic Intern
Brigham and Women's Hospital
You can make many of your favorite recipes lower in fat and calories, and higher in fiber by simply swapping out some of the ingredients. When you cook for yourself and your family, you control what goes into the recipe.
Try these 10 simple substitutions to make your meals healthier. Try the recipe from Brigham and Women's Hospital that is included here as well.
Instead of: Oil in cakes and brownies
Use this: Substitute applesauce for half of the oil called for in cake and brownie recipes. You'll cut down on calories without losing flavor or texture. Unsaturated oils, such as olive, canola, safflower and corn oil, are heart healthy, but high in calories. By reducing the amount, you cut back on some of the calories.
Instead of: Whole eggs
Use this: A 1/4 cup of egg substitute or two egg whites can replace each egg in recipes. This can cut the calories and cholesterol from your recipes.
Instead of: All-purpose flour
Use this: Substitute whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour to increase the fiber in your recipes. Start slowly by using 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 all-purpose flour. If you want to go all whole wheat, substitute 7/8 cup whole wheat flour for every cup of white flour.
Instead of: Cream in soups
Use this: Try using fat-free (skim) milk in cream-based soup recipes or when baking. One exception: With homemade whipped cream, the fat is important!
Instead of: Pasta
Use this: There are so many tasty and nutritious whole wheat pastas on grocery shelves. Some brands even add omega-3 fatty acids an essential, heart-healthy fat to their whole wheat pastas for added nutrition.
Instead of: Ground beef
Use this: You won't be able to tell the difference when you substitute extra-lean ground beef, ground chicken or ground turkey breast in chili, burgers, meatballs or lasagna. Think of all the calories and saturated fat you'll be cutting out!
Instead of: White rice
Use this: Brown rice has more fiber and nutrients than white rice. Try it in stir fries or any recipes that call for rice. It's more filling because of the fiber.
Instead of: Cheese
Use this: There are a lot of delicious reduced-fat cheeses available today. Replacing full-fat cheese with these lower fat versions will cut back on calories and saturated fat without compromising flavor.
Instead of: Sour cream
Use this: Substituting fat-free yogurt for sour cream won't change the flavor or texture of your recipes. It will cut the calories and saturated fat in your dish, and make you feel better about eating your meal!
Instead of: Salt
Use this: Put away the garlic salt, onion salt or any other herb-salt combination and use fresh herbs and spices whenever possible. If you can't use fresh, dried herbs and spices are great alternatives! The only thing you lose is the sodium, not the flavor.
Why It Matters
The news and magazines are filled with tips and ideas on how to cut back on calories, increase fiber and reduce sodium. But it may not always be clear why these are important changes to make to your diet. Here's why:
- Cutting down on calories in meals and snacks can help you control your weight. A healthy weight decreases your risk for many diseases, including type 2 diabetes.
- Eating more fiber can help keep you full longer. It's also good for your heart and keeps your intestines working properly.
- Looking for ways to cut back of sodium can help decrease your risk of hypertension (high blood pressure).
Although it's possible to do this with pre-made foods, cooking at home is also a great way to monitor your intake!
Pineapple-Cranberry Oat Twist
Makes 12 portions, 1/2 cup each
3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Cooking spray (for greasing the pan)
2 1/2 lbs. pineapple, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. lemon zest, grated
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
- Set a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375ºF. Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a bowl, combine the oats, flour, pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice and salt. Stir the mixture as you drizzle on the butter and the oil. Continue stirring until the dry ingredients are coated with butter.
- Place pineapple, cranberries, brown sugar, ginger, lemon zest and lemon juice in a bowl. Toss gently. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Sprinkle the oat topping over the fruit.
- Bake the crisp uncovered until the pineapple chunks are tender when pierced with the top of a knife and the topping is lightly browned, about 45-60 minutes.
- If the topping starts to burn before the fruit is tender, loosely cover the crisp with aluminum foil. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before spooning onto plates or into bowls.
Nutrition Facts per 1/2 cup serving:
Fat: 10 grams
Saturated fat: less than 1 gram
Trans fat: 0 grams
Carbohydrate: 33 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Cholesterol: 8 milligrams
Sodium: 53 milligrams
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Sarah Flinn is a Dietetic Intern at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston