Do you have a favorite recipe that you’ve stopped making because you have a hunch that it’s just loaded with fat, calories or sugar? Don’t despair. Here’s how to rehab your recipes to slash the fat, calories, sodium and sugars from registered dietitian, Anita Marlay, RD, LD.
You can lighten up just about any recipe, at least a little. Here are some tips on what will and what won’t work when altering recipes.
Ditch Some of the Unhealthy 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 ½ the amount of oil, butter, margarine, or shortening in a recipe with applesauce, mashed banana, prune puree, or pumpkin. If you like the result, next time replace more of the fat. This won’t work well with cookies, however. Instead, try just reducing the fat called for in the cookie recipe by 25%.
When choosing and preparing meat, lower the fat by choosing lean cuts of meat, taking the skin off poultry, or just reducing the amount of meat in the recipe. Remember, a portion is 3-4 ounces of cooked meat per person. Look at your cooking methods and see if you can cut out some fat that way. 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 or 1%. 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 the full fat counterparts.
Skimping on Sugar
Sugar has about 800 calories per cup, so 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 ¾ 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. If the recipe has yeast, you don’t want to reduce the sugar. Sugar is needed to make sure the yeast can 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 manufacturers’ directions to do so.
Become Sodium Savvy
Most of the sodium in our diet comes from foods that already have sodium added during processing. The best way to reduce sodium in your diet is to pay attention to food labels and avoid highly processed foods containing more than 300 mg sodium per serving. But 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 can also switch to low-sodium or reduced-sodium ingredients, like broths, bouillons, canned soups, canned vegetables or soy sauce. You can reduce salt in baked goods with the exception of recipes that call for yeast. For those of you who home-can your vegetables, you can reduce or even eliminate the salt in home canned vegetables.
Perfect the Portion
Sometimes recipes just can’t be messed with and still have satisfactory results. In this case, the one thing you can do to reduce calories is to limit the portion that you eat. What’s more, research shows that today’s cookbooks call for larger portions of food than ever before. In fact, t Cornell University researchers compared the calories in recipes from the first edition of Joy of Cooking to the most recent printing and reported a 63% increase in calories in the recipes they compared.
[sws_pullquote_small align=”sws_pq_center” textalign=”center” linecolors=”b3b3b3″ fontstyle=”normal” textcolor=”356e1b”] In 1936, the recipes averages about 268 calories per serving. In 2006, the average number of calories per recipe was 436 calories in the same serving. It helps also, to not prepare too much so that there are not a lot of leftovers. [/sws_pullquote_small]
What’s the big deal about fiber? Well, you know fiber helps maintain the health of your GI tract. But fiber also helps with weight control since 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, whole grains, and adding beans, nuts, seeds or fruits and vegetables. To substitute whole wheat flour, start with replacing just 1/4th to ½ 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 which 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 make these changes in your recipes. Experiment with your recipes to see what changes you can make.
–Anita Marley, RD, LD. Anita is a Cardiac Rehab Dietitian at Lake Regional Health Systems.