With the emphasis on healthy eating these days, I’m often asked by clients to lighten-up existing recipes that may be too high in calories, fat, or sodium.
While it can be challenging, it’s also a lot of fun! I really love digging into a recipe and figuring out what you can take away or substitute without sacrificing taste.
Here are some easy techniques I use for trimming down a recipe that you can also try at home.
• Slash the Sugar. Try cutting the sugar in a recipe by a quarter or even a third. It’s a significant difference in calories, but you probably might not even notice a change in sweetness.
• Bake, Don’t Fry. When it comes to making lighter food, the oven can be your friend. You can achieve a nice, crunchy crust on foods when you bake. And best of all, you won’t have to deal with the leftover grease.
• Choose Leaner Meats. When shopping, look for leaner cuts of meat like tenderloin, sirloin, top loin, or cuts that have the name “round” in them. You can also make meat leaner by trimming the visible fat or removing the skin before cooking.
• Find Flavorful Cheeses. Intensely-flavored cheeses can make a big impact in small amounts. Look for types like parmesan, feta, or sharp cheddar.
• Sprinkle It On. Rather than incorporating high-calorie ingredients such as cheese and nuts in a dish, you can use less by sprinkling them on top.
• Fruit and Vegetable Purees. Using fruit and vegetable purees can help add bulk and moisture to dishes without fat. Try substituting some of the oil in baking recipes with applesauce or pureed prunes. Low-calorie vegetable purees can thicken soups or be used to cut the carbs in dishes like mashed potatoes.
• Heart-Healthy Oil for Butter. Substitute heart-friendly oils like coconut and olive for half the butter in dishes. You’ll still get flavor from the butter, but less of the saturated fat.
• Picking Pans. Go for nonstick cookware, which doesn’t require as much oil to be used during cooking.
• Switch to Whole Grain. You can get more nutritional bang for your buck by using whole grain flours. There are many to choose from, but I’ve found whole wheat pastry flour to work best for baking.
• Go Greek. For dips, replace half the sour cream with non-fat Greek yogurt. It’ll still taste rich and tangy, but with less fat.
• Herbs & Spices. An easy trick for adding flavor without fat and salt to dishes is to use herbs and spices. Try finishing a dish with a handful of fresh chopped herbs, or use spices like garlic and ginger to bring more life to a dish.
• Low-Fat Dairy. For dishes that call for heavy cream, whole milk, or full-fat yogurts, opt for lower fat options like light cream, skim milk, or nonfat yogurt.
• Rinse Beans. Canned beans are often packed with sodium so it’s a good idea to give them a rinse before using. A brief shower can remove more than 40% of the sodium.
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