By Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD
Some of the most popular television shows these days have to do with makeovers. Not only can you redo your body or home, it so happens that recipes are prime candidates for makeovers, too.
There are two basic considerations for a recipe redo. The first is looking at the ingredients list to see what substitutions can be made, and the other is looking at the technique to see if it can be altered in order to reduce calories.
Making changes to ingredients involves either swapping a high calorie item for one that’s lower in calories, or simply reducing the amount of a high calorie ingredient altogether. It may take a little trial and error to find what works in your favorite family recipe, but here are a few easy changes that usually don’t affect the final outcome.
First, substitute lower fat meats for the high fat ones. Regular ground beef can be replaced by extra lean beef, extra lean ground pork, ground poultry or even soy crumbles and no one will be the wiser. Reduced fat versions of cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese and mayonnaise are widely available and work great in most recipes. Evaporated nonfat milk and fat-free half and half work beautifully in place of heavier high-calorie creams.
When you’re baking, you can usually substitute at least half the fat in the recipe with yogurt, applesauce, or – don’t laugh - baby food carrots or prunes. Baby food carrots work great in things like banana bread or muffins, and prunes give a wonderful flavor to chocolate baked goods like brownies.
You can also just cut back on some of the higher calorie ingredients, too. Try reducing the amount of cheese or nuts, for example, and add more veggies to dishes like soups, stews, stir-fries, casseroles, pasta dishes and meat loaf to boost the nutrition and cut calories.
Once you’ve tackled the ingredients swap, look at the basic techniques in the recipe. Rather than sautéing in butter or oil, you can spray your pan with pan spray, and sauté instead with broth, wine, tomato juice, or citrus juices. You can thicken soups without butter, flour or cream – simply buzz some of the soup in the blender with some evaporated nonfat milk or soft tofu for a creamy lowfat finish.
Oven-frying is a popular way to get that delicious crispy crunch without all the oil. Dip chicken pieces, fish filets or sliced firm veggies like eggplant or zucchini in beaten egg, coat with seasoned bread crumbs, mist with olive oil and bake.
With just a few tricks up your sleeve, you too can be a makeover artist – and take some of your favorite dishes from fatty to fabulous.
Susan Bowerman is a paid consultant to Herbalife.