Recipe Makeovers

You love your grandmother’s cooking, but her recipe calls for 1 stick of margarine, 3/4 cup of oil, and 4 eggs. Just reading this recipe can raise your cholesterol level and cause you to put on weight! The solution? Redo the recipe by switching or reducing problem ingredients.

Most recipes can undergo a makeover without altering the taste or texture of the food. So if you are trying to enjoy your favorite foods while sticking to a healthy eating plan, try these changes to make your recipes tasty and healthy. You will be surprised how easy it is to stay on a diet once you can eat the foods you love that still have great flavor.

1. Reduce the amount of fat, sugar and sodium

With most recipes, you can reduce the amount of fat, sugar and sodium without altering the flavor. By reducing fat and sugar, you also save calories.

Fat: Use half of the oil and replace the other half with unsweetened applesauce. You can also use 1 cup of apple sauce instead of 1 cup of oil or margarine. Many reduced fat foods such as cheese, yogurt, cream cheese and milk, have the same taste as the full fat versions with less calories and fat.

Sugar: Reduce the amount of sugar by one-third to one-half. When you use less sugar, add spices like cinnamon, or flavorings such as vanilla or almond extract to enhance the sweetness of the food. You can also use half sugar and half baking Splenda for a lower calorie but sweet taste.

Sodium: Cut the amount of salt in half for baked goods that don’t require yeast. For foods that require yeast, do not reduce the salt. Without salt, the food will become dense and flat. For most main dishes, salads, soups and other foods, you can cut the amount of salt in half or eliminate it completely. Try using low sodium soy sauce. It has the same taste with a fraction of the sodium.

2. Make healthy changes

Healthy substitutions will reduce the amount of fat, calories and sodium in your recipes, and at the same time boost the food’s nutritional value. For example, use whole-wheat pasta to add fiber, magnesium, iron and B vitamins (niacin, thiamin and riboflavin) to your meal. When preparing pasta, add a bag of frozen vegetables. Each portion will now be bigger but have fewer calories. It will also be full of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

3. Change the method of preparation

Healthy cooking, such as braising, broiling, grilling and steaming, can retain the flavor and nutrients of your food without adding extra fat. If your recipe calls for frying the ingredients in oil or margarine, try a different method of preparation such as baking or broiling.. If that doesn’t work, try sautéing in a nonstick pan or spraying the frying pan with nonstick cooking spray.

4. Eat the main course on salad plates

No matter how much you reduce or switch ingredients, some recipes may still be too high in sugar, fat or salt. For those foods, reduce your portion size. Smaller portions have less fat, calories and sodium and allow you to still enjoy your favorite foods. Moderate but do not eliminate your favorite foods. By eliminating your favorite foods, you are more likely to feel deprived and go off your diet altogether.

When looking over your recipes, decide what to change, what to keep, and what to save for once in a while. Make notes on your recipe cards of healthy changes, so you will not forget them the next time you prepare a dish. You may have to make the recipe a few times to find which changes work for you but an end product that is both healthy and tasty is well worth the trouble. So get creative and start experimenting with your favorite recipes!

Instead of a pastry or a piece of cake with breakfast, try these fabulous whole wheat hazelnut popovers. They are quick and easy to make and they are low sodium, low cholesterol, low fat, and of course low calorie.

Whole Wheat Hazelnut Popovers

Shani Goldner is a Registered Dietitian and a CDN with a Master’s of Science. She runs a private nutrition practice where she counsels children, adolescents and adults in weight loss, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular health and cancer related nutrition. She has a practice in Long Island and Brooklyn. She can be reached at (516) 596-7934 or at (718) 854-5784. She is an Oxford provider. Phone consults are available. For more information please visit

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