Weekends are a great time to try a new recipe or two. Usually the weekends have a little more downtime. So take advantage of this and get creative. Find a recipe that you want to try and give it a try! If the recipe is not completely healthy, there are several ways to modify each recipe to make it healthier and “Gina Approved”. Just as important as choosing healthy foods is to your overall success, how you cook your foods and what you add to them is just as important. You can make a healthy food option unhealthy by preparing and cooking it. Take zucchini, for example. This is a completely healthy food choice, wouldn’t you say? If it’s just raw, fried, broiled, baked, or grilled in a touch of healthy oil (coconut, olives, etc.), it’s perfectly healthy. Now the same “healthy food” can become unhealthy if it is whipped and fried or lathered in butter and unhealthy cooking oils. What we add to food and how we prepare it makes all the difference in cooking.
Whenever trying to try a new recipe it is always a good idea to analyze the ingredients and determine how you can potentially save unnecessary calories. With a few substitutions, you can cut down on the calories, fats, carbohydrates, and sugars significantly without affecting the taste! Look for excess cheese, butter, oils, and sugar.
Here are some helpful modification tips:
-Sauté with a few tablespoons of low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock instead of oil or butter! When using oil, only take one serving of your healthy oils like coconut or olive oil.
-Say no to skin on proteins and yes to skin on tubers. Three ounces of skin-on chicken breast is nearly 150 calories; Three ounces of skinless chicken is 50 fewer calories. The protein skin contains most of the unhealthy saturated fat, while the skin of a yam or sweet potato contains most of the nutrients and fiber. If you plan to cook with the skin on to retain moisture, you need to remove the skin before you eat to save on calories and saturated fat.
-Use citrus fruits. Use lime and lemon for steamed vegetables, lean egg whites, or even as a dressing for a salad to add flavor without the added calories of butter or oil.
-Beware of cheese! Cut the serving size of the cheese in half or remove everything together, depending on the recipe. If you decide to use the cheese, choose an organic source and try a version with the reduced fat / sodium content. My favorite cheese substitute is almond cheese!
-Go Greek. Non-fat Greek yogurt is a great substitute for sour cream, mayo, or any other cream you need. Try this switch in herb and spice dips, tacos, nachos, enchiladas, or toss it in a boiled bowl as a thickener. You save 45 calories for every 2 tablespoon serving.
-Pure your products. Add volume to soups and sauces with pureed vegetables instead of cream, butter, or cheese. This step also adds fiber and very low calorie nutrients to your dish.
-Cottage cheese is another great substitute for cheese and creams. Much like the Greek yogurt, cottage cheese can be used in dips to make creams or mayo!
– Add vegetables to any dish to increase volume and reduce calories! Vegetables can complement any dish on your menu and add nutrient-rich bulk to the meal for few calories. If a recipe calls for a certain amount of vegetables, simply double or triple that “serving” for a more satisfying, healthier meal!
– Make your own marinade instead of a store-bought version. Marinate lean meat in combinations of vinegar and citrus with a little oil and spices instead of a pre-made oil-based dressing. This helps to tenderize the meal while also adding flavor. You’ll also save sodium and unnecessary sugar by not using the store-bought varieties!
-Go for the grain! Use whole grain, whole grain wheat instead of white flour! Replace any white with the dark whole grain version! If a dish calls for white flour, choose oat, quinoa, or whole wheat flour.
-Do you go low-carb or gluten-free? Try these flour substitutions: coconut flour, nut flour (walnut, peanut, almond flour, etc.), and flaxseed flour.
-Go for the natural and unprocessed calorie-free sweeteners like stevia to replace any white sugar! Some recipes call for sugar, which doesn’t necessarily need the extra sweetness. You may be able to eliminate sugar all together, but if not, then by all means go for the healthier, reduced-calorie, natural version. TIP: Often times, you can use spices and condiments to get the sweetness you want without adding any extra calories!
– Use applesauce instead of oils or butter! Applesauce is a great substitute for butter and oil for baking. Just add the same amount of unsweetened apple sauce as the recipe calls for oil or butter and you have saved several unnecessary calories!
As you can see, there are endless ways to improve your diet and cut the calories and unnecessary fats, carbohydrates, and sugars of almost every recipe. Get creative this weekend and experiment in the kitchen. I guarantee you will find that these new cooking methods taste just as good, if not better, than the “real” ones! At this point, healthy eating becomes a realistic part of your lifestyle. It’s about being creative and learning how to satisfy your taste buds while achieving your goals, win-win!
Please share your favorite cooking substitute products on my Facebook page. I would love to hear from you!