By Mary Pat Baldauf
If you’re trying to cook healthier for your family, you don’t have to abandon their favorites or resort to tasteless tofu. There are many ways you can make your recipes healthier without dramatically changing the taste. Try these tips on for size:
- Decrease the fat: Cut back on the amount of oil, shortening or butter in a recipe by half the amount listed. Instead of cream or half-and-half, try one percent milk or skim milk. Low-fat and fat-free options are also available.
- Love the taste of real butter? Try butter flavored olive oil, available at most stores that specialize in premium olive oil, such as The Crescent Olive or The Classy Cruet. It’s not only healthier than other oils, it’s also delicious; I like to spritz it on air-popped popcorn for a treat.
- Cut the cheese: I love cheese, so this always sounds so wrong to me, but you can usually reduce the amount of cheese in a recipe by up to half without significantly altering the taste. Strong flavored cheeses like sharp cheddar and parmesan are the best to try to cut back. Reduced-fat cheese varieties also are an option.
- Lower the salt: My sister-roommate has issues with salt, so I’m always trying to lower the salt in recipes. You can add flavor with citrus juices, vinegars, garlic, onion or pepper. Check your no-salt seasoning blends such as Dash. Also look for lower-sodium versions of your pantry staples, such as soups, sauces and such.
- Reduce the added sugar: You often can reduce the amount of sugar by one-half to one-third. You can also try using a sugar substitute suitable for cooking or make a subtle half and half mix. Spices like cinnamon, allspice, cloves and nutmeg may also enhance the sweetness in a recipe and allow for less sugar.
- Get creative with fruits and veggies: Use pureed fruit, such as applesauce, in place of some of the butter or oil in a baked recipe. I learned how to use pureed vegetables to add flavor and nutrients to foods via my grandmother, who pureed celery for her Thanksgiving stuffing. The Sneaky Chef series of books by Missy Chase Lupine also serves as a great source of information.
- Explore different cooking methods for veggies. Do you usually fry vegetables? Try roasting squash, sweet potatoes, onions and zucchini for a tasty side dish. Steaming is a healthy and quick option, too. There are also many varieties of “veggie noodles” at local grocery stores; I personally like the zucchini noodles. You can also make your own with a spiralizer.
- Go for whole grain: Whole grains are a rich source of fiber and contain an assortment of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Use whole grains of cereals, breads and pasta in place of “regular” versions. Just remember to check the first ingredient on packaged foods for “whole grain.” When I first tried whole grain pasta, I didn’t like it one bit; now I can’t eat “regular” pasta because it’s so mushy in comparison.