10 Tips to Lighten Up Your Recipes
You really can cook light and healthy meals you’ll be proud to serve yourself and your family. That’s what this blog is all about – learning to cook low calorie meals that are satisfying and nourishing.
We all want that, don’t we?
To get you started on the path to a lighter style of cooking and baking, below are a few of my tried and true cooking tips. Just a few minor changes will reduce the calories and fat in your meals.
1. Always measure the oil you put in the pan with the appropriate tool. If the recipe calls for a tablespoon of oil, use a tablespoon to measure. If it calls for ¼ cup, use a measuring cup. One tablespoon of olive oil has 119 calories and 13.5g of fat. That’s not bad if you only use 1 – 2 tablespoons in a dish, but if you free pour oil it’s likely to double the oil the recipe requires. This can potentially add another 240 calories to your dish and 27g of fat! Invest in an oil mister to spray non-stick pans with your favorite cooking oil to save additional calories when cooking spray is appropriate for the recipe.
2. Sauté foods by using half the amount of fat called for in a recipe, then as the pan begins to dry, add a tablespoon or two of low sodium chicken or vegetable broth. Don’t add too much, or you will steam your food and not sauté it!
3. Purchase low sodium alternatives of staples like broths, condiments, and canned goods such as tomatoes and beans. Too much sodium in the diet contributes to water retention and health issues like hypertension and heart disease.
4. Replace full products with low fat versions. There are fat free products like sour cream, milk and mayonnaise that don’t have the same flavor as their lower fat cousins. They don’t save me a lot of calories, so I prefer to purchase low fat over nonfat. Skip full fat. The calories and saturated fat in full fat versions aren’t worth it.
5. Replace full fat condiments like mayonnaise with low fat versions. You can find fat free condiments, but read the label carefully. Often sugar is added to replace the fat. One tablespoon of full fat mayonnaise has 90 calories and 10g of fat. The same serving of low fat mayonnaise has approximately 45 calories and 4.5g of fat.
6. Use fruit purees in baked goods to replace half the fat called for in the recipe. You don’t even have to make them yourself. I purchase organic baby food purees for pennies. Applesauce works well too. Baked goods come out moist and tender, and I’m adding additional nutrition to the recipe as well.
7. Add shredded vegetables like carrots and zucchini to dishes they can “hide” in, like spaghetti sauces. The vegetables will cook down and add extra fiber and nutrition to the dish. In the world of weight loss, fiber is a good thing because it adds bulk and helps keep hunger pangs at bay.
8. Reduce the amount of meat called for in a meat and vegetable recipe by a third, and replace the meat you cut from the recipe with extra vegetables. More vegetables will add more nutrition and filling fiber to the meal.
9. Make your own breadcrumbs. I freeze leftover odd pieces of low calorie whole grain breads, then toast them and use my coffee grinder to grind them into crumbs. Panko bread crumbs work well for faux fried foods like chicken tenders, where you are baking the food instead of frying it. Panko keeps its crunchy texture better than bread crumbs do.
10. Use lean cuts of meat and be sure to trim excess fat. Do your homework. Don’t assume that ground turkey is leaner than lean ground beef. Often times ground turkey is made from all parts of the turkey, so it has a higher fat content than a very lean ground beef.
These light and healthy cooking tips will shave calories and fat from your meals, and you will never know the difference. Your family and friends will benefit from your newly acquired cooking skills too.
Happy, healthy cooking!