Thursday, September 2, 2010

ways to make your favorite foods healthier

Whether you are on an actual diet or not, you most likely are concerned about making healthy eating choices.  If you are not concerned, well it probably about time you were!  There are plenty of unhealthy choices out there, that's for sure.  The problem with those unhealthy choices is they just taste so good!  So what can you do to make some of those "gotta have it" favorites a bit less forbidden?  Here are some of the ways I do it.

One.  To start with, I substitute ground turkey or chicken for ground beef or sausage.  Doing this will make your favorite dinners drop loads of fat and plenty of calories as well.  If you are making things like casseroles or meatballs for your spaghetti you won't even notice the difference amongst all the other tastes.  Making something like burgers or meatloaf is a little trickier.  First a simpler food like those really lets the taste of the meat show through.  Also, being so low fat, ground poultry could have a tendency to end up a bit dry tasting.  You do have to experiment around some to find the perfect recipe that satisfies those beefy cravings.  Try buying low sodium beef bouillon and mixing it into your meat.  That will easily "beef up" the taste.  Also, adding Worcestershire sauce into your meat mixture will give it more of a beef appeal as well.  Here is another idea for turkey burgers:

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  •   half of a (1 ounce) package dry onion soup mix
  • 2 tablespoons steak sauce
Just mix and cook.

Two.  Another thing I do in casseroles is to cut back the amount of meat I put in.  Sometimes I cut as much as 1/2 the meat out.  At other times I cut out about 1/4.  Either way, its not missed.

Three.  Cheese is another easily reduced item.  Add the teeny tiniest of sprinkling to top a pizza.  Casseroles with cheese can have their cheese cut down by 1/4 if not more. Cheese is very high in fat.  Control is important here.

Four.  Another thing I do to enjoy some of my favorites, only healthier is to search for whole grain options of the classic recipes.  This is important to me because I am most likely going to be craving bread like carbs over anything else.  There are untold numbers of recipes  for whole grain pancakes.  Have you ever tried IHop's Harvest Nut and Grain Pancakes?  I love them and found this copycat recipe for them:

Ingredients:
***Dry Mix:***
7 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/8 cup Quaker quick oatmeal
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3 1/2 cups corn meal
1 cup wheat bran
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
5 3/4 tablespoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/3 tablespoons dry malt*
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
***Waffle/Pancake batter:***
1 3/4 cuplow fat buttermilk (use more for pancakes)
2  eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
6 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon water

1/2 cup skim milk
Directions:
Dry Mix: Mix all ingredients together. Store in air tight container.

Waffle/Pancake batter: Put buttermilk in bowl and whisk in eggs. Whisk in 2 cups dry mix. Add vanilla. Melt butter and water and milk whisk into batter.

Whole grain recipes are generally lower in fat and calories plus our bodies can use whole grains much better than the processed, refined, white versions.  Its just healthier for us.  They also fill you up faster so you don't have to eat as much.

Five.  Use whole grain high fiber bread choices for things like french toast.   Whole grain products are a pretty big fad right now so you can find all kinds of whole grain options easily.  Look for tortillas, cereals, crackers etc. 

Six.  I think one of the greatest whole grain products out right now is the pasta.  Have you ever tried the Barilla Plus or other similar pastas?  Fantastic!!!  If your family is used to the regular white pastas, they won't even know you switched on them.

My husband is really into his Fettucine Alfredo.  Now thats a diet nightmare, right?  It doesn't have to be.  Try this instead:


1 cup evaporated skim milk
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp. white or black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, bring evaporated milk to a simmer over moderate heat.
Stir in the parmesan cheese, green onions and parsley.
As soon as the cheese has melted and sauce is thick and creamy, pour over cooked pasta
Season with white pepper. I like a pinch of nutmeg or garlic garlic powder over mine


It's hard for me to keep the fact that I have a sweet tooth a secret!

Six.  Here are some things you can do to lower fat in your baked goods.  Use egg whites instead of whole eggs, using applesause instead of oil etc.

Seven  One thing I could never get into in the past, however, was sugar substitutes.  I just could not make myself believe that they were healthy for your body and not at all harmful.  What has me quite excited lately, however, is the use of Stevia in products.  Stevia is a plant product that can be used in place of sugar.  Its natural and not harmful.  You can really cut calories using Stevia.

Eight.  The recent appearance of healthier ice cream products is amazing.  I have tried several brands of the low fat ice creams and they have been better than good!  They are really worth a try when ice cream is on your mind. 

Nine.  Try yogurt for your favorite flavors instead of ice cream.  There are some great yogurts out now, too, that can really satisfy that chocolate craving.  The whip chocolate varieties are good.  There is another brand that has a mint chocolate chip variety that is yummy and I saw they now have a chocolate chip cookie dough variety too.  I don't know the calories in these little cups but I am sure its a savings over a similar ice cream flavor... and you get automatic portion control as well with a container of yogurt.  You get that ice cream flavor you want so badly but don't compromise a healthy diet doing it. 

Ten.  When I bake use some other tricks to make the indulgence a little less indulgent.  Skimp on frosting when making cakes.   The frosting is the really high calorie part...so spread it really thin!  Reduce the chocolate chips in cookies etc.  Use just enough to give you your chocolate fix.   When making fruit desserts like pie and strawberry shortcake, cut the sugar back.  Recipes are generally over generous with sugar  on these items.    Using less sugar saves you calories and lets the taste of the fruit  shine through rather than just a sweetness.

And one last bonus tip!  Look for your favorite meals in the frozen food sections of your grocery store.  Companies like Weight Watchers make very diet friendly versions of some of your best love meals.  Not only do you get to enjoy your favorite meals...in a healthy way...but you also don't have to spend hours making them...now that's amazing!!

Whether you plan on enjoying a full fat, high calorie treat at the end of a day or a lighter version of your favorites, make sure you plan for it earlier in the day or make up for it the next day.  Maybe have a simple piece of fruit for breakfast, a salad for lunch and a small piece of broiled chicken for dinner with a good assortment of plain steamed veggies.  This will help make up for your treat. 

No matter what your weakness is, there are sure to be ways that you can make it less of forbidden and more of a smart, healthy choice!  So get creative and love what you eat!

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and WeightWatchers SmartOnes blogging program, making me eligible to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here

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