Healthy Cooking: Unhealthy Recipe Ingredients (cont.)

Healthy Cooking: Taming Bad Boy Ingredients in Recipes

So faced with all this, what's an aspiring healthy cook to do?

Experts say that your first option when confronted with bad boy ingredients in recipes is to ask yourself: Do I absolutely need the taste of this ingredient in this dish?

For example, when faced with a recipe calling for lots of butter, if the answer to the question is "no," you can switch to a less-fat margarine. Better yet, if the recipes calls for melted butter, you can usually use canola oil with no problem (and you can usually use less than the recipe requests).

If the answer to the taste question is "yes," think about using less butter than the recipe calls for and about what you can add to replace the butter you're taking out. If you use less butter in the saute pan, for example, wine or broth can add moisture. If you use less butter in a bakery-type recipe, you can add fat-free sour cream, light cream cheese, vanilla yogurt, liqueur, pureed fruit, or even strong coffee to replace the lost butter.

The bottom line is that when it comes to "bad boy" ingredients in recipes, you have three ways to go:

  1. If the ingredient is important to the flavor of the dish, use it -- but use less of it.
  2. If the ingredient is important, try to balance it out by cutting fat and calories in other ways in the recipe. For example, says Joachim, foie gras (goose or duck liver) is considered an irreplaceable featured ingredient in some culinary circles. "It's fatty, it's controversial, it's delicious, and there's no substitute," he says. So if your recipe calls for foie gras, butter and cream cheese, use foie gras -- but cut out the butter and switch to a light cream cheese.
  3. If the ingredient is not necessary to the flavor of the dish, cut it out and/or switch to ingredients that are healthier and perhaps contain "smarter" fats.

Published October 24, 2007.

SOURCES: David Joachim, author, Food Substitutions Bible. Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD, professor of nutrition, New York University; author, The Portion Teller Plan. ESHA Research, Food Processor II, Nutritional Analysis software.

©2007 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.

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