Favorite Healthy Recipes From 'The Recipe Doctor'

Elaine Magee presents her picks for best lightened-up appetizer, main dish, salad, breakfast, and dessert recipes.

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Some people are passionate about sports, or gardening, or the latest best-selling novels. But those honorable interests just don't float my boat. Instead, I'm positively passionate about doing recipe makeovers. There's little that's more exciting to me than the challenge of taking favorite recipes and creating new, healthier recipes that are just as great-tasting.

I enjoy comparing nutrition information for the "before" and "after" versions of the recipe and calculating how many calories, grams of fat and saturated fat I've saved and how many grams of fiber I've added. But the biggest thrill comes when people who have tried a recipe tell me that their family loved it. That's the ultimate reward.

While it's always fun to create healthy recipes, I have a few that I have to say are among my all-time favorites. Try them, and maybe they'll become your favorites, too.

Best Healthy Appetizer Recipe

Here is one of my favorite appetizer recipes. It's always popular at parties (even kids love it). I also like how you can make it ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve it.

Light 7-Layer Dip
[85 calories and 2 g fiber per serving]

Keep it light by serving with reduced-fat tortilla chips (homemade or store-bought) or reduced-fat crackers. Use 1/2 cup store-bought guacamole or make homemade by blending the following together in a small food processor:

Ingredients:
-Guacamole:
1 avocado peeled, pitted, and diced
2 teaspoons lime juice, fresh or bottled
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons salsa
Garlic powder or garlic
Salt to taste (optional)
Black pepper to taste

Dip:
-8 ounces fat-free sour cream
1-ounce packet taco seasoning mix
15-ounce can fat-free or vegetarian refried beans
1 cup diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
2 cups shredded reduced-fat Mexican-style cheese blend (i.e. Jack and cheddar)
2 1/4-ounce can sliced black olives (optional)

Preparation:
1. Make guacamole, if you're not using store-bought, and set aside.
2. In small bowl, blend sour cream with taco seasoning.
3. Spread the refried beans in the bottom of a deep-dish pie plate (you can warm the beans up in the microwave briefly to make them more spreadable.)
4. Top the beans with the sour cream mixture, then top that with the guacamole.
5. Spread the tomatoes on top, then sprinkle the green onions over the top, followed by the shredded cheese and black olives, if desired.
6. Serve with reduced-fat tortilla chips or reduced-fat crackers.

Yield: 16 appetizer servings

Nutritional Information: Per serving (dip only): 85 calories, 5.2 g protein, 6.4 g carbohydrate, 4.4 g fat (1.9 g saturated fat, 1.9 g monounsaturated, 0.3 g polyunsaturated fat), 7 mg cholesterol, 0.7 g fiber, 258 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 46%.

Best Healthy Breakfast or Brunch Recipe

I find myself pulling out this recipe and making it again and again, especially if I've got company coming for brunch! It's a wonderful cross between the delightful dessert, creme brulee, and the favorite brunch dish, French toast.

You can assemble it the night before and then in the morning, just bake it and serve.

Overnight Creme Brulee French Toast
[294 calories and 2 g fiber per serving]

Ingredients:
- 3 tablespoons low- or no-trans fat margarine or butter
- 5 tablespoons reduced-calorie pancake syrup
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur), divided
- At least 8 (1-inch thick) slices of French or sourdough bread (you might need more to cover the bottom of the pan depending on the size of your bread)
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup egg substitute (such as Egg Beaters)
- 1 1/2 cups fat-free half-and-half
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Garnish: Fresh strawberries or other berries and a dollop of light whipped cream or Light Cool Whip.

Preparation:
1. Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with canola cooking spray. Melt margarine or butter in a small nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Mix in reduced-calorie pancake syrup, brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
2. Remove crusts from bread and arrange slices in the baking dish in a single layer on top of the brown sugar mixture (enough slices to cover the bottom of the pan).
3. In small bowl, whisk together eggs, egg substitute, fat-free half-and-half, vanilla extract, 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier, and salt. Pour mixture evenly over the bread. Cover well and chill at least 8 hours or overnight.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the dish from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature.
5. Bake uncovered 35 to 40 minutes until puffed and lightly browned. Serve with fresh fruit and a dollop of light whipped cream, if desired.