Lighten Up Your Favorite Recipes

Simple Substitutions:

  1. Use condensed low-fat milk instead of whole milk.
  2. Try ground chicken or turkey instead of beef.
  3. Mix whole-wheat and white grains.
  4. Use egg yolks sparingly.
  5. Use dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.
  6. Use olive oil instead of butter.
  7. Use nonfat sour cream.

By Sarah Albert
WebMD Feature

Reviewed by Charlotte E. Grayson, MD

There was a time when artificial sweeteners were reserved for coffee, diet soda, and sugarless candy. Now you can use them when you're baking cookies or cakes. In fact, changing the ingredients in recipes to fit your diet is common, easy, and tasty, says Riska Platt, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association. "The biggest mistake I see is when people eliminate anything that's not good for them from a recipe," says Platt, who works with chefs in New York City to help them develop healthier meal options. Instead, substitute fatty ingredients with healthy, lower-calorie ingredients. Here are seven ways Platt says you can lose the fat but not the flavor.

Use condensed low-fat milk instead of whole milk.

"One of the criticisms of regular low-fat milk is that foods sometimes come out too watery," says Platt. Some of the water in condensed low-fat milk has been removed, she says, and people have a lot of success cooking with it.

Try ground chicken or turkey instead of beef.

Ground turkey or chicken burgers are both considerably lighter than ground beef. If you crave the taste of beef, look for the extremely lean ground beef sold in some stores. When you remove fat, you often need to add moisture to hold the patties together. Platt recommends mixing onions or apples, or even an egg or barbecue sauce into low-fat patties to help with binding and flavor.

Mix whole wheat and white grains.

Whole grains help reduce your risk for heart disease and some cancers. But there is a difference in taste and color. Platt suggests combining whole-wheat flour and white flour when you bake. When cooking rice, use half brown rice and half white rice. Making partial substitutions can cut calories while keeping the flavor you enjoy.

Use egg yolks sparingly.

Two egg whites can replace a whole egg in most recipes, but you may not want to ditch yolks entirely. "Yolks have more fat and other characteristics, which may give quality to a recipe," says Platt. If a recipe calls for four eggs, use two whole eggs and four egg whites. Healthy adults can have up to one whole egg a day if they limit cholesterol from other foods, according to the American Heart Association.

Use dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.

"There is some research suggesting that dark chocolate has flavonoids, which are beneficial to your heart and overall health," says Platt. When a recipe calls for chocolate, use dark chocolate or cocoa powder, which has had the fat removed. Also, try mixing dried fruits -- cherries, raisins or cranberries -- into recipes that call for chocolate chips.

Use olive oil instead of butter.

"A lot of the chefs I work with are willing to use olive oil almost any time that butter is called for, even when baking," says Platt. This helps reduce saturated fats in your diet. If you can't cut butter altogether, try adding butter sparingly at the end of cooking for flavor. Platt also recommends using low-fat half-and-half or nonfat sour cream in sauces.

Use nonfat sour cream.

Nonfat sour cream and low-fat half-and-half are great substitutions in sauces, says Platt. For extra flavor, spice up your sauces and salad dressings with hot sauces, curry powder, lemon juice, and vinegars. Spices help you cut fat as well as salt in a healthy diet.

Published June 30, 2004.

SOURCES: Riska Platt, MS, RD, spokeswoman for the American Heart Association.

©1996-2005 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.


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