Nutrition Column – Guidelines for Modifying Recipes

Are you always on the lookout for ways to eat healthier? One relatively easy way is to modify your recipes and food preparation methods. Many recipes call for more fat, sugar and salt than what are needed for good flavor and quality. And depending on the recipe, you may be able to add or replace ingredients to boost fiber content.

The first step to healthier eating is to identify your dietary goal. To cut calories, fat, sugar or sodium, or to increase fiber, identify the ingredients that supply these components. Keep in mind that not all recipes need modification. Take into consideration how often the food is eaten and how much of the food is eaten. For example, it is more important to reduce the fat in a main dish served weekly rather than reduce the fat in a birthday cake enjoyed once per year.

The second step is to change the ingredients to achieve your dietary goal. Ingredients can be eliminated completely, reduced in amount or replaced with a more nutritious ingredient. Below are a few suggestions to help make your recipes more nutritious.

Decreasing total fat and calories:

  • In many baked goods such as muffins and cakes, try replacing half to all of the fat with unsweetened applesauce, low-fat yogurt or prune puree.
  • When making soups or stews, allow time to refrigerate before serving. The fat that hardens and accumulates can be skimmed off.
  • Bake, broil, grill or poach meat, poultry or fish rather than frying.
  • Replace whole milk with skim or low-fat milk.
  • Use naturally lower-fat cheeses, such as feta or mozzarella, in place of higher fat cheeses, such as Swiss or cheddar.

Decreasing sugar:

  • In baked goods and desserts, such as breads, cookies, pie fillings, custards, puddings and fruit crisps, reduce sugar by one-quarter to one-third. Extra spices or flavoring can be added to compensate for the sweetness.
  • Buy unsweetened frozen fruit or fruit canned in its own juice or water.
  • Replace one-quarter of the sugar in cookies, bars and cakes with an equal amount of nonfat dry milk. This not only reduces calories but increases the calcium, protein and riboflavin in the food.

Decreasing sodium:

  • Gradually reduce the amount of salt in a recipe each time you make it. By doing so, you will adjust to a less salty flavor over time.
  • Add herbs and spices for flavor instead of salt.
  • Choose garlic and onion powder rather than garlic and onion salt.
  • Do not add salt to the water when cooking pasta, noodles or rice.

Increasing fiber:

  • Keep peels on fruits and vegetables whenever possible.
  • Add extra vegetables to casseroles, soups, salads and other dishes.
  • Add fruits to muffins, pancakes and desserts.
  • Substitute whole-wheat flour for half of the all-purpose flour when making breads, muffins, pancakes or other grain products.