Lighten Up! 10 Tips to Lighten Up Your Recipes

Tasty Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Vegetable SaladYou really can cook light. Light and healthy cooking. Healthy living. We all want that, don’t we?

To help you along your path to a lighter cooking style, I thought I would share a few of my cooking tips. Tried and true ways to light up your recipes, and still keep great flavor.

Just a few minor changes can really reduce the calories and fat in a dish, and your family and friends won’t know the difference. I promise!

1. First and foremost, measure the oil you put in the pan. According to 1 tablespoon of olive oil has 119 calories and 13.5g of fat. That’s not bad if you only use 1 – 2 tablespoons in a dish, but if you free pour your olive oil (or any cooking oil) thinking you can eyeball the amount, you will most likely double the oil the recipe requires. This can potentially add another 240 calories to your dish and 27g of fat! Remember that good fats like olive oil are an essential part of any healthy diet, so don’t eliminate them completely.

2. Light saute your food. Do this by using half the amount of fat called for in a recipe, then as the pan begins to dry, add a tablespoon or two of low sodium chicken or vegetable broth. Don’t add too much, or you will steam your food and not saute it.

3. Use low sodium versions of any foods you purchase. Buy low sodium broths, and canned goods like tomatoes and beans. They’ll cost a few pennies more, but are far better for your health. Too much sodium in the diet is a big contributor to hypertension.

4. Replace full fat versions of dairy products with low fat, or fat free versions. There are some fat free dairy products, like sour cream (in my opinion), that just don’t have the same flavor as their low fat cousins. According to 2 tablespoons of fat free sour cream has 25 calories and .5g of fat. Light sour cream has 40 calories and 2.5g of fat. The choice is really yours. Compare labels and taste test brands until you find one that works for you. You’ll still save calories over the full fat product. Full fat sour cream can have as much as 60 – 70 calories and 5g of fat in a serving.

5. Replace full fat versions of condiments like mayonnaise with low fat, or fat free versions. Find a brand you like and stick with it. One tablespoon of full fat mayonnaise has 90 calories and 10g of fat. The same serving of fat free mayonnaise has approximately 11 calories and .4g of fat. That’s quite a difference!

6. Use fruit purees in baked goods to replace half the fat called for in the recipe. You don’t even have to make them yourself. I purchase organic baby food purees for pennies. My baked goods come out moist and tender, and I’m adding a bit more nutrition to the recipe as well.

7. Add shredded veggies like carrots and zucchini to dishes that will “hide” them. An example would be spaghetti sauce. They’ll cook down to nothing, but add extra fiber and nutrition to the dish. In the world of weight loss, fiber is a good thing because it adds bulk to the dish, and keeps you feeling full longer.

8. In meat and veggie recipes, reduce the amount of meat called for by just a bit, and replace the meat you cut from the recipe with extra veggies. An example would be a chicken stew. You would reduce the chicken called for in the recipe by 1/3, and add 1/3 more veggies to replace the chicken. The more vegetables in the dish, the more filling and lighter in calories (as long as you use the suggestions in this post). Don’t assume that if you add vegetables to the dish, but use 1/4 cup of oil sauteing them, that you’re in the clear.

9. Make your own bread crumbs. I use whatever brand of light whole wheat bread is on sale at the time. The bread usually has less than 50 calories per slice, as opposed to the average bread at 110 calories or more per slice. It is true, that the slices are usually smaller, but I find I can make a sandwich or bread crumbs just fine and save a few calories.

10. Use lean cuts of meat and be sure to trim excess fat. Do your homework. Don’t assume that ground turkey is leaner than ground beef. Often times ground turkey is made from all parts of the turkey, so it has a higher fat content than a very lean ground beef. This article from the Mayo Clinic on how to choose lean poultry, pork and beef is a great place to start.

I hope you find these healthy cooking tips useful, and they start you off on a new year of cooking light!

Happy cooking!



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