Recipe makeovers: 5 ways to create healthy recipes
Try these tips to reduce the fat, calories and salt in your favorite recipes.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Can you call your grandmother's beloved bread pudding a healthy recipe? Scrumptious as it may be with 4 cups of whole milk, one stick of butter and four eggs, you probably wouldn't find it on a list of healthy recipes.
But you don't have to remove it from your recipe box. Just modify that bread pudding with a few simple change-ups, and you've got another healthy recipe for your collection — not a fat and calorie disaster.
In fact, your ingredient substitution talents can help transform many unhealthy recipes into healthy recipes — and without diminishing the taste or texture of the foods you enjoy.
Here are five techniques you can use to help create healthy recipes. Remember, these are just some examples. Use your imagination and experiment to find other ways to create healthy recipes — you may even make your grandmother proud.
1. Reduce the amount of fat, sugar and salt
You often can reduce the amount of fat, sugar and salt without sacrificing flavor in healthy recipes. Use these general guidelines:
- Fat. For baked goods, use half the butter, shortening or oil and replace the other half with unsweetened applesauce, mashed banana or prune puree. You can also use commercially prepared fruit-based fat replacers found in the baking aisle of most grocery stores.
- Sugar. Reduce the amount of sugar by one-third to one-half. Instead, add spices such as cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg, or flavorings such as vanilla or almond extract to boost sweetness.
- Salt. For most main dishes, salads, soups and other foods, you can reduce the salt by half or even eliminate it. You can reduce salt by half in baked goods that don't require yeast too. For foods that require yeast, you may need to experiment. Some salt may be necessary for leavening to keep baked goods from being too dense or flat.
2. Make a healthy substitution
Healthy substitutions not only reduce the amount of fat, calories and salt in your recipes but also can boost the nutritional content.
- Pasta. Use whole-wheat pasta instead of enriched pasta. You'll almost triple the fiber. (4.5g vs 1.8g and 156 vs 157 calories)
- Milk. Prepare a dessert with fat-free milk instead of whole milk to save more than 60 calories and 7 grams of fat per cup.
- Meat. When making casseroles, scale back on meat, poultry or fish and increase the amount of vegetables. You'll save on calories and fat while gaining more vitamins, minerals and fiber.
3. Eliminate or cut back on some ingredients
In some recipes, you can eliminate an ingredient altogether or scale back the amount you use.
Aug. 10, 2016
- Toppings. Eliminate items you generally add out of habit or for appearance, such as frosting, coconut or whipped cream toppings, which are all high in fat and calories.
- Condiments. Cut condiments, such as pickles, olives, butter, mayonnaise, syrup, jelly and mustard, which can have large amounts of salt, sugar, fat and calories. Use fresh condiments such as cucumbers vs pickles, cherry tomatoes vs olives, non-fat or reduced fat spreads vs butter or mayonnaise. Instead of syrup or jelly, try fresh berries that are mashed, or thin slices of fresh apples, peaches or pears. Use low-sodium soy sauce in a smaller amount than a recipe calls for to decrease the amount of salt.
- Cheese. If a recipe calls for 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese, use 1/2 cup instead.
See more In-depth
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov. Accessed June 30, 2016.
- Kitchen nutrition: Cooking matters. In: Duyff RL. American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. 4th ed. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons; 2012.
- Preparing healthful meals. In: Encyclopedia of Foods: A Guide to Healthy Nutrition. San Diego, Calif.: Academic Press; 2002.
- Nelson JK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 30, 2016.
- Morning glory muffins. MayoClinic.com. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/recipes/morning-glory-muffins/rcp-20049683. Accessed June 30, 2016.
- Making meals easy. In: Hensrud DD, et al. The Mayo Clinic Diet. Boston, Mass.: Da Capo Lifelong Books; 2013.