• Tips for Lightening Up Your Favorite Recipes


    Food provides enjoyment in life, so don't say good-bye to your favorite foods! Even when you're following a heart-healthy eating plan, you still want to enjoy the foods that have become traditions in your family. Lightening up your recipes to make them more heart-healthy is the best way to enjoy your favorite foods while still living a healthy lifestyle. Get creative and you will be surprised how delicious the new versions can be.

    Keep in mind, tinkering with recipes is an art that takes practice. Even when you're an experienced cook, making changes to recipes often takes more than one try-sometimes three or four tries-before you're happy with the results.  So, stick with it and try these 10 simple ways to make your recipes healthier. And if necessary, try, try again.

    1. Reduce the Portion Size

    The easiest way to change a recipe is to reduce the portion size and make it go further. You can do this by eating a smaller portion and serving a heaping steamed vegetable or salad on the side. Or you can increase vegetables and fruits in baked goods or casseroles that will make them go further. For example, add more blueberries to your muffins, add steamed broccoli or asparagus to your chicken and pasta casserole, or add more tomatoes, spinach and onion to your quiche or omelet.

    2. Reduce Salt

    Cut salt in your recipes by at least half. Use pepper, herbs, garlic, onion, citrus juice (lemon or lime) or vinegars to add flavor without adding sodium.

    Just because you’re trying to limit salt and sodium doesn’t mean you want to eat flavorless food. Try these herbs and spices to season your cooking so you’re not missing out on flavor.

    Chicken Onion, garlic, lemon, pepper, paprika, rosemary, thyme, sage, tarragon, basil, oregano, curry powder, cumin
    Fish and seafood Lemon, dill, pepper, rosemary, thyme, dry mustard
    Beef Onion, garlic, pepper, Bay leaf, marjoram, sage, thyme
    Pork Onion, garlic, pepper, sage, oregano
    Lamb Garlic, mint, rosemary, curry powder
    Carrots Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, rosemary, sage, dill
    Green beans Chives, marjoram, sautéed mushrooms, pepper
    Summer squash, zucchini Garlic, onion, lemon, pepper
    Winter squash Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, orange, onion
    Tomatoes Basil, oregano, pepper, garlic, onion, Bay leaf, dill

    Print this list, Tips to Flavor Your Food, here. (PDF)

    3. Reduce Sugar

    Reduce sugar in your recipes by one-fourth or one-third. You won't even miss it.

    4. Use Whole-Wheat Flour

    Use whole-wheat flour in place of half of the white flour. Use brown rice and whole-wheat pasta in casseroles.

    5. Reduce Fat

    Cut fat in your recipes by half. In baked goods, replace it with applesauce, mashed bananas, or pureed prune. In cakes, muffins, and quick breads, replace margarine and butter with canola oil to trade saturated fat for unsaturated fat. Try making these sugar cookies that are made with oil instead of butter or margarine.

    6. Use Sharp, Strong Cheese and Use Less

    In cheesy, creamy dishes, use sharp, strong cheese and use less. This cuts both sodium and saturated fat. Try feta, sharp cheddar, parmesan or blue cheese. Use either plain yogurt or fat-free or lower-fat sour cream in dip or casserole recipes that call for sour cream. If the taste of fat-free cheese or sour cream is not to your liking, try mixing part low-fat and part fat-free. Use evaporated skim milk or 1 percent milk in place of cream, half and half or whole milk.

    7. Use Less Than Called For

    When a recipe calls for nuts, chocolate, cheese or olives, use less than called for in the recipe. Cut them very finely and sprinkle them only on top. Also, toast the nuts and use dark chocolate to add more intense flavor while using less.

    8. Egg Substitute

    Egg substitute is a great way to shave off fat and cholesterol in baked goods or quiches and omelets. One-quarter cup of egg substitute replaces one egg and saves 5 grams of fat and 213 milligrams of cholesterol.

    9. Use Nonstick Pans and Cooking Spray

    Use nonstick pans and cooking spray in place of oil, butter, or margarine. When you need an oil, use canola oil or olive oil.

    10. Use Low-Sodium Broths, and Canned or Frozen Vegetables With No Salt Added

    For soups and stews, use low-sodium broths, no-salt added tomatoes and no-salt added canned or frozen vegetables. Rinse canned beans under cold water in a strainer to cut sodium. Puree beans or other vegetables such as potatoes or squash to add thickness to soup, stew or chili.