Eating healthy is a learning process. We can't jump into it full force without some hints and tips of how to tackle the current eating habits we have. This section is to help think of ways we can create and improve our recipes. (more info can be found on right column for further posts about how to put these ideas to action)
Recipe makeovers: 4 ways to create healthy recipes
Fat. For baked goods, use half the butter or oil and replace the other half with unsweetened applesauce, mashed banana or prune puree. But always try to use natural fats in the most whole form (stay away from low-fat or processed fats)
Sweeteners. Reduce the amount of sugar by one-third to one-half and replace with a healthier option. Or replace with fruit (dates, prunes, etc.) or spices (such as cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg) and other flavorings/extracts to enhance the sweetness of the food.
Sodium. Reduce salt by one-half in baked goods that don't require yeast. Without salt, the foods may become dense and flat. For most main dishes, salads, soups and other foods, however, you can reduce the salt by one-half or eliminate it completely. And try using real, unprocessed salt so you get maximum amount of minerals. Or try unsalted butter. Also, keep in mind some foods are more salty than other, so by combing right you won't need added salt. For example, add feta cheese to quinoa stuffed peppers or a splash of soy sauce to some rice.
Healthy substitutions can boost the nutritional content or eliminate foods that aren't as beneficial to your body. Become familiar with good, better and best sweeteners, fats, etc. (and know which are worst). Over time, phase out the worst items in your fridge and pantry with better alternatives. For example, buy raw local honey and maple syrup so you can reach for those instead of white sugar or fake pancake syrup. Having them on hand is half the battle. Then learning to substitute them is the fun part. And then being successful and eating your results is the BEST part! (hopefully...see some other posts for more info on which sweeteners are best or on what to stock in the pantry)
In some recipes, you can delete an ingredient altogether; likely candidates include items you add out of habit or for appearance, such as frosting, coconut or nuts, cheese or sour cream, etc. Many recipes add milk and cheese on top for added creaminess and flavor we love, but after doing this a lot you will learn to recognize what is essential and what isn't. (For example, my husband loves creamy mashed potatoes with gravy, but I have been making it with water and butter and it still does the trick for him. We don't need sour cream, cream cheese and milk.)
4. Change Cooking Method
Healthy cooking techniques — such as braising, broiling, grilling and steaming — can capture the flavor and retain nutrients. If your recipe calls for frying the ingredients in oil or butter, try baking, broiling or poaching the food instead. Also, when using liquid to cook fruits and vegetables (boiling, etc.) the liquid absorbs a great many of the nutrients. This is why it is best to braise or bake or even steam, instead of boil, unless you are going to use the liquid for other purposes; for example, save liquids in a jar in the freezers to use for soup broths later. Click here for a good resource if you are unfamiliar with these methods.
And for whole grains, try soaking the flour so your body can better digest the grains and get more nutrients. See our post about soaking: healthier-whole-grains-value-of-soaking
5. Change the portion size
Eating a variety of foods will ensure that you get all the energy, protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber you need.
Putting it all together
As you look over your recipe, decide what to change and how to change it. Make notes of any alterations, so you can refer to them the next time you prepare the food. You may have to make the recipe a few times, adjusting your alterations, before you get the results you want. But finding the right combination of ingredients — for the desired taste, consistency and nutrients — is well worth the trouble.