Slim Down Your Recipes

by Jodi Danen RD


This is the time of year when everyone makes New Years Resolutions.  Many of these resolutions will include losing weight or getting healthy in 2008.   A good way to start is by slimming down your recipes in order to cut fat and calories from your favorite meals.  This way you can still enjoy your favorite foods, just with less impact on your waistline!

One of the easiest substitutions to make is changing from full fat versions of mayo, milk, or sour cream to the low fat or fat free varieties.    When a recipe calls for cheese try using aged cheese.  The stronger the flavor, the less you need.  For example, when a recipe calls for a mild cheese such as Mozzarella or Monterey Jack, try substituting with Aged Cheddar, Asiago, Imported Parmesan, or any aged or smoked cheese.  If a cheese sauce calls for 2 cups of mild cheddar try 1 cup of sharp cheddar.  This will save 450 calories and 37 grams of fat.

You can replace whole eggs with egg substitute.  Another option to replace eggs is ground flax seed.  One tablespoon ground flax seed plus three tablespoons of water can replace one egg.  Ground flax seed can also be used as a fat substitute.  Generally 3 tablespoons of ground flax seed can replace 1 tablespoon of oil.  Flax seed is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids and fiber.

In sweet baked goods you can substitute applesauce or fruit puree for oils, butter, or margarine.  As a general rule, you can use a cup of applesauce or fruit puree for every cup of butter or oil.  For each cup replaced, there is a savings of 1500 calories and 185 grams of fat!

When sautéing make the change from oil to olive oil or better yet, try two tablespoons of water or low fat chicken broth in a nonstick pan.  Replace ground beef with ground turkey or extra-lean ground beef.  Trim all visible fat from chicken, pork or beef before cooking. 

To add more fiber and increase the vitamins and minerals in your recipes try these options. 

  • Replace half of all- purpose flour with whole wheat flour
  • Dry bread crumbs can be replaced with rolled oats or crushed bran cereal
  • Try brown rice, wild rice, bulgur or pearl barley rather than white rice
  • Iceberg lettuce and be substituted with arugula, kale, spinach, or watercress
  • Try whole-wheat pasta rather than enriched pasta


As you look over your recipe, decide what to change and how to change it. When starting to make substitutions to your recipes, especially when replacing the fatty ingredients, start slowly.  Replace a portion of the products at first to determine if the flavor and consistency remain intact.    Make notes of any alterations you made and how it turned out so you know next time you try the recipe.  You might have to make the recipe several times, adjusting your substitutions, before you get it right, but it is well worth your trouble.   

Recipe Makeover

                                                      Blueberry Muffins

Original                                                                              Modified

INGREDIENTS                                                                      INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour                                                   ¾ cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup white sugar                                                             ¾ cup whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon salt                                                                ½ cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder                                                    1 tsp cinnamon

1/3 cup vegetable oil                                                            ½ tsp salt

1 egg                                                                                 2 tsp baking powder

1/3 cup whole milk                                                                ¼ cup applesauce

1 cup fresh blueberries                                                          2 TBSP olive oil

                                                                                        1 egg

                                                                                        1/3 cup skim milk

                                                                                        1 cup fresh/frozen blueberries


1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.

2.  Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking powder. Place applesauce, oil, egg, and milk into bowl. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top.

3.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done.

* These changes save 50 calories and 4 grams fat per muffin. 


About the Author:

Jodi Danen is a Registered Dietitian and licensed provider or Real Living Nutrition Services. Learn more about Jodi and her no-diet philosophy at: www.reallivingnutrition.com/jodidanen.aspx







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