Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Simple substitutions for more healthful meals

Sometimes, it seems like everything that tastes good is bad for us. Many of our favorite foods are flavored by fat, salt and sugar. But, eating too much of these can be tough on our health — and our waistlines. However, you’re not doomed to a bland diet just because you’re watching what you eat. You still can enjoy many of your favorite recipes. Simply swap less-wholesome ingredients for more healthful ones. Here’s how: Cut back on fats When you prepare meals, you can help lower your fat intake by substituting at least some of the butter, margarine, oil and cream in your recipes. Some easy exchanges can help: Use juice or water instead of oil to sauté vegetables and other foods. Or, just use some vegetable oil spray. Flavor grains — such as rice, buckwheat or barley — with fat-free, low-sodium chicken or beef broth instead of fat. Thicken soups with puréed beans, potatoes or other vegetables and nonfat dry milk powder instead of cream. Make sauces with fat-free evaporated milk for a smooth texture without the fat. Prepare creamy dressing for salads or coleslaw using light mayonnaise and nonfat yogurt. Try replacing some of the oil, margarine or butter in baked goods with applesauce or mashed bananas. For instance, you can replace half of the fat with applesauce in many recipes. Use nonfat yogurt in place of all or some sour cream, butter and margarine when making biscuits, muffins and other baked goods. Use two egg whites or a quarter-cup of egg substitute for one whole egg. Also, consider using “healthier” oils in recipes. For example, try olive and safflower oils. Swap out salt There are many ways to flavor food without salt. When cooking, consider adding spices such as ginger, cinnamon or nutmeg. Or, try salt-free herb blends or fresh herbs that are easy to grow or buy, such as fresh basil, thyme and mint. Vinegar, citrus juices, peppers, garlic and onions also provide a punch of flavor without the salt. Much of the salt Americans eat comes from processed foods, such as frozen dinners and canned soups. So, choose low-sodium or no-salt-added products when you buy frozen or canned goods. Go easy on sugar Sweet treats may taste good, but they can mean too much added sugar. One solution is to make your own desserts using less. In many recipes, you can cut out one-third of the sugar and still have a tasty result. If you’re not sure how much to omit, try this guide: For cake and cookies, use a half-cup of sugar for every cup of flour. For muffins and quick breads, use just one tablespoon of sugar for each cup of flour. You also can sweeten recipes with extracts, such as vanilla or peppermint. Sweet spices, such as cinnamon or allspice, also work. Remember, a healthful diet doesn’t have to come at the expense of flavor. With a few tweaks, your favorite foods can go back on the menu. Article Source

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