Linda Robbins gives tricks to make over recipes for more healthy variations


Linda Robbins
| Times Telegram

You don’t have to go without your favorite recipes to eat healthily.

A few simple changes can make most recipes healthier without affecting the taste. It starts by making a recipe another way or by replacing ingredients, according to Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Recipes can be modified to reduce or eliminate fat, salt, and unwanted calories in the form of sugar. Recipes can also be changed to increase diet or fiber. Whenever you change a recipe, it is best to make one change at a time, reducing, replacing, or increasing an ingredient by a small amount first.

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Baked goods require careful adjustments as each ingredient plays an important role in the outcome of the product.

  • Fat offers taste, richness, and texture.
  • Eggs provide structure, act as a binding agent and give volume.
  • Sugar gives flavor, increases tenderness and acts as a preservative.
  • Salt adds flavor.

Below are suggestions for reducing fat, calories, sugar, and salt, and / or increasing fiber in your recipes without changing the texture, taste, purpose, or structure. Make sure you record the changes that will result in the most tasteful and satisfying product in your recipes.

If your recipe calls for seasonings and toppings, skip or use fresh cucumbers versus cucumbers, cherry tomatoes versus olives, fat-free or low-fat spreads, fresh berry puree, thin slices of fresh apples, peaches, or pears.

For sugar (brown, corn syrup, honey, molasses), use up to a third less sugar in recipes for biscuits, muffins, flatbreads, and cake fillings. Add spices like cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg, or flavorings like vanilla or almond extract to increase the sweetness. Use fresh fruit for canned fruit wrapped in syrup or canned fruit wrapped in water.

For fat (shortening, butter, lard, oil) replace solid fat with vegetable oil 1/4 cup less. Or, use half of the butter, shortening, or oil and replace the other half with an equal amount of applesauce, mashed bananas, mashed plums, or commercially available fruit-based fat substitutes. Use 2 egg whites for 1 egg.

Use nonstick spray, chicken or beef broth instead of frying in butter or oil. For chicken broth or broth, use vegetable broth / broth or chilled broth with skimmed fat.

For salt, reduce the amount by ½ (except for yeast bread) or use spices or herbs or light salt.

Options for adding fiber include adding whole oats or chopped dried / fresh fruit to cookies, muffins, waffles, and pancakes, and beans to soups, casseroles, and salads. Whenever possible, fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits are used to not only increase fiber but also improve nutrition. For all-purpose flour, use ½ whole wheat flour and ½ all-purpose flour.

Cooking methods such as baking, boiling, frying, grilling, broiling or frying whenever possible are the best choices to reduce fat intake. Along with fat reduction, the high heat associated with frying changes the chemical structure of the fat, making it difficult for your body to break down, which can be detrimental to health.

Remember to make small changes at a time. Be creative and most of all, have fun and enjoy the challenge.

Linda Robbins, CDN, is the associate director and nutritionist for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Herkimer County.