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New twist to the old standbys

Recipe: Three-bean veggie chili

August 05, 2011|Melissa Tewes and Joe Fleischman | Your Health Matters
  • Three-bean veggie chili is an old standby recipe that can be modified to make it a more healthful dish. See recipe at left.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

When making "old standbys" or family recipes, we often follow the recipe to a T to keep the consistent quality that we are used to.

However, there are many simple recipe modifications that can turn potentially high-calorie, high-fat, high-sodium old standbys into healthful recipes that are packed with nutrients without compromising the flavor.

 When making fried chicken, try dipping the chicken pieces in skim milk or egg substitute and crushed low-fat, high-fiber cereal in place of bread crumbs. Not only will you save about 50 calories and 6 grams of fat per piece, but you will also pack in some additional fiber, which is known to have numerous health benefits.  

Try using 93-percent lean ground turkey when making meatloaf to save 180 calories and 22 grams of fat per 4-ounce serving, rather than 80-percent lean ground beef.

 If your recipe calls for tomato, try using the low-sodium versions as canned items tend to be high in sodium.

When it comes to meat, there is a wide spectrum for all types of meat, fish and poultry. Be careful when choosing ground meats, including turkey or chicken, that you shop for the leanest varieties available. Ground meats typically are anywhere from 80 percent lean/20 percent fat to 97 percent lean/3 percent fat.

 If you are eating the ground meat plain, such as in a hamburger, you might compromise and choose somewhere in the middle. But if you are using the ground meat as part of a recipe with a lot of other ingredients, you can usually choose the leanest variety available without compromising the flavor of your favorite dish.   

Lean meats tend to be tougher, so you need to be creative with your cooking method. Use slow-cooking methods such as stewing or braising as they are usually best to preserve flavor and increase tenderness. Remove the skin and fat from meat and poultry before cooking.  

If you cook meat or poultry with the skin or fat still intact, the meat itself becomes higher in fat, even if you remove the visible skin and fat after the item is cooked. If baking or broiling meat or poultry, try placing it on a rack so that the fat will drain off of the meat.  

Try using a meat substitute in a recipe to replace all or some of the ground meat to save some calories and fat. You can also incorporate beans or vegetables and completely eliminate the fat. Try using portabella mushrooms in place of beef.  

Try some of the following recipe substitutions in any of your favorite recipes to improve the nutritional content:

 Save 60 calories and 8 grams of fat by using one cup of skim milk in place of whole milk

 Try using one cup of evaporated skim milk with 3/4 cup sugar substitute in place of sweetened condensed milk to eliminate 782 calories and 27 grams of fat

 Dump the heavy cream and use skim milk instead to save yourself 600 calories and 80 grams of fat

 Replace 1 tablespoon of regular mayonnaise with the same amount of lite mayonnaise for a savings of 90 calories and 11 grams of fat

 Replace 2 cups of sugar with one cup of sugar mixed with one cup of Splenda to cut 770 calories from your favorite recipe

 Use 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce in place of vegetable oil to save 750 calories and 160 grams of fat

 Use turkey bacon in place of regular bacon to eliminate 250 calories and 20.5 grams of fat per 3 ounce serving

 Use 2 egg whites or 1/4 cup egg substitute in place of 1 whole egg to save about 50 calories and 6 grams of fat

 One slice of fat-free American cheese in place of regular American cheese will decrease any recipe by 40 calories and 5 grams of fat

 Using fat-free hot dogs in place of regular hot dogs buys you about 140 calories and 16 grams of fat

Not every item that you eat needs to be low calorie and low fat, and there very well might be certain recipes that you are not willing to modify.  

If that is the case, modify your portion sizes of those items and choose other healthful foods to accompany your meal.  

But don't be afraid to experiment with your favorite recipes. More often than not, you can follow some of the tips provided above to improve the nutritional content of a recipe without completely compromising the flavor, texture and appeal.

Melissa Tewes is the clinical nutrition manager at Meritus Medical Center. She has 16 years of experience as a registered dietitian and is also a certified personal trainer.


By Joe Fleischman

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