Modify recipes, prep to promote good health

November 08, 2011|Lynn Little

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans ( recommend that we cut back on foods high in solid fat, added sugars and salt. One way to help meet those recommendations is to modify our recipes and methods of food preparation.  

 To reduce or eliminate fat, sugar or sodium in a recipe you will first need to identify the ingredients that contains these components. Fat, sugar and salt can be reduced in amount, eliminated or replaced with a more nutritious ingredient.  

To decide which recipes might need modifications ask the following:  

  •  How often is the food eaten? It is not as important to modify a recipe for a dish eaten once or twice a year as it is for foods you prepare and serve more often.  
  •  How much of the food is eaten? Sometimes the best way to modify the intake of a certain food is to eat less of it. Decreasing the quantity eaten might be more satisfying than decreasing the quality.   

Here are a few suggestions for modifying recipes for good health:  

  •  For quick breads, muffins and cookies, reduce fat by one-fourth to one-third. In these same foods, try replacing half to all of the fat with prune puree, or unsweetened applesauce. The pectin in these "fat replacers" helps hold the product together and gives the mouth-feel of fat. Because these ingredients are sweet, you could decrease the added sugar by one-fourth.  
  •  Substitute liquid oil for solid fats, using about one-fourth less than the recipe suggests. For example, if a recipe calls for 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of solid fat, use 3 tablespoons of oil. For cakes or pie crusts, use a recipe that specifically calls for oil.  
  •  Use skim or low-fat milk instead of whole milk. For extra richness, try evaporated skim milk.  
  •  Brown meat without added fat, since some fat will drain from the meat as it cooks. To further reduce the fat, use a nonstick pan or cooking spray.    
  •  Chill soups, gravies and stews; skim off hardened fat before reheating to serve.  
  •  Bake, broil, grill, poach or microwave meat, poultry or fish instead of frying.  
  •  Reduce sugar by one-quarter to one-third in baked goods and desserts. Add extra spice or flavoring to enhance the impression of sweetness.  
  •  Nonsugar sweeteners can replace part or all of the sugar in many recipes.  However, most have limitations. Rather than substitute, it's best to choose recipes especially tested for use with nonsugar sweeteners.  
  •  Salt may be omitted or reduced in most recipes. A small amount is useful in yeast breads to help control the rising action of the yeast.  
  •  Rely on herbs and spices for flavor.  
  •  Try fruit juice or wine as cooking liquid instead of broth or bouillon.  

For a greater understanding of how to modify recipes for better health, visit and click on Family and Consumer Sciences, then Nutrition and Food Safety.

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.

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