It would be awesome if we could cook healthier versions of our favorite dishes instead of giving them up.
The good news is, you can!
Instead of giving up your favorite meals and baked goodies, you can modify recipes and swap high fat and high sugar ingredients for healthier foods.
It’s easy to cut calories, fat, and sugar while adding nutrients, fiber, protein, and antioxidants.
You can also add nutrients by slipping in small amounts of healthy ingredients that don’t change the flavor.
Here are 10 tips to instantly make any meal healthier, starting with 2 meal examples.
Sometimes you just crave this childhood favorite and the memories it brings back.
To make it healthy, add in your favorite veggies. (Because you have favorite veggies now that you’re grown up!)
A few yummy choices include chopped up broccoli, cauliflower, or even peas.
Another way to ramp up the nutrition is to use veggie noodles, which we’ll talk about in another tip.
Veggie noodles, low fat cheese, and veggies make for a healthy dinner.
For more protein, add chopped up steak or ham.
Craving a big, juicy hamburger?
You can make a hamburger much healthier if you make it at home.
Choose grass fed beef patties—the fat make up in grass fed beef is actually good for us and full of omega 3s.
(You can look for grass fed beef when eating out as well.)
Grain fed beef is full of omega 6, which causes inflammation and other problems. Our diet is full of omega 6 when we need omega 3.
You can all kinds of nutrients and antioxidants when you add sliced tomato, onion, and avocado.
If you really want to go healthy, toss the bun. Instead of lettuce inside your burger, use a large lettuce leaf to wrap your patty and toppings.
Americans have been told to avoid fat, so we trim our steak and buy “non fat” products.
Sadly, those products usually have much more sugar or artificial ingredients.
You can make recipes healthier by using natural ingredients.
Or, you can skimp fat off of soups, stews, and other dishes with fat in the liquid. Simply allow your broth, stew or soup to cool and skim off the fat the top.
Tip #2 is actually an example of switching the bad fat in grain fed beef (omega 6) for the good fat in grass fed beef.
Other ways include using olive oil to cook, adding olive oil to your salad or pasta dish instead of dressing and mayo, and checking recipe ingredients for anything that you can substitute with something healthier.
Here’s another tip for swapping bad fats for better ones.
Use avocado or low-fat yogurt in sandwiches, salads, and even deviled eggs.
In fact, you can use smashed avocado in your grass-fed hamburger instead of other condiments to make it a superfood.
Avocado is packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
Monounsaturated fat lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels, on top of reducing the risk for Type 2 diabetes.
One serving of avocado, or about 1/5 of a medium avocado, is low calories at only 50 calories.
Meanwhile mayonnaise has 188 calories and 20 grams of bad fat for just 2 tablespoons.
So avocado is a smart and super healthy swap if you want to lose weight, stay slim, and stay healthy.
You’ll make any recipe healthier by replacing part of the mayo, or all of the mayo when that will work.
Use avocado in tuna, chicken, or egg salad.
You can even make a salad healthier!
Iceberg lettuce is low in calories, but it’s also low in nutritional value compared to darker leafy greens like kale, spinach or arugula.
A cup of iceberg lettuce only has 1 gram of fiber and 13 mg of calcium.
It’s a healthy choice, but you can so much more from Kale, which boasts 2.4 grams of fiber and 100 mg of calcium per cup.
All dark leafy greens have high antioxidant levels, but calcium in kale is more easily absorbed.
Spinach and arugula are also filled with important vitamins and antioxidants.
A cup of fresh spinach has double the daily requirement for vitamin K, an essential vitamin for maintaining bone health.
If you feel that leafy greens have a bitter taste, add blueberries or raspberries, and even avocado to mellow out the taste.
And if you want to add nutritional value to other meals, chop up spinach or kale and cook into sauces and omelets, or add to smoothies.
If you want a super healthy, low carb, and calorie alternative to pasta, veggie noodles are the way to go.
They’re perfect for anyone with a gluten sensitivity, or anyone wanting to lose weight or add fiber to their diet.
Incidentally, adding fiber and antioxidants is beneficial to your gut health and fights inflammation, so it helps with a variety of autoimmune diseases and dietary problems.
You can purchase bags of zucchini and squash noodles, or buy a spiraler and make them yourself.
You can even buy spaghetti squash, which is noodle-like on the inside. It has its own texture and a nutty flavor.
A cup a cooked spaghetti squash has 42 calories and 10 grams of carbs as well as potassium and vitamin A.
A cup of pasta blows that number out of the water. Pasta has 220 calories and 43 grams of carbs per cup.
This trick even works for lasagna. Just swap out the classic lasagna noodles for thin strips of zucchini or eggplant.
You can take any zucchini that got too big in the garden, slice them lengthwise to make sheets, and boil them for a couple minutes to remove excess water. That keeps your lasagna from being watery.
To make any noodle pasta meal healthier, opt for homemade sauce, and throw some extra chopped veggies in the filling.
Heavy cream makes a tasty soup, but it’s awful for your waistline.
Heavy cream has a scary 414 calories and 44 grams of fat in just one cup.
It’s also low in protein and fiber, which work together to help us feel full.
On the other hand, you can cut the calories and fat in half, while upping the protein, by using evaporated skim milk instead
Evaporated milk has up to half of the water removed, so even skim milk is richer and thicker, making it a good alternative to heavy cream.
You can use it in pudding, fettuccine sauce, Alfredo sauce, macaroni and cheese, and soup to get the texture and consistency without the high fat content.
You can thicken sauce with 4 teaspoons flour per cup of liquid as well. Whisk into sauce while hot.
If you’re avoiding gluten, you can use rice, almond, or even coconut flour, depending on what kind of taste you want in your recipe.
Banana is a huge calorie-cutter that you can use one-for-one for oil or butter in baked goodies.
Use your ripe and even overripe bananas, smash them, and use for butter or oil in just about any recipe.
If you’re skeptical, it might change your mind when you compare the numbers.
One cup of butter has 1,628 calories and 116 grams of saturated fat.
Meanwhile, a cup of mashed bananas has 200 calories and less than half a gram of saturated fat. That’s a huge difference in your recipe.
You’re not only cutting calories and fat, you’re adding potassium, fiber, and B vitamins which give you energy.
When you swap in banana along with some coconut or almond flour, your cookies, breads, and cakes will have an artisan taste along with many health benefits.
Use brown alternatives of rice, pasta, and bread to increase the fiber content of recipes, and you’ll feel fuller and have energy for longer.
If you’re worried about the texture of your baked goods, only swap part of the flour.
There’s brown flours that are smoother, such as almond, that also provide a different flavor.
Oat bran even holds moisture well so your baked goods won’t be dry.
Most of us love our cheese, so you might not like the idea of cutting back.
However, you can use a stronger cheese so you can use less and still get all of the flavor.
Stronger cheeses sometimes have less fat and calories too.
You might also use low fat versions, but watch out for artificial ingredients and sweeteners that add more calories.
Making recipes healthier isn’t too hard or time consuming, once you start learning all the little tricks.
The truth is, you can actually cut down on the sugar without affecting most sweet recipes.
Take a few minutes to check ingredients, and you’ll start seeing all kinds of healthier choices in your cooking!
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