Easy ways to make favorite recipes healthier

NORTH COUNTY – A healthy diet plays a significant role in a person’s overall health. Without a healthy diet, men and women are more susceptible to disease and other potentially harmful ailments.

But, when many people think of a healthy diet, a lack of flavor is often one of the first things to come to mind. That’s a common misconception, as a diet that’s healthy and full of nutrients can simultaneously be flavorful. In fact, it’s easy to enjoy many of your favorite dishes in a way that makes them much healthier. Oftentimes, a few minor alterations to a recipe is all it takes to turn the dish from high-risk to healthy.

Trim the fat

Not many people desire to eat fat, but fat isn’t entirely bad for you. Fat can help your body absorb vitamins A, D, E and K, and replacing fat with something like carbohydrates decreases how much these valuable vitamins are absorbed. In addition, dietary fat releases chemicals in the brain that make you feel full, reducing the likelihood that you will overeat.

Those are just a few of the benefits of dietary fat, which is an essential element of a healthy diet. But over-consumption of dietary fat can be dangerous, and many people simply need to trim some fat from their diets.

One way to do that is to reduce how much butter, shortening or oil you use when cooking. For some recipes, you may be able to cut suggested portions of such ingredients by half without replacing them; however, for others, especially those for baked goods, these items may have to be replaced.

In the case of the latter, find a suggested alternative to high-fat items, and only use half of the high-fat item listed in the original recipe. Chances are you won’t taste the difference, but your body will be better for it.

Substitute healthier fare

Substituting items is another way to turn a favorite dish into a healthier dish without altering the flavor dramatically, if at all. For example, instead of cooking with enriched pasta, purchase whole-wheat or whole-grain pastas, which are higher in fiber and lower in calories. If a recipe calls for using milk, choose fat-free milk instead of whole milk. Doing so reduces your fat intake by nearly 8 grams per cup.

Recipes can even be made healthier by simply cutting back on the main dish and adding more vegetables.

Instead of using the recommended amount of meat or chicken, scale back and make up for it with additional vegetables, which reduces your caloric and fat intake while adding more vitamins and minerals to your diet.

Change your methods

Certain cooking techniques are healthier than others. Frying foods or cooking with fat, oil or salt is not the healthiest way to prepare a meal. Some of your favorite dishes that call for frying or cooking in oil can be just as flavorful if you opt for healthier methods like braising, broiling, grilling, or steaming. When recipes call for basting foods in oil or drippings, forgo these unhealthy options and baste foods in vegetable juice or fat-free broth instead.

What you use to cook can also be healthy or unhealthy. Nonstick cookware won’t require you to use oil or butter to keep foods from sticking to the pan. This reduces the amount of fat and calories you will consume, and you likely won’t notice a difference with regards to flavor.

Men and women who enjoy food and cooking their own meals can take several steps to make those meals healthier without sacrificing flavor.

CAPTION: Using nonstick cookware when preparing your favorite meals can reduce reliance on oil or butter, cutting fat and calories from your diet.

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