Easy Ways to Make Recipes, Meals Healthier

Below are some favorites, primarily from Ohio State University Extension (see “Modifying a Recipe to be Healthier“) and eXtension.

To reduce fat:

  • Use evaporated skim milk instead of cream.
  • Use 1/4 cup egg substitute or two egg whites in place of a whole egg.
  • In quick breads, muffins, brownies or cakes, substitute half or all of the oil, butter or other shortening with unsweetened applesauce, mashed bananas or fruit puree. Note: Making this substitution will increase carbohydrates in the end product — something to be aware of if you have diabetes.
  • Use low-fat or nonfat yogurt in place of sour cream.
  • Use low-fat cottage cheese pureed until smooth or low-fat cream cheese in place of full-fat cream cheese.
  • Try lower-fat or nonfat versions of a variety of foods, especially milk, cheese, cream cheese, mayonnaise, salad dressing and margarine.
  • Use an air popper for popcorn.

To increase fiber:

  • Replace half the all-purpose flour in baked goods with whole-wheat flour.
  • Add oats or finely ground fiber-rich non-sweetened cereal to replace some or all of the bread crumbs in a recipe, or to the crust or batter when making desserts. Add beans or barley to soups, stews and casseroles.
  • Add sauteed vegetables — cherry tomatoes, onions, spinach or zucchini, for example — to scrambled eggs.
  • Don’t peel apples, cucumbers, zucchini or potatoes before eating them or using them in recipes. Choose high-fiber alternatives for cereal, bread and pasta — look at the Nutrition Facts labels.

To increase other nutrients:

  • Add cooked and mashed cauliflower to mashed potatoes, or add cooked chopped cauliflower to macaroni and cheese.
  • Add chopped spinach or zucchini to pasta sauce, soups and casseroles.
  • For salads, choose romaine, endive or other dark-green leafy lettuce instead of iceberg lettuce, and include baby spinach leaves.
  • Increase calcium by adding nonfat milk or dry milk to a casserole’s cream sauce or to cream soups.
  • Increase antioxidants by sprinkling hot sauce on foods. The capsaicin in it shows promise in anti-cancer studies, though it may take quite a bit to have a discernible effect.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or [email protected]

Lynn Snyder 

Lynn Snyder is senior director of communications for Ohio Farm Bureau.