Menu Planning Monday January 17th: Our top 10 tips for making any recipe healthier

We thought that now would be a great time to share with you some of the ways that we make recipes healthier. If you look over our menu plans each week it might seem like we make some rather decadent foods but for the most part we eat healthier versions of the traditional recipes. For example on Tuesday we are having falafel wraps with fries which would normally be fried meaning it’s not good for you but I make the falafel starting with dried beans and bake them, then I use whole wheat pita that we make and add veggies to the sandwich. We then bake the sweet potato fries so all in all it is a healthy vegetarian meal.

Often times I have trouble finding a healthy version of a recipe and am forced to improvise with an existing one, in case you find yourself in a similar situation I thought it might be helpful to share some of our ideas on just how to do that. The first thing I do when considering a new recipe to try for the first time, is look to see if there is anything I want to preface the list by pointing out that these are general ideas and suggestions as to the possibilities of making recipes and food preparation healthier.

  • If a baking recipe calls for oil consider adding purred fruit instead. If the recipe has seasoning and or chocolate then I will typically use applesauce but if the flavors are more subtle like with pancakes then I often use mashed banana.
  • Try reducing the overall amount of meat in a recipe, I like to substitute with beans when possible but most of the time it’s not so instead I increase the amount of vegetables. This of course is easiest in soups or pasta dishes but with practice it can be done with almost anything, next time you make fajitas try making ¾ the amount of meat you normally would and make twice as many peppers and onions.
  • Think twice before adding butter to a recipe, most of the time the amount of butter can be reduced and some of the time it can be eliminated all together. For example when I make mashed potatoes I don’t use any butter instead I add a little fat free sour cream or fat free buttermilk for flavor.
  • Use whole wheat flour in place of a portion of the all purpose flour when possible. Whole wheat flour does have a different texture and responds to yeast differently so it’s important to take that into consideration, but even replacing a little is better than none.
  • One of the best ways to make something healthy that traditionally isn’t is to change the cooking method. Many things that are deep fried can be pan seared or baked reducing the calories by as much as half.
  • Make more of the ingredients that go into the recipe yourself in order to eliminate preservatives, added calories, sodium and fat while having the opportunity to improve flavor. Making your own sauces for pasta or even using dried beans allows you to do just that.
  • To create thicker textures in sauces or soups use an immersion blender to puree vegetables and add smoothness without using flour or cornstarch. This is also a great way to add vegetables that you or your family may otherwise not eat. Keep in mind that everything will become blended together when you do this so leave out anything that you want in chunks such as meat or pasta and add after.
  • Take every opportunity to add additional ingredients such as flax seed, bran, oats or protein powders to foods that could use that could use the nutritional boast.
  • Use cooking spray or spray butter that has no calories instead of the actual thing when possible. I use spray olive oil to coat yeast bread rather than slathering the dough in actual oil and I use spray butter when making grilled cheese rather than spreading butter on the bread.
  • Grind whole oats into a powder and use in place of some flour or as an alternative to bread crumbs. I make it in large batches and keep in the pantry so I don’t have to pull out the food processor constantly plus it makes it so much easier to add to recipes like meatloaf or pancakes when its ready to go.

With that in mind here is what we are having for dinner this week:

For more menu planning tips check out organizing junkie

Much love, Aislinn and Emily

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