There’s nothing like chicken soup to get over a cold, or your grandmother’s cookie recipe for a birthday celebration. But these comfort foods are often chock-full of unhealthy ingredients. Often, the flavors that tickle our taste buds are the same ingredients that expand our waistlines and clog our arteries. Not so comforting!
Fortunately, you can swap or cut out most of the unhealthy ingredients from your favorite recipes. It’s not as complicated as you might imagine. Try these two sneaky tricks to make your comfort food healthier:
Trick No. 1: Cut Back on the Bad Stuff - No One Will Notice (Not Even You)
Some ingredients are essential to a recipe – for instance, baking soda, which neutralizes acid (found in chocolate, vinegar, and citrus), helps the recipe to leaven (rise) so that your foods are light and fluffy instead of squished and mushy.
However, there are plenty of ingredients that are non-essential; just because the recipe calls for them doesn’t mean you have to include them.
Try This Trick Tonight:
- Say ‘No’ to Salt: The biggest non-essential offender is salt. If your recipe calls for a teaspoon or two of salt, you can reduce that amount, or omit it altogether – when cooking, not baking. We know it sounds crazy, but try it.
- Slash Calories When You Sauté: Likewise, be conscious of how much oil or butter you use when frying or sautéing foods. The recipe might say you “need” to use two tablespoons of butter or oil to fry those veggies, but in reality, if you’re using a non-stick pan, you can get away with a lot less without impacting flavor.
- Be Stingy With the Sugar: Finally, you can easily cut back on sugar without anyone’s taste buds registering the difference – and without affecting the outcome of the recipe. Want to give it a try? The next time you bake cookies, use half the quantity of chocolate chips the recipe calls for and cut the amount of sugar by one third. We guarantee no one will notice.
Trick No. 2: Swap it Up - Sub in the Good Stuff
Replacing unhealthy ingredients may seem daunting — especially since it involves slight modifications to your recipes — but those tweaks can be well worth it when you consider what you’re gaining (or rather, losing).
Try This Trick Tonight:
- Instead of oil, go with applesauce. By replacing half the oil a recipe calls for with applesauce, you’ll get the same moist, rich texture and great flavor with fewer calories (don’t worry — you can’t taste apple in the finished product!).
- Instead of white flour, go with whole wheat flour or almond flour. This swap couldn’t be simpler. You can replace 100% of the white flour with equal portions of whole wheat flour or almond flour. Or, if you’d like to transition slower, replace half of the white flour with a less processed flour. Both suggested replacement flours contain vitamins and minerals and are a good source of fiber.
- Instead of heavy cream, go with coconut milk. Your soups and sauces will still be thick and taste creamy, but they’ll have less fat and cholesterol. (Extra tip: silken tofu also works well here.)
- Instead of no-fiber, go with high fiber. Many of our recipes can benefit from added fiber. For example, simply toss in oatmeal or oatbran to a casserole or meat loaf. Add grated carrots to tomato sauce, or roasted or stir-fry vegetables to whole wheat pasta and home-made pizza.
- Instead of flour tortilla wraps, go with lettuce leaves. Making fish tacos tonight? You can make your recipe way healthier simply by using corn tortillas. Or, if you’re really adventurous, skip the wrap and use lettuce leaves instead. We’ll admit it: this swap is pretty evident (who’s not going to notice their taco wrapped in green lettuce instead of a white tortilla?) But when it comes to flavor, flour tortillas don’t add much to the mix: we doubt you’ll miss them. And you definitely won’t miss the added calories.
You don’t need to throw out your favorite recipes just because they call for unhealthy ingredients. All you need to remember are these two tricks: cut back on the non-essential bad stuff, and, where possible, swap in some good stuff. There are tons of sneaky ways to reduce the fat, salt or sugar, and to add fiber into your recipes, without compromising taste. So go ahead, dig in and enjoy your favorite recipes.