For Better Living*
By: Sandra R. Cain
The link between diet and health is important. Food alone cannot make
you healthy. But good eating habits, based on variety and moderation,
can help keep you healthy and even improve your health. Good eating
habits include knowing how to prepare and select foods that fit into the
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that we eat less fat, sugar
and salt and more complex carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables and fiber.
One way to help meet the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines is to
modify our recipes and methods of food preparation. This is relatively
easy because many recipes are higher in fat, sugar and salt than is
needed for good flavor and quality.
*Tips for Healthy Modifications*
Here are a few ways to update recipes. These suggestions apply to most
foods except when specific proportions of ingredients are essential to
prevent spoilage (such as cured meats, pickles, jams and jellies).
*Decrease Total Fat and Calories*
* Reduce fat by one-fourth to one-third in baked products. For
example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup hydrogenated shortening, try
2/3 cup oil. This works best in quick breads, muffins and cookies.
* In recipes such as muffins and snack cakes, try replacing half to
all of the fat with prune puree, lowfat yogurt or unsweetened
applesauce. The pectin in these “fat replacers” helps hold the
product together and gives the mouth-feel of fat. Because they add
sugar calories, you also may want to decrease the added sugar by
* Cut back or even eliminate added fat in casseroles and main dishes.
For example, browning meat in added fat is unnecessary because some
fat will drain from the meat as it cooks. Use a microwave oven,
nonstick pan or cooking spray.
* Saute or stir-fry vegetables with little fat or use water, wine or
* To thicken sauces and gravies without lumping, eliminate fat and mix
cornstarch or flour with a small amount of cold liquid. Stir this
mixture slowly into the hot liquid to be thickened and bring it to a
boil, stirring constantly. Add herbs, spices and flavorings.
* Chill soups, gravies and stews; skim off hardened fat before
reheating to serve.
* Select lean cuts of meat and trim off visible fat. Remove skin from
poultry before cooking.
* Bake, broil, grill, poach or microwave meat, poultry or fish instead
* Decrease the proportion of oil in homemade salad dressings. Try
one-third oil to two-thirds vinegar. Low-fat cottage cheese or
buttermilk seasoned with herbs and spices also makes a low-fat
* Use reduced-calorie sour cream or mayonnaise. To reduce fat further,
use plain low-fat or nonfat yogurt, buttermilk or blended cottage
cheese instead of regular sour cream or mayonnaise for sauces, dips
and salad dressings. If you heat a sauce made with yogurt, add 1
tablespoon of cornstarch to 1 cup of yogurt to prevent separation.
* Use fat-free low-fat milk instead of whole milk. For extra richness,
try evaporated fat-free milk.
* Choose low-fat cheeses such as feta, neufchatel and mozzarella
instead of high-fat ones such as Swiss or cheddar. Also use less cheese.
*Decrease Saturated Fat and Cholesterol*
* Use two egg whites or an egg substitute product instead of one whole
egg. In some recipes, simply decrease the total number of eggs. This
is especially true if the fat and sugar also are decreased in the
* Use margarine instead of butter. Look for margarines that contain no
trans fats and list liquid vegetable oil as the first ingredient.
* Use vegetable oils instead of solid fats. To substitute liquid oil
for solid fats, use about one-fourth less than the recipe calls for.
For example, if a recipe calls for 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of solid
fat, use 3 tablespoons of oil. For cakes or pie crusts, use a recipe
that specifically calls for oil, because liquid fats require special
* Reduce sugar by one-quarter to one-third in baked goods and
desserts. Add extra spice or flavoring to enhance impression of
sweetness. This works best with quick breads, cookies, pie fillings,
custard, puddings and fruit crisps.
* Decrease or eliminate sugar when canning or freezing fruits. Buy
unsweetened frozen fruit or fruit canned in its own juice or water.
* In cookies, bars and cakes, replace one-quarter of the sugar called
for with an equal amount of nonfat dry milk. This reduces calories
and increases calcium, protein and riboflavin in the recipe.
* Choose fruit juices, club soda or skim milk over soft drinks and
punches. Make fruit juice coolers with equal parts fruit juice and
club soda or seltzer.
* Non-sugar sweeteners can replace part or all of the sugar in many
recipes. However, most have limitations. Some products will not work
well in recipes that are cooked or baked. Saccharin can be used in
hot and cold foods but may leave a bitter aftertaste. Sucralose is
heat stable, but works better in recipes like pies and quick breads
where sugar is primarily used to provide sweetness rather than
texture, volume and browning. In such cases, using a sucralose blend
made from half sugar and half sucralose may work. Be aware, however,
that none of the non-caloric sugar substitutes provide the volume or
structure that sugar does, so rather than simply substitute, it’s
best to choose recipes especially tested for use with non-sugar
* Salt may be omitted or reduced in most recipes. Do not reduce salt
in cured meats or pickled or brined vegetables — it acts as a
preservative. A small amount is useful in yeast breads to help
control the rising action of the yeast.
* Start with a gradual reduction. For example, if a recipe calls for 1
teaspoon of salt, try 1/2 teaspoon. If you reduce the amount of salt
gradually, you’ll soon adjust to a less salty flavor. Choose fresh
or low-sodium versions of soups and broths, soy sauce, canned
vegetables and tomato products.
* Rely on herbs and spices for flavor, rather than salt.
* Use garlic or onion powder instead of garlic or onion salt.
* Omit salt from water when cooking pasta, noodles, rice or hot cereals.
* Try fruit juice or wine for cooking liquid instead of broth or bouillon.
* Read labels. Any ingredient that includes sodium in its name
* Choose whole grain instead of highly refined products (whole-wheat
flour and bread, bulgur, brown rice, oatmeal, whole cornmeal and
* Whole-wheat flour usually can be substituted for part or all of the
all-purpose flour. If a recipe calls for 2 cups of all-purpose
flour, try 1 cup of all-purpose and 1 cup of whole-wheat flour. When
completely substituting whole-wheat for white flour, use 7/8 cup
whole-wheat flour for 1 cup of white flour.
* Add extra fruits and vegetables to recipes.
* Add fruits to muffins, pancakes, salads and desserts, and add
vegetables to quiche fillings, casseroles and salads.
*Putting It Into Practice*
Decide what ingredients to reduce. Those on the high end of the range
are the ones to reduce. Reduce fat or sugar to at least the midpoint of
the range. Reduce eggs, if needed, to within the range. Reduce sodium if
Decide which ingredients to increase. Fat and sugar provide moistness
and richness to recipes. When they are reduced, add liquid back, usually
in the form of water, milk, fruit juice, applesauce, or fruit or
vegetable pulp.Add back at least half as much liquid as sugar and fat
reduced. For example, if you reduce the sugar in a recipe by 2
tablespoons and fat by 4 tablespoons, add 3 tablespoons milk or fruit
juice. Replacing a portion of the sugar that remains in the recipe with
honey or molasses also may improve the softness and moistness of the
Consider adding nonfat dry milk to increase the calcium content of the
product. In many baked recipes, nonfat dry milk can replace up to
one-fourth of the sugar in a recipe with good results. Also, 2 to 4
tablespoons of nonfat dry milk powder per cup of flour may be added to
cookies and cakes as an additive. Add as much nonfat dry milk powder to
the recipe as sugar reduced.
Try the recipe. Do not over bake. Products with less sugar are not as
brown as those with more sugar. Evaluate the quality and flavor. If the
recipe still seems richer than necessary, reduce fat and sugar further
and further increase liquid. If the product seems dry, consider adding
more liquid (water, fruit juice, applesauce, fruit or vegetable pulp).
Source:Colorado Cooperative Extension
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed
2 tablespoons water
4 cups spring mix salad greens
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons orange juice
3 tablespoons apricot preserves
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
Place the asparagus and water in a microwave safe dish. Cover and
microwave on high for 2-3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and
immediately place asparagus in ice water. Drain and pat dry.
Place salad greens on a serving platter. Top with asparagus. In a small
bowl, whisk the vinegar, orange juice, preserves, sesame seeds and
ginger. Drizzle over salad. Sprinkle with toasted almonds.