Give favorite family recipes a makeover

By Keri Collins Lewis
MSU Ag Communications

MISSISSIPPI STATE ­ Healthy eating does not mean home chefs must abandon
favorite dishes, but they can trim sugar, salt and fat and boost fiber to
create lighter versions of beloved recipes.

Many Southern comfort foods include rich, high-calorie ingredients that can
be exchanged for lower calorie options, said Natasha Haynes, a family and
consumer sciences agent with the Mississippi State University Extension
Service.

Baking chicken instead of frying it is just one way to lighten up a
traditional dish.

³Grandma¹s macaroni and cheese recipe is one that may need a makeover,²
Haynes said. ³Her recipe probably calls for 2 cups of whole milk, 2 cups of
heavy cream, one stick of butter and 4 cups of a variety of cheeses —
ingredients that raise the calorie count and fat content of this favorite
dish,² Hayne said. ³Many recipes like this can have a healthy renovation
without affecting the taste or texture of the food.²

Haynes said that home chefs can reduce the fat, sugar and sodium in most
recipes for a shortcut to healthier eating. Low-fat and fat-free dairy
products are one place to start.

³By cutting fat and sugar, you cut calories,² she said. ³How much can you
leave out without affecting the flavor and consistency of your favorite
recipes? You¹ll have to experiment, but there are a lot of options.²

These are some basic guidelines to follow for baked goods:

€ Fat: Use half the butter, shortening or oil and replace the other half
with unsweetened applesauce, mashed bananas or prune puree.

€ Sugar: Reduce the amount of sugar by one-third to one-half, then add
spices, such as cinnamon, cloves, allspice or nutmeg, to enhance flavors.
Vanilla and almond extract can boost the sweet flavor without adding sugar.

€ Sodium: Reduce salt by one-half in baked goods that don¹t require yeast.
For foods that require yeast, don¹t reduce the amount of salt, which is
needed for leavening.

³For most main dishes and side dishes, you can reduce salt by one-half or
eliminate it completely, but you should expect your taste buds to take some
time to adjust,² Haynes said.

Sugar, salt and fat may be hidden in the ingredients added to recipes.

³If a recipe calls for 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese, use half a cup
instead,² Haynes said. ³Use less soy sauce or buy reduced-sodium soy sauce.
If you look, you can find many products with reduced sodium levels,
including popular canned soups and canned vegetables.²

Ann Twiner, a family and consumer sciences agent and county coordinator in
Sunflower County, said cutting sugar, salt and fat intake is a matter of
health.

³Sodium is such a big deal today because more and more people are being
diagnosed with high blood pressure,² Twiner said. ³We are even seeing young
children with high blood pressure.²

Twiner said a diet high in saturated fats, which are found in anything that
comes from animals, including eggs, milk and cheese, causes arteries to clog
over time. This can result in heart attacks, strokes and other health
problems.

³If you cook your mother¹s recipe for pot roast and then put it in the
refrigerator, you will see a hard white film when you take it out if the
refrigerator,² she said. ³This is saturated fat, and this is what it does in
your body over time. It will keep sticking to the sides of the arteries
until they¹re completely blocked.²

Change is difficult, and Twiner said it is important to take small steps
rather than trying to make too many changes at once.

³Focus on the way your plate looks,² she said. ³Make it full of color by
adding fruits and vegetables — half of your plate should be fruits and
vegetables, which can lower your risk for cancer and other chronic diseases.
Plus, fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber.²

Cooking at home allows people to control the amount of sugar, sodium and fat
in their food, Twiner said.

³Most of all, remember that fresh foods are always the best,² she said.

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OPTIONAL SIDE BAR:

5 Recipe Makeover Tips

Apple Pie: Make a lighter apple pie by using a lower-fat, part whole-wheat
piecrust and by using less sugar in the filling. No butter needs to “dot”
the filling or the top crust, either.

Cornbread: Lighten cornbread recipes by using less fat in the batter. Use a
less-fat margarine instead of bacon grease, lard or shortening. Consider
replacing the amount of fat in the recipe with low-fat buttermilk or
fat-free sour cream. For some recipes, make a fat substitute blend of canola
oil and fat-free sour cream. Use fewer eggs (substitute two egg whites or
1/4 cup egg substitute). Increase the fiber in cornbread by substituting
whole-wheat flour for half of the white flour. If the recipe calls for
“stir-in” ingredients, such as bacon or cheese, use a reduced-fat option and
add less of it.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich: Make a healthier grilled cheese sandwich by using
whole-wheat or multigrain bread, reduced-fat cheese or a little less of the
regular cheese. Instead of covering the bread with butter, spray the outer
sides of the bread quickly with canola oil before placing them on a nonstick
griddle or skillet.

Muffins: Reduce the fat in muffin batter to 2 tablespoons of oil per 12
small muffins. Replace half of the white flour with whole-wheat flour.
Reduce the sugar and add ingredients like fresh or dried fruits, ground
cinnamon and toasted nuts to give the flavor a boost.

Potato Salad: Instead of using regular mayonnaise, make a light mayo
dressing by using half light mayonnaise and half fat-free sour cream. Punch
up the flavor in the dressing with honey mustard, relish, freshly ground
black pepper, herbs and spices.