Think healthy cooking means giving up good taste? Think again! Armed with a few simple ingredient swaps, you can make any dish more nutrient-rich without losing the flavor you love.
1. Pureed Prunes Instead of Sugar, Butter or Oil Love to make cookies, cakes, pies and other sweet treats? Here’s a must-have baker’s secret for adding flavor, texture and moisture to your desserts without all the fat and sugar: prune puree. Prune puree is naturally sweet, virtually fat-free and rich in potassium.Two tablespoons of prune puree contain 93 calories while just 1 tablespoon of oil clocks in at 120 calories and 13.5 grams of fat.
Need another reason to use pureed prunes? They can help boost bone health! Recent study findings reported at the 2015 Experimental Biology meeting showed that postmenopausal women given one serving (4-5 prunes) daily experienced improved bone health and a slowing of bone loss. When modifying a recipe using prune puree, use about half as much of the puree as the total amount of butter and sugar called for in the recipe. For a wholesome, tasty start to your day, try these Blueberry Lemon Scones made with dried plum puree.
2. Protein-Rich Pasta Instead of Meat Sauce
If you love classic Italian cuisine, there’s an easy way to make it even healthier—by nixing the meatballs or meat sauce. While lean meats can be a healthy part of a balanced diet, most of us eat too much meat (which is a contributor of saturated fat) and not enough produce. One easy swap for making your pasta healthier is to experiment with meatless pasta dishes and use protein-enriched pasta in place of lean meats. For example, Barilla Protein Plus has a whopping 17g of protein per 3.5oz portion—that’s equivalent to about 3 ounces of lean beef. I use it for pasta primavera and for a family-favorite, try this Spaghetti with Zucchini and Roasted Bell Peppers.
3. Spinach, Kale or Arugula Instead of Iceberg Lettuce
Iceberg lettuce might be low in calories, but it doesn’t provide the same nutritional value as the darker leafy greens like kale, spinach or arugula. One cup of iceberg lettuce provides a little under 1 gram of fiber and 13 mg of calcium, while a cup of kale boasts 2.4 grams of fiber and 100 mg of bone-building calcium — so you get much more nutritional bang for your buck.
While all dark leafy greens have high antioxidant activity, research shows that the calcium in kale is more easily absorbed. Spinach and arugula are also filled with important vitamins and antioxidants. In fact, 1 cup of fresh spinach leaves provides nearly double the daily requirement for vitamin K, which is essential for maintaining proper bone health. So, forego the Iceberg and let these dark leafy greens take center stage like in this Kale Salad with Oranges.
4. Citrus Instead of Salt
Want to help your health? Cut down on salt. The average American consumes a colossal 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day — that’s more than double the 1,500 milligrams recommended by the American Heart Association. Swapping out sodium from your meals and snacks could help reduce your risk of high blood pressure and other major diseases. Lemon, lime or orange juice can be a delicious way to leave the saltshaker behind. Just spritz fresh citrus juice on your fish, chicken and veggie dishes and you’ll boost flavor without missing the salt.
5. Greek Yogurt Instead of Sour Cream
At 220 calories and 14 grams of saturated fat per puny half-cup portion, sour cream is one of the worst diet wreckers, adding potential inches to your waistline. The good news is that Greek yogurt provides the rich taste of sour cream, but for a fraction of the calories and saturated fat. In fact by using plain, nonfat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream, you’ll cut calories by more than half, eliminate the sat fat, and up the protein.
A half-cup of Greek yogurt packs in about 12 grams of protein – that’s the equivalent of 2 eggs! Greek yogurt is a healthier stand in for any recipe that calls for sour cream like dips, tacos, chili or baked potato topping. For a delicious dip that’s sure to be a favorite at your next party, try this Skinny Artichoke Dip.
Small changes can lead to big results. What healthy step can you make today?