Lean Too

I am an advocate for real food; not chemically altered, low fat foods, but I do make a lot of healthier substitutions in my recipes. And by substitutions, I mean simply taking one real food product and swapping it out for another, healthier real food product. But do not misunderstand me- I do love butter, cream and everything fatty…I just don’t like to eat too much of it for hip and butt reasons. Here are just a few of my simple, healthy substitutions:
Yogurt. I despise the taste of mayonnaise but I do understand it’s purpose. If you find yourself really needing to cut back on calories for health reasons you can do what I used to do: use plain yogurt in place of mayonnaise for things like stuffings, fish cakes and tuna, egg, and chicken salad. If you can afford the 2% fat greek yogurt, then it’s even better.
Canned Pumpkin. I just discovered this trick. I had an about-to-expire box of dark chocolate cake mix in the pantry and decided to make cupcakes with it. I substituted an entire can of plain pumpkin for all of the eggs and oil in the recipe, added about 1/3 cup of water and ended up with the most delicious, delightfully dense and moist chocolate cupcakes I’ve ever had (keep in mind, the texture changes a bit due to the lack of eggs). You don’t taste the pumpkin (although I wouldn’t mind it if you did-i love pumpkin), it just adds great moisture, vitamins and fiber that the eggs and oil don’t.
For the same reason that I used pumpkin in the cupcakes, I frequently use applesauce in place of all or some of the vegetable oil in baked goods. All the recipe needs is moisture, and applesauce adds that element without adding the fat. I use it in my banana bread, carrot cake and black walnut cake, to name a few.
I use pureed avocado in place of some of the butter in my famous chocolate chip-toffee cookies. I tricked everyone in my family by not telling them the secret ingredient until after they tasted them, but they all agreed they were the best chocolate chip cookies they’ve eaten. This trick doesn’t necessarily save you any money or a ton of fat grams but it does add fiber and good, heart-healthy fat. (If you puree the ripe avocado and allow it to oxidize before incorporating it into the mix, your cookies won’t be green. I learned that the hard way.) Also, I’ve found that if you brown the butter you’re using, the butter flavor is intensified, therefore making a more buttery tasting, but less-buttery cookie. This is a great way to use that way-too-soft avocado on your counter that you forgot about. And did you know that you can freeze avocado? You can either freeze slices of the just-ripe fruit or the pureed version of the overly ripe ones in baggies.
Hidden Pureed Vegetables.
Kinda like what I did with the avocado…If you happen to have trouble getting your child (or husband) to eat their veggies, this is a good trick for you to try. (I don’t. Both my boys love the healthy stuff but I still do it because I like the idea of eating healthy things even when you’re not trying to.) Substitute a cooked, pureed vegetable that shares the color of whatever dish you’re making. For example – If your Mac&Cheese is orange, add some pureed butternut squash, carrots, sweet potatoes or pumpkin to the cheese mixture and they’ll never know. If your mac n chez is white, add pureed cauliflower. Speaking of cauliflower-add it to your potato recipes for extra vitamins and fiber, whether you’re mashing it, roasting it, or putting it in a casserole. Pureed peas or spinach is a great thing to add to pesto pasta dishes. And next time you’re making a tomato sauce, add a ton of tomato paste to the pot. Tomato paste has such amazing vitamin power, and is really high in lycopene, compared to other canned tomato products.
Whole Wheat Pastry Flour. I’ll use whole wheat flour whenever I can, but as you know it can be difficult to work with because it’s a much courser grind than all purpose, white flour. They now make something called, ‘Whole Wheat Pastry Flour’, which is very finely ground and can be swapped out for equal amounts of white flour. I’ve used it in my chocolate chip cookies, in pancakes (oat flour is great for pancakes too…), and other quick breads.
Canned Evaporated Milk. I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat it again. I use canned evaporated, whole milk in place of heavy cream in a lot of my recipes. It can turn your soup creamy just as well as heavy cream can. And it’s an easy thing to keep in your pantry, just don’t drop it on your toe. I did and now mine’s broken.
-I don’t think it’s healthy to make complete food swaps, or to restrict certain food groups out of your diet, because I think your body will soon rebel and begin to desperately crave the real stuff. (I put myself on a highly restrictive diet in college and I was completely miserable). But I do think that making little changes or healthy swaps in recipes can, over time, make you a lot healthier and happier.
thanks for listening-
Happy, Healthy Eating, everyone!

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1 Comment

  • Reply cary January 22, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    thanks for the whole wheat pastry flour tip. will go buy some today!

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