Substitutions Make Holiday Fare Healthier

Altering recipes to cut fat, salt a quick fix without losing taste, experts say

Topics: Cooking / Recipes Dieting To Avoid Lactose Or Milk Dieting To Control Salt Dieting To Lower Fat Intake Dieting To Reduce Sugar Safety & Public Health: Misc Salt / Sodium

SATURDAY, Nov. 22 (HealthDay News) -- You can eat healthier this holiday season by altering recipes and making good food choices, say experts with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

Holiday cooks can reduce the sugar, fat or salt content of almost any holiday recipe without a noticeable difference in taste, nutrition specialist Mary Bielamowicz said in a news release.

"If a recipe calls for a cup of sugar, use two-thirds of a cup," she said. "If it calls for a half-cup of oil, shortening or other fat, use one-third cup. And if a recipe says to use one-half teaspoon of salt, use one-quarter teaspoon or omit the salt entirely."

Another way to make holiday recipes more healthful is to substitute whole-grain or bran flours for recipes calling for all-purpose flour, Bielamowicz said.

"In most instances, you can replace one-quarter to one-half the amount of all-purpose flour you see in holiday recipes with whole-wheat flour," she said. "Or you can substitute oat bran or oatmeal for one-fourth of the all-purpose flour used."

Test modifying more complicated recipes yourself before serving them, as the changes may not result in the texture or flavor you want, Bielamowicz said.

"Holiday meals don't have to be high in fat or calories to be tasty," said Dr. Connie Sheppard, AgriLife Extension agent for family and consumer sciences in Bexar County. "But low in fat doesn't always mean low in calories, so you have to consider both."

For example, reduced or non-fat dairy products can be substituted for higher-fat counterparts, she said, while evaporated milk can be used as a substitute for cream.

Sheppard also suggested steaming or roasting vegetables with low-fat margarine or sprays on them instead of butter. Defatted broth also works in place of butter in mashed potato recipes to reduce fat and calorie content, she said.

As for a main course, turkey -- especially turkey breast -- provides the lowest fat and highest protein, with baking being the healthiest cooking method, Sheppard said.

"If you're cooking a turkey, leave the skin on to contain the flavor, but remove it after cooking to reduce fat," she said. "And try basting it in its own juice or use a defatted broth instead of butter. And make the stuffing outside the turkey."

Stuffing placed inside a turkey absorbs more oil, Sheppard said. Also, getting the internal temperature of the bird high enough to cook the dressing often leads to overcooking the turkey, she said.

"For vegetable dishes like candied sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, try substituting mashed or baked sweet potatoes with a little brown sugar and butter substitute," Sheppard said.

"For a green bean casserole, try reduced-fat mushroom or chicken soup or defatted broth," she added. "Use low-fat or skim milk, and leave off the fried onion topping."

When baking desserts, try substituting the same amount of canola or vegetable oil for the amount of butter called for in the recipe, Sheppard said.

"You can use applesauce in cakes and cookies to cut down on fat and use less sugar or a sugar substitute instead of table sugar," said Rita Avendano, AgriLife Extension assistant for the Better Living for Texans program. "And you can use yogurt in place of eggs in cakes and pies to reduce fat and eliminate cholesterol."

More information

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has more about healthy eating.

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