Dietitians Dish: Trim fat, calories by adjusting recipe ingredients
By Lindsay Adams
As a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show," Paula Deen, considered by many to be the queen of Southern cuisine, was asked what she would tell her health conscious critics. She quickly replied, "I'm your cook, not your doctor." Paula's response sums up the cooking philosophy of many Southerners. However, many substitutions can be made while cooking to improve healthfulness without sacrificing flavor.
All ingredients of recipes serve a purpose. Fats tenderize and add flavor and moisture to foods. A common substitution for butter is simply stick margarine. Tub margarine should not be used for regular margarine nor should oil be substituted for butter or margarine as it can result in dense, soggy, or flat baked goods. Oil should only be used if a recipe calls for it. Unsweetened applesauce or pureed prunes can be substituted for oil in oil based recipes (quick breads, muffins, and some cakes). The oil can be replaced using the equivalent amount of applesauce or pureed prunes or you can experiment with different ratios (ex. 1/2 cup oil, 1/2
Dairy products add flavor and moisture to baked foods and help promote browning. Substitutions involving dairy products are pretty simple because you can just use low-fat versions. Instead of whole or 2 percent milk, use skim or 1 percent milk and try reduced-fat cheeses. Fat-free cheese is not recommended for cooking. Sour cream can be substituted with an equivalent amount of low-fat or fat-free plain yogurt. If being used in a recipe, which must be cooked, you should add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch per 1 cup of yogurt, and fat-free plain yogurt should only be used in sweet recipes because it can become sweeter when heated.
Sugar adds sweetness and flavor to foods and helps to promote browning in baked foods. You can reduce sugar by 1/3 to 1/2 less sugar than the recipe calls for or use sugar substitute. Replace sugar with the equivalent amount of sucralose (Splenda) or use 1/2 sugar and 1/2 sucralose. You may also replace 1 cup of sugar with 1 teaspoon of liquid stevia, 1/3 to 1/2 teaspoon of stevia extract powder, or 18-24 packets of stevia.
Eggs add color, flavor and texture to baked goods and can function as a leavening agent helping food to rise during baking. Many substitutions can be made for eggs but the effectiveness depends on the purpose of egg in the particular recipe, so you may want to do some research before making substitutions.
Remember when altering recipes, certain characteristics of the final dish may be altered, too. It may take a few tries to get it just right, but with practice, you can make your guilty pleasures a little less sinful.
Lindsay Adams is a registered dietitian. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.