Spring Clean Your Diet

April 5, 2018
| Created by

Out with the old, in with the nutritious! Have you considered that maybe your recipes are also in need of spring cleaning? Here are a few ways to tidy up your recipes, while keeping your taste buds happy.

Fat: Fat is crucial to a healthy diet; it’s important for heart, eye, skin, and brain health, and necessary for absorbing certain vitamins. However, since it has more than double the calories per gram of carbohydrates and protein, calories from fat can add up in a hurry—of course, some types of fat are more beneficial to our health than others.

Swap solid fats like butter or shortening for heart healthy liquid oils, like olive or canola oil. Take a look at your recipes and determine what role fat is playing and whether you can reduce the amount or use your favorite broth to sauté vegetables or a bit of cooking spray in a non-stick pan. This is especially helpful for porous vegetables like mushrooms, which soak up whatever they’re cooked in.

Instead of deep frying, lightly pan fry items in canola oil for crispness then finish cooking them in the oven.

For baked goods, use Greek yogurt, pumpkin, bananas or applesauce to replace some fats and add extra nutrition. Start by replacing ½ the fat in the recipe for one of these alternatives.

Salt: Most Americans get far more than the recommended maximum 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. With that in mind, check your recipes for opportunities to use lower-sodium options, especially if your recipe calls for packaged or canned items.

Purchase the low sodium or unsalted versions of these canned cooking staples: broth or cooking stock, canned beans, canned vegetables, and tomato sauce. Try salting your food at the end of cooking, not throughout the process or use herbs and aromatics. Be creative with spices and herbs and have fun experimenting! Instead of the salt shaker, keep vinegar and sliced citrus fruit like lemons or limes on the table for a salt-free way to flavor food.

Sugar: As with salt, most Americans get far more sugar in our diets than is recommended, which increases our risk of developing cancer, diabetes, and heart disease—not to mention our waistlines. When cooking, it’s easy to reduce the amount of sugar you use without sacrificing flavor.

Swap added sugars for fruit: use dates or raisins to increase sweetness without adding more sugar to the dish. Remember honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar and agave count as added sugar, and use them accordingly.

As with fat, sugar in recipes can often be reduced without ill-effect. Start by reducing the sugar by 1/3 of the amount called for. When cooking with sugar, use it strategically.

While artificial sweeteners can be a tool for reducing sugar in food, they can also keep our taste buds accustomed to sweet tasting things. Research is mixed on whether they actually help with weight management, so use them in moderation.

Whole grains: Along with a host of health benefits, whole grains keep us fuller longer, our blood sugar more stable, and our energy levels sustained. We recommend making at least half of your grains whole.

Try whole wheat white flour, a variety of wheat with a milder flavor profile and softer texture than the red wheat you usually find in whole grain products. Try it out in your favorite pancake recipe – your family won’t notice a difference! Instead of white rice, use brown rice, or try whole wheat panko bread crumbs. Experiment with new grains like farro, amaranth, and quinoa.

Simple swaps add up to more nutritious foods. What are some of your favorite ways to make recipes healthier?