I know it’s the holiday season and we should absolutely indulge this time of year. But I always feel bad when the New Year comes and I’ve gained that pesky 5 pounds because of all that indulging. So I thought it would be helpful for all of us to talk about my top tips for lightening up your recipes. These are a few ideas that you can incorporate into your holiday baking and/or cooking to maybe help keep those pesky pounds at bay while still enjoying all the wonderful food this holiday season has to offer.
1) We all love butter, and I by no means believe you shouldn’t eat it. In fact, I think butter often gets a bad rap. I would much rather eat butter than margarine, and besides, Julia said butter was the best. However, if you are trying to limit your saturated fat and cholesterol intake, try using unsaturated fats for your cooking instead. For sauteing or lower temp cooking, use olive oil. For higher temp cooking, use grapeseed oil. For baking, I use coconut oil. It has a similar mouthfeel and will create a similar texture to butter, margarine or shortening.
2) If a recipe calls for sour cream or heavy cream, try low fat Greek Yogurt. It has fantastic thick creaminess with less saturated fat and with a whole lot more protein. Plus it has all those good bacteria in it to help with your digestion! Bonus!
3) If you are looking to eliminate the dairy altogether, you can use coconut milk in almost any application. It doesn’t actually taste very coconutty and it has super rich texture.
4) When you are adding cheese to a recipe, try opting for cheeses that pack a punch of flavor. You can easily add less that way and still feel like you are getting a cheesy bite. I prefer parmesan or feta myself.
5) You can minimize the amount of fat, sugar or salt you add to a recipe by pumping up natural flavor with spices and fresh herbs. These are calorie free and they make a HUGE difference. Remember, if you think you are adding too much spice, you are probably doing it just right. Most people are terrified by how much I use and then it tastes just perfect. A quick note about fresh versus dried herbs. You need half as much of the dried as the fresh because the flavor is concentrated.
6) Try adding some acidity to boost the flavor of your food. Fresh lemon juice or balsamic vinegar can really heighten the flavor of a soup, salad or a vegetable side dish.
7) When baking, try incorporating more whole wheat flour. I like to use 1/2 and 1/2 in my recipes. It gives me a nice texture without being overly dense.
8) Try incorporating flax meal into your baked goods. You can substitute part of the flour in a recipe with the flax and it’ll give it a nice nutty flavor along with boosting your omega three intake which we all know is important for our health.
9) Instead of using white rice or couscous as a side dish, try using an old world grain like quinoa or amaranth, both of which cook very quickly, easily and are very versatile. Quinoa and amaranth are the only plant based foods that are considered a complete protein, meaning they have all 9 essential amino acids your body needs to build muscle.
10) For soups, try pureeing the soup to create creaminess rather than adding flour or cornstarch. You will find you don’t need them to create a similar mouth feel.
11) If a recipe calls for sugar in a savory application, try using agave instead. Agave is considered a low glycemic food, mostly because it is twice as sweet as real sugar and therefore you can add less. This is particularly important for those who are diabetic and watching their sugars.
12) To maximize the nutritional value of your vegetables, you can either eat them raw in salads, or try roasting or sauteeing them rather than boiling them or steaming them. And don’t overcook them. Leave them a little al dente. This helps minimize vitamin and mineral loss.