Most Americans want to practice healthy cooking for their families, but they aren’t willing to give up the popular dinner dishes they have come to know and love. The solution is to give those favorite foods a recipe makeover.
“The big surprise about popular American foods is you can cut a lot of saturated fat, sugar, and sodium out and never even know it,” notes Karen Ansel, MS, RD, American Dietetic Association spokesperson.
And if you substitute healthier ingredients, you're also more likely to meet the newly released 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which encourage all of us to eat more whole grains, vegetables, fruits, seafood, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and vegetable oils such as canola and olive oil.
By making smart substitutions, and with the new dietary guidelines in mind, here are recipe makeovers for 15 popular American foods, Remember, although these makeovers are healthier, keep the portions small to hold down fat and calories.
Chicken Marsala (or Madeira)
Start with skinless chicken breasts that have been coated with flour and browned in a tablespoon or two of olive oil instead of what's usually twice that much in butter. Sauté the shallots and mushrooms in a drizzle of olive oil or broth, and instead of adding cream, add whole milk, low-fat milk, or fat-free half-and-half to the wine to make a nice sauce.
Switch to whole grain fettuccine noodles instead of white pasta. Make a light Alfredo sauce by browning only a tablespoon of butter, and switch to fat-free half-and-half or whole milk instead of cream. Stir in Parmesan cheese as usual. Add garlic or freshly grated nutmeg and black pepper for added flavor.
Fried Chicken (Oven Fried)
Instead of deep-frying chicken in hot oil, you can actually crisp it up in the oven. Start with skinless chicken breasts or thighs (half of the fat and saturated fat is in the skin) marinated in low-fat buttermilk for several hours or overnight. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and coat with flour seasoned with pepper and other desired spices. Place the chicken on a cookie sheet coated with canola oil and spray the top of the chicken with canola cooking spray. Bake in a 450-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until cooked through and the coating is golden brown.
Use 100% whole wheat or whole grain bread and reduced-fat cheese. Give the outer sides of the bread a quick spray of canola oil, or brush lightly with olive oil before placing on your nonstick griddle or skillet. You can even turn it into a panini using an indoor grill.
Instead of regular ground beef, make a leaner burger by using ground sirloin or turkey that’s 96% fat free or more. Portion 1/4 pound of ground meat per burger, and top the cooked burgers with fresh tomatoes, onions, and lettuce and light condiments such as mustard, salsa, barbecue sauce, or ketchup.