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Chefs' Secrets for Healthier Cooking

4 top chefs share tips and recipes for lighter dishes that don't scrimp on taste and style.
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The Go-To Chefs continued...

Among his favorite tips: Substitute low-fat yogurt for some of the high-fat ingredients in salad dressings.

"The trick is to strain it through a fine mesh colander or cheesecloth overnight, which allows all the whey and liquids to separate," he says. The result is a thicker, full-bodied and flavorful yogurt that more easily binds to other ingredients, including spices.

He also suggests using fruit purees or reduced fruit juices to pique the flavors of dressings or side dishes.

The concept of pumping up the flavor is also embraced by culinary instructor Toby Amidor, MS, RD, at the Art Institute of New York City, where she teaches restaurant chefs to change their high-fat ways.

"The most famous chef quote is fat equals flavor, but I am teaching them to turn towards adding more flavor with more flavors: spices, herbs, fruits, purees, sauces -- and the more exotic, the better," says Amidor.

Among her favorite healthy fat substitutions: Using fruit purees instead of butter and fat in baked goods, and using tofu as the basis for everything from chocolate cream pie to soybean smoothies.

"The rule of thumb in my kitchen is that you can't make a face until you've tried it!" says Amidor.

Healthy Chefs' Recipes

In her book Fast Food Fix, Alexander offers healthy alternatives to name-brand, fast-food dishes. Here is one of her favorites:

Devin Alexander's Version of Starbucks Pumpkin Pound Cake

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal one serving as 1 medium dessert + 4 ounces yogurt, plain or with artificial sweetener.

Alexander's version will save you 64 calories, 12 grams of fat, and 1.5 grams of saturated fat over the original.

Butter-flavored cooking spray
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup fat-free vanilla yogurt (not artificially sweetened)
3 egg whites
1 cup canned pumpkin

  • Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Mist an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch nonstick loaf pan with cooking spray; set aside.
  • Sift flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cloves and nutmeg into a mixing bowl; set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, yogurt, and egg whites. Using a sturdy whisk, mix until thoroughly blended. Stir in the pumpkin. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture. Stir until no flour is visible. Pour into the reserved pan; bake for 55-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake to the rack to cool completely. When cool, cut into 8 slices.
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