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Recipe Makeovers for All-American Food

Cook up lighter versions of American cuisine classics.

American Food Makeover No. 4: Corn Dogs

This favorite carnival and state fair treat, in which a hot dog on a stick is dunked into thick cornbread batter and deep-fried, was created in 1942 by Texan Neil Fletcher for the State Fair, according to The New Food Lover's Companion.

Makeover Tips: Use leaner dogs (there are several "light" brands available), and bake your corn dog until the cornbread batter is firm instead of deep-frying it. If deep-frying is a must, at least use a cooking fat that's higher in monounsaturated fat, preferably one that also contributes plant omega-3s too (like canola oil).

American Food Makeover No. 5: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Most of us grew up on Mom's grilled cheese sandwiches. They're also standard fare at diners across the country.

Makeover Tips: Make a healthier grilled cheese sandwich by using whole-wheat or multigrain bread (multigrain sourdough is yummy), reduced-fat cheese or a little less of the regular cheese. Instead of spreading them with butter, spray the outer sides of the bread quickly with canola oil before placing on your nonstick griddle or skillet.

American Food Makeover No. 6: Muffins

Muffins are very popular at the American breakfast and dinner bread table. American muffins are usually leavened with baking powder or baking soda instead of yeast. They feature a variety of ingredients and flavors, from savory to sweet.

Makeover Tips: You can reduce the fat in your muffin batter- you really only need about 2 tablespoons of oil per 12 small muffins. You can also replace half the white flour with whole-wheat. And you can reduce the sugar and add ingredients like fresh or dried fruits, ground cinnamon, and toasted nuts to give the flavor a boost.

American Food Makeover No. 7: Pancakes

Many countries have their own version of pancakes: thin or thick; small or large; filled or topped with tasty ingredients. American pancakes are often made with buttermilk, tend to be thicker than other pancakes around the world, and are generally about 4 inches wide.

Makeover Tips: Make lighter pancakes by adding less fat to the batter, using low-fat milk or buttermilk, and adding very little fat (if any) to the skillet. But that's just half the health battle with pancakes -- it's what people do to the pancakes after they're cooked that can really pile on the calories. Keep added butter, whipped cream, and syrup to a minimum, and switch to reduced-calorie pancake syrup if you can. If you really need to add butter, use the whipped variety.

American Food Makeover No. 8: Pizza

Pizza may have had its start in Italy, but America made it the popular food it is today. American pizza chains try to come up with new and exciting toppings all the time, along with crust variations like stuffed, deep dish, or crispy.

Makeover Tips: Avoid greasy pizza restaurants and look for the more authentic pizza parlors with bread-like crust, lots of nutrient-rich pizza sauce, and a moderate amount of cheese. Choose vegetables as toppings instead of high-fat meat. If you're making pizza at home, substitute whole-wheat flour for half the white flour. You can choose a part-skim or reduced-fat cheese as well.

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