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Recipe Makeovers: 10 Commandments of Healthy Cooking

'The Recipe Doctor' shares her top recipe lightening tips.
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WebMD Expert Column

When it comes to the not-so-ancient art of "making over" recipes to make them lighter and healthier, I think I can safely say that I qualify as an expert.

I've written 25 books (and counting) on an assortment of nutrition topics, but I'm certainly not an authority on all of them. Sure, I wrote about getting through menopause without hormone therapy, but I haven't spent my career researching menopause. And I've written about what to eat if you have irritable bowel syndrome, type 2 diabetes, acid reflux, and migraines. But I relied on specialists in these areas to review what I wrote, as I'm not a specialist in these very important topics.

But with lightening recipes, it's a different story. I've been doing this since I was a graduate student in the early 80s, which, according to my calculations, means I've lightened thousands of recipes!

I don't mean to brag, but I can take a quick glance at a recipe and know, with pretty good accuracy, what I can get away with changing and still end up with a dish that tastes terrific. I know off the top of my head what the magical minimum amount of fat is for most bakery recipes (muffins, cakes, brownies). To recipes you wouldn't think could be lightened (like fried chicken, jalapeno poppers, tempura, and English toffee), I've said "bring it on!" and found success. (OK, now I really am bragging -- so sorry!)

Over the years, I've changed my focus to incorporate the latest nutrition science. For example, we now know that the type of fat we cook with is important, so I switch to the "smart fats" whenever possible. I work to increase the fiber and nutrient content of recipes just as I work to cut sodium and decrease calories from fat and sugar. Being "The Recipe Doctor" is part of my professional identity, and I am grateful for (and fond of) this responsibility.

All that said, I would like to share with you what I call my 10 Recipe Lightening Commandments. These commandments are the culmination of years of recipe testing and tasting. I pass them to you in good faith.

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