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Sneaky Diet Food

A new way of cooking lets you enjoy favorite comfort foods while cutting calories and boosting nutrition.
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WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Feature

There's no question that eating healthy is good for your body. But let's face it: Butternut squash just isn't mac and cheese, and spinach isn't the same as a brownie -- or is it? A new way of preparing diet foods pairs unlikely culinary partners -- like spinach and brownies, or squash and mac and cheese -- into taste-tempting recipes that cut the calories, reduce the fat and sugar, and increase the nutrition of foods we love -- all without altering the taste.

That's the concept behind two new recipe guides that are taking the cookbook world by storm: The Sneaky Chef by Missy Chase Lapine and Deliciously Deceptive by Jessica Seinfeld (wife of comedian Jerry Seinfeld).

Both books center around the not-so-new food prep technique known as pureeing, in which fruits and veggies are blended to a sauce-like consistency. The genius in their systems came in figuring how out to add these purees into a variety of unexpected recipes -- like fried chicken, French toast, brownies, and pizza -- without altering the taste.

"Not only does this method dramatically increase the nutrient density of whatever dish you are preparing, but it also makes it healthier in other ways, by lowering the fat content, reducing the glycemic index, and often reducing the calories -- all without sacrificing taste," says Lapine, whose Sneaky Chef started it all when it hit the New York Times best-seller list earlier this year.

Being a Sneaky Chef: Not Just for Kids

Both authors say the idea began not as a weight loss brainstorm, but as a way to get their own kids to eat more vegetables. In Lapine's case, her daughter was such a picky eater there were almost no vegetables she could put on her plate without starting a world war. Jessica Seinfeld says her experiences were similar.

"I tried everything, and yet all my efforts to feed my family were being undermined by a powerful force: vegetables," Seinfeld writes in the forward to her book. Mealtime was a war zone as she struggled to get her kids to eat healthier, she says.

Both authors say they achieved dinner table serenity once they hit on the concept of pureeing.

"Suddenly my kids were eating healthy -- and enjoying every bite," says Lapine, a culinary professor at The New School and former publisher of Eating Well magazine. Still, the idea of hiding veggies in kids' food has been criticized by some experts who argue that this won't help them learn to love produce on its own terms. (Seinfeld also promotes the importance of serving vegetables on the plate to encourage kids to try the real thing.)

But getting kids to eat their veggies, it seems, was just the tip of the iceberg (lettuce) when it came to the versatility of this cooking style. It wasn't long before adults trying to lose weight and eat healthier caught on to the concept, and a whole new way of preparing diet foods was born.

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