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Family Menu Makeovers: Lighten Your Favorite Foods

Try these healthier versions of family favorites
By
WebMD Expert Column

Feeding your family healthy food doesn’t mean it’s all about salads and veggie pitas. There are plenty of ways you can transform your family’s favorite dishes into healthier alternatives. Even kid foods like macaroni and cheese, pizza, and hot dogs can be relatively wholesome with a few ingredient adjustments. Here are several fast fixes, as well as some healthy family-friendly recipes to try.

5 Quick Makeovers

Just by making a few ingredient adjustments, you can make many favorite kid foods lower in calories and fat and higher in fiber and nutrients. Here are five easy examples:

1. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich

  • Use 1 tablespoon of natural-style peanut butter.
  • Use 1 tablespoon of less-sugar grape jelly (such as Smucker's Low Sugar).
  • Use whole-wheat or whole-grain bread, or fiber-enriched white bread.

BEFORE: 335 calories, 10.9 g fat, 2.1 g saturated fat, 2.5 g fiber
AFTER: 290 calories, 10.9 g fat, 1.7 g saturated fat, 5.5 g fiber
SAVINGS: 45 calories saved, plus 3 grams of fiber added!

2. Macaroni and cheese from the box

  • Use 2 tablespoons of no-trans-fat margarine (choose one with 8 grams of fat per tablespoon) instead of 4 tablespoons of butter.
  • Use low-fat milk instead of whole milk.
  • Add a tablespoon or two of fat-free or light sour cream, if needed for creaminess.
  • Add veggies on the side or in the macaroni (such as 1/2 cup of steamed broccoli per serving).

SAVINGS: 72 calories and 8 g fat per serving (if four servings per box), plus 2.3 g fiber added

3. Hot dogs

  • Choose a reduced-fat hot dog. (Ball Park Lite, Louis Rich Turkey Franks, and Hebrew National Reduced Fat are great options.)
  • Look for whole-wheat or higher-fiber buns.
  • Add onions and tomato, if desired, for added nutrition.
  • Choose lower-fat and lower-calorie condiments such as ketchup or mustard.

BEFORE: 366 calories, 22 g fat, 9.1 g saturated fat, 1.2 g fiber
AFTER: 325 calories, 11 g fat, 3.2 g saturated fat, 5.8 g fiber
SAVINGS: 41 calories, 11 g fat, and 5.9 g saturated fat, plus 4.6 g fiber added!

4. French fries

  • Choose lower-fat frozen French fries.
  • Bake them instead of frying.
  • Complement this side dish with a fruit and a vegetable, so the family doesn't overdo the fries.

BEFORE: 245 calories, 12 g fat, 5.6 g saturated fat, 0.8 g fiber per 3-ounce serving
AFTER: 122 calories, 4 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 1 g fiber per 3-ounce serving
SAVINGS: 23 calories, 8 g fat, 5.1 g saturated fat, plus 0.2 g fiber added

5. Mexican dishes

  • Use reduced-fat Jack and/or cheddar cheese,
  • Work in beans every chance you get.
  • Use extra-lean meat (super-lean ground beef or ground sirloin, skinless chicken breast, lean pork trimmed of visible fat).
  • Use fat-free or light sour cream instead of regular.
  • Work in whole grains and vegetables (such as brown rice, whole-wheat tortillas, tomatoes, green peppers, etc.).

Your family won’t even know they’re eating healthier when they’re digging into these delicious versions of family favorites.

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