Revamping Your Recipe Box
Whether it's mac and cheese or meatloaf, some family recipes aren't that healthy. But with a few changes over time, you can lose some unhealthy fats, add fiber, and cut extra sugar that your family doesn't need -- without killing the taste.
"Work on making small changes first," says registered dietitian Jessica Crandall. Your family will be more likely to stick with them than if you do them all at once.
Give your family lean protein with no fillers and less fat with this easy, baked version.
- Pulse a couple of slices of toasted whole wheat bread, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, and your favorite spices in the food processor.
- Dip chicken breast tenders in a beaten egg, then breadcrumbs.
- Bake 10 to 15 minutes at 350 F until golden brown.
Mac and Cheese
Cut unhealthy saturated fat from this kid favorite by revamping your cheese sauce. Use reduced-fat cheese and 1% milk. Concerned about creaminess? Replace half of your shredded cheese with pureed low-fat cottage cheese or butternut squash.
Mix with whole wheat pasta to make it more healthy and filling. There's also quinoa or brown rice pasta. If your kids aren't fans of whole grains, get them used to it by mixing it with regular pasta.
Trim the fat on this hearty dish by using lean ground beef or lean turkey. Or skip the meat and use several types of beans and lots of vegetables.
Adding tomatoes, sauteed squash, peppers, and onions adds fiber and nutrition. Cut sodium by rinsing beans and using other seasonings instead of salt. Top it off with reduced-fat cheese and low-fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.
Chicken Pot Pie
This comfort food can be a fat bomb if it's made with cream and a buttery crust. To slim it down, use:
- Reduced-fat milk and only half the butter for the sauce
- White-meat chicken with no skin
- Lots of vegetables like peas, carrots, and green beans
Only a top crust. Or skip crust altogether and top with mashed sweet potatoes instead.
Burritos and Tacos
Healthy eating on Mexican night is easy. Try to build burritos or tacos so they're at least half veggies:
- Use medium whole wheat or corn tortillas or 6-inch shells.
- Fill with 90% lean meat or fajita-style chicken.
- Add fat-free refried beans or black or pinto beans for fiber.
- Layer in veggies like peppers, tomatoes, and corn kernels.
Top with 1/4 cup or less of reduced-fat shredded cheese or a few slices of avocado
A few tweaks to your recipe can make this hearty Italian dish even healthier:
- Use whole wheat noodles.
- Use part-skim ricotta and low-fat mozzarella cheeses.
- Add lots of vegetables, such as eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, and thawed, drained frozen spinach.
If you use meat, make sure it's at least 90% lean.
If meatloaf is a family mainstay, change your ingredients a bit to lower the fat and increase fiber and vitamins. It's still filling and flavorful.
- Use ground beef, turkey, or chicken that's at least 90% lean.
- Make your own bread crumbs using stale whole wheat bread, or replace bread crumbs with quick-cooking oats.
Add chopped carrots, celery, spinach or grated zucchini to the mix.
Start by experimenting with whole-grain and multigrain pastas. These no longer have a bad rap, says nutritionist Monica Reinagel, MS. "They've found ways to add fiber and have the texture still be nice and light and tender."
Add shredded carrots or zucchini or chopped spinach to tomato sauce for more vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Bake -- don't fry -- golf ball-sized meatballs made with 95% lean ground beef and whole wheat bread crumbs.
Cookies and Brownies
All kids are entitled to an occasional treat, says nutritionist Karen Ansel, MS, RD. She makes small brownies and likes to serve them with fruit.
For cookies, she substitutes 1/3 of the flour with quick-cooking oats. It makes them healthier and adds a good texture.
In either brownies or cookies, instead of vegetable oil, use canola oil. It is lower in saturated fat. Some bakers replace half the oil with applesauce, but it's a trade-off: You lower the fat but add sugar.