Healthier Versions of Your Favorite Meals
HEALTHIER VERSIONS OF YOUR FAVORITE MEALS
Let’s face it, most of us love to eat! We grew up sitting around the family table, talking, laughing, and reminiscing about our day over our favorite meals. Many of us can recall Sundays at grandma’s house with traditional dishes like meatloaf, corned beef and cabbage, or other ethnic favorites. Some of our more memorable dates have probably included fancy dinners in exclusive restaurants with romantic music playing and free flowing glasses of red wine. It’s no wonder that food is so much more than just a means to sustenance, yet if we are not careful, the foods we love so much can become our enemies instead of our friends. Most of our favorite foods are so delicious because they are also loaded with fat, calories, sodium and other unhealthy nutritional content. The good news is that we don’t have to give up these things. We simply need to modify how we prepare them. The following are a few simple changes you can make to your favorite dishes in order to make them more heart healthy and keep them from settling around your waistline. Bon appetit!
REDUCING FAT CONTENT
Many foods are available in low fat varieties, but people often avoid them because foods that are lower in fat may lack the robust flavors and creamy decadence of their full-fat counterparts. Learning how to use spices and other natural foods to compensate for the variations in texture and flavor of low-fat and non-fat foods is critical to your enjoyment of them. Consider the following examples:
Use whole wheat or spinach noodles instead of regular egg or flour based noodles. Replace regular mozzarella, cottage, ricotta and parmesan cheeses with low fat versions. I do not recommend the non-fat cheeses, as they do not melt well. Use ground sirloin instead of ground beef, or a mixture of ground sirloin and ground turkey, as they are significantly leaner. You may even consider using vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, mushrooms and onions in place of meat and creating a vegetarian masterpiece. White sauces such as Alfredo are typically used in vegetarian lasagnas, but they also contain high levels of unhealthy fat. Stick with the marinara sauce, which is tomato based and includes many of the same vegetables. Best of all, it is non-fat. Opt for the reduced sodium variety, and do not add salt to your recipe. Spices such as garlic powder, pepper, basil and oregano make wonderful accents that will jazz up this wonderful dish.
Use whole-wheat pasta and marinara sauce. Top with fat-free parmesan cheese. If you prefer meat-based spaghetti, consider using diced, grilled chicken instead of hamburger. If you want beef, use ground sirloin instead of ground beef.
Tacos are one of my favorite foods. Best of all, they are easy, and nearly all the ingredients can be found in low-fat or non-fat varieties. Consider making chicken or fish tacos with grilled meat instead of fried. If you want beef, again, use the ground sirloin instead of ground beef. Load up the taco with veggies such as lettuce, tomatoes, onions and cilantro. Opt for fat free sour cream and lots of salsa, which is naturally fat free. Fish tacos are excellent with shredded cabbage, reduced fat tartar sauce, low-fat or non-fat shredded cheese, a touch of lime juice and lots of cilantro.
Hamburgers on the grill are one of the world’s perfect foods, at least as far as the taste is concerned! The fat content is another story entirely. Consider making your burgers with ground sirloin, or with a combination of ground sirloin and ground turkey. BOCA makes an excellent variety of veggie burgers. I am partial to their bruschetta burgers. Top them with red onions, fat-free mayo, lettuce and one slice of fat-free or low-fat provolone cheese. I even love cucumber slices on mine.
Opt for meatless pizzas such as spinach and broccoli or mushroom, onion and peppers. The marinara sauce is naturally fat-free. Use low-fat shredded cheese sparingly. Crispier crusts and veggies give you something satisfying to crunch into, making the absence of meat far less objectionable. If you are using meat, opt for turkey based sausages or chicken. Drain meat or blot grease from meat before putting it onto pizza.
Use fat free tortillas. They are just as good as the regular versions. Spread outsides with fat-free or reduced fat butter. Fill with smattering of low-fat cheddar cheese and lots of green and red peppers and onions. Add small amounts of grilled chicken. Cook in small pan, turning once, until evenly browned on both sides. For added flavor, sprinkle inside with taco seasoning before placing tortilla on top, or enhance with salsa.
Fish boils are a Wisconsin tradition. Anyone who has been to Door County knows about them and probably gets a craving now and again. The fish boil is an excellent alternative to the traditional fish fry, but it can be deadly to your hips and cholesterol count if you smother your fish in melted butter. Boiling fish and drizzling low-fat or fat-free margarine over it and serving it up with boiled potatoes, carrots and pearl onions is a far more healthy option and every bit as delicious.
Trim excess fat from chicken breasts. Dredge chicken in low-fat, melted butter and roll in crushed cornflakes. Place in 13x9 baking pan that has been greased with Pam or other non-stick coating. Bake at 400 F for about an hour or until juices run clear.
MACARONI AND CHEESE
Cook 2.5 cups of pasta and set aside. In food processor, combine 1 cup of skim milk 1.25 cups of reduced fat cheddar cheese, 2/3 cup fat free cottage cheese, 1 tbsp. grated onion and pepper to taste. Mix the cheese mixture with cooked pasta and place into a greased 13x9 pan. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350 F for about an hour or until heated through.
Use skim milk to make instant pudding in two flavors of your choice. Allow to set. Spoon one flavor of pudding into parfait glass until about ¼ full. Top with strawberries or raspberries. Follow with a layer of non-fat Cool Whip. Spoon second layer of pudding over Cool Whip, followed by another layer of fruit and top with final layer of Cool Whip. It is delicious and complete fat free!
Forego the pound cake and opt for angel food cake instead. Top generously with strawberries and non-fat Cool Whip. I like to add bananas and/ or blueberries as well.
Frozen yogurt is a great alternative to ice cream. If you love ice cream, consider low-fat versions of your favorites. Weight Watchers makes fantastic ice cream treats which we buy regularly. If you are eating low-fat vanilla or strawberry ice cream, consider topping with a thin drizzle of fat-free Hershey’s syrup. It will taste far more decadent that it really is!
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