photo credit: Nicole Michalou and Pexels
Do you love classic recipes, but dread consuming the calories they are usually laden with? Me too. Over the years I have learned to substitute many calorie-rich ingredients out for healthier options, without sacrificing the taste or presentation.
I learned to substitute the cream in many recipes because my stomach can never handle the high-fat content in cream. Instead, I use almond milk, but you could substitute in any other nut milk. I call them milks, but technically they are not milk, they have no dairy in them. I have yet to try the cashew version, but plan to soon. Not only will you not notice a lack of creaminess, but the fat in nut “milks” are a healthy type of fat.
For example, I make chicken alfredo with either fettuccine or penne pasta using a can of mushroom soup diluted with almond milk instead of the half and half or full-fat cream called for in most alfredo recipes. If the recipe calls for salt, omit it as the canned soup is salty enough, especially when parmesan cheese is an essential ingredient. Otherwise, your favourite recipe can stay the same.
Another idea is to use unflavoured, unsweetened, low-fat Greek yogurt instead of the sour or other cream called for in saucy dishes and casseroles such as stroganoff or pasta. Regular yogurt also works, but the Greek version is generally thicker, resulting in creamier sauces.
Gravy or Soups
Every time I roast meat, I add minced or a few cloves of garlic and several slices of onion to the bottom of the pan. This trick creates rich, golden-brown, flavourful “drippings” that can be used immediately for gravy, or frozen for future use in soups, stews, and sauces.
I keep a bucket in my freezer for such use, each new addition forms a layer. The fat rises to the top of each layer and is easily removed when thawed for use. Soups are especially tasty when a mixture of the layers are used as broth. The only problem is that no two batches of your home made soups will ever be identical.
This method eliminates the salt, sugar, and other unhealthy calories and ingredients that come in the canned or packaged supermarket broth, gravy, soup or stew.
Similar to the creamy sauces, satisfyingly rich desserts can be made with almond (or other nut) milks instead of full fat, whipping or half and half cream. Except of course unless whipping the cream is required for volume. These milks don’t whip well.
Silken tofu and soy milk in equal parts, plus a bit of vanilla can be blended together and then whipped to replace full fat whipping cream. This is also a great dairy-free option for your favourite creamy dessert.
Not only does sugar increase your caloric intake, but it also adversely affects your body in other ways. There is lots of research linking kids’ poor, even aggressive behaviour and/or poor concentration to increased sugar consumption.
So, how can you eliminate or at least reduce these bad effects? Simply cut back on the sugar amount called for in recipes, or use a sugar alternative. Stevia, a plant-based sugar alternative, can be used in many desserts to cut calories as well as the glycemic index of your treats. Foods with a high glycemic index cause our blood sugar levels to rise dramatically after their consumption, an unhealthy treatment of our body, especially over time.
In less sweet recipes, such as muffins, simply use more fruit instead of the oil or fat called for in the recipe. Extra (naturally sweet) fruit also means you can reduce the amount of granulated sugar you add to the mixture. For example, applesauce is amazing in muffins. It adds a natural sweetness and keeps the muffins moist. I have also used low fat, unsweetened yogurt in muffins with great success. You may have to play around with the amounts of the substitutions to achieve your perfect muffin, but it can be done. Just make small batches until you discover your favourite.
With colder weather upon us, it is natural to crave and request comfort foods more frequently. To get even more enjoyment out of your favourite classics, experiment with alternative ingredients to make the recipes lighter and healthier, but still satisfying.
Just imagine, using these tips will allow you to consume your favourite classic meals or treats, with less guilt!
Your waistline, bathroom scale and your overall health will thank you.