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10 Ways to Lighten Up Any Recipe

Written on April 14, 2011 at 10:17 am , by

lighten up recipes and food

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

Choosing healthy foods is an important part of eating right, but cooking them in a healthful way is another huge part. For example, zucchini can take on two completely different forms when it’s quickly sautéed in olive oil versus battered and deep fried. What we add to foods makes all the difference when it comes to home cooking.

The first step to healthier cooking is to take recipes as suggestions. Before you start chopping and mixing, scan the recipe to see if there are any unnecessary calories. Look for excess cheese, butter and oils, as well as sugars.

Here are some tasty, healthy ideas to help you become a professional recipe overhauler!

  1. Sauté—the skinny way! A couple of tablespoons of  low-sodium vegetable broth can be used instead of oil or butter in your stir fry or as the basis for a sauce. This method will add a nice flavor to your dish as well as a little moisture—and you’ll save calories to use elsewhere. To get a dose of unsaturated fats, serve your broth-sautéed veggies with a side salad, and pour an olive oil-based dressing over the top.
  2. Say no to skin. Three ounces of chicken breast meat with skin has almost 150 calories; three ounces of chicken without the skin has 50 fewer calories. Tasty as it might be, the skin contains mostly heart-unhealthy saturated fat. You can cook with the skin on to retain moisture  (add fresh herbs or citrus zest underneath it to really bake in some flavor), but be sure to remove the skin before you enjoy your meal to save on calories and saturated fat.
  3. Squeeze on the citrus. To add a powerful flavor punch with minimal added calories, use citrus on steamed veggies instead of butter or over a salad instead of a dressing. It’s even great on fruit salad in place of sugar and adds some zip when squeezed onto a pasta salad. Don’t forget to use the flavorful zest of citrus fruits as well! Wash a lemon, orange or lime, then use a zester or grater to add the zest to dishes such as baked seafood.
  4. Be choosy about cheese. When using a mildly flavored cheese, such as Monterey Jack, you need more cheese to taste it. But when you choose a cheese with intense flavor, you can use less and still get the desired effect. Try a reduced-sodium feta, sharp Cheddar or aged Parmesan next time. Light cheese wedges such as The Laughing Cow brand are useful when you’re watching fat and calories, too. Try mixing one of these soft cheeses into your scrambled eggs or noodle dishes instead of loading on the shredded mozzarella.
  5. Go Greek. Tangy, fat-free Greek yogurt is a healthful replacement for sour cream. Try this switch in herbed and spiced dips, tacos, nachos, enchiladas, or throw it in a cooked dish as a thickening agent. You’ll save 45 calories for each 2-tablespoon serving.

Keep Reading for 5 More Helpful Tips to Lighten Up Any Recipe!


More From Spark People:

How to Eat Out and Still Lose Weight

The Proven Weight-Loss Program That Isn’t a Diet

50 Easy Ways to Cut 100 Calories

Chef Rocco DiSpirito Dishes On Food and Fitness

Written on March 23, 2011 at 3:27 pm , by

Rocco DiSpirito is serving up new recipes and advice in the follow up to his popular Now Eat This! Cookbook. (Photo by Markus Klinko & Indrani)

There are too many recipes to count in the April issue that left me wanting to run from the office straight to the kitchen when I got home! But one of the most tempting meals? The BLT Sandwich and sweet potato fries created by celebrity chef Rocco Dispirito, which also appears in his brand new book, Now Eat This! Diet (which hit bookstores yesterday).

We were lucky enough to interview the fit gourmet, who dropped 20 pounds while training for his first triathlon, about his own health journey and kitchen tricks. Here are his three secrets for success, whether in an apron or a pair of sneakers:

  • To drop pounds, keep tabs on the numbers. “Know how many calories and fat grams are in your meals and snacks, and only eat what you can afford, calorically speaking.”
  • Utilize low-calorie flavor enhancers. “A few of my ‘secret ingredients’ in my healthy recipes are fresh herbs, Dijon mustard and lemon juice.”
  • The hardest things can be the most rewarding. “The actual triathlon was much harder than most anything I’ve done. Its almost impossible to finish and the temptation to give up is much stronger than any temptation I’ve ever felt. That’s what makes crossing the finish line so fabulous.”

Awesome advice, and now I’m anxious to go try out even more of Rocco’s recipes (Chicken Pesto Pasta, Red Velvet Chocolate Squares and Crispy Loaded Pizza, all lightened up? Yes, please!)

Now tell us: What’s the most delicious dish you’ve whipped up lately?

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Mexican Cuisine? Yes!

Written on March 23, 2011 at 1:51 pm , by

Written by Nicole Brennan, editorial intern

If you’re an avid Mexican food lover like me, you probably limit yourself when it comes to eating too much of this deliciousness and save it for your ‘splurge’ category. Not anymore! I found an exciting new recipe from Executive Chef Eugenio Villafana from the 5-star Villa La Estancia Resort in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico! (It was ranked as a Top 10 luxury resort in the Caribbean and Mexico in the TripAdvisors Travelers’ Choice Awards.)

The breathtaking Villa La Estancia Riviera Nayarit!

Chef Eugenio has created super healthy takes on Mexican cuisine with an extra special twist: He can accommodate customers with fat/dairy/gluten and carb-free diets. (Yes, we’re still talking about Mexican food here!) He uses raw foods, organic ingredients and dehydrating techniques to make our favorites much healthier. If you have a food allergy or sensitivity to diary or gluten, check out one of Chef Eugenio’s must-try dish below and let us know what you think!

Read on for the recipe!

Read more

Springtime in the Kitchen

Written on March 21, 2011 at 3:45 pm , by

Ring in Spring with a fresh, yet filling, barbecue chicken chopped salad. (Photo by Tina Rupp)

Ring in Spring with a fresh, yet filling, barbecue chicken chopped salad. (Photo by Tina Rupp)

After a particularly rough winter, I couldn’t be more excited to discover that as of yesterday at 7:21 p.m. EDT, we are finally finished with the coldest season! To celebrate, I’m hitting the kitchen this week to whip up a few of these seasonal, nutritious, but still satisfying meals and snacks.

  • Strawberry Bruschetta: It may be a few more weeks before the best berries hit stores, but I just had my first taste and can’t wait for more! This dish will make an ideal snack, dessert or even a decadent breakfast. (203 calories, 5 g fat)
  • Garden Fresh Asparagus Soup: Call me crazy, but it doesn’t feel like spring without asparagus. This bowl can be served heated or chilled, and feel free to substitute low-fat Greek yogurt for the creme fraiche. (203 calories, 13 g fat)
  • Marinated Garden Lentil Salad Pita: Simply toss, mix and eat! Vegetarians and meat-eaters alike will enjoy how simple, tasty and fiber-filled this recipe is. (396 calories, 11 g fat)
  • Barbecue Chicken Chopped Salad: Pack all your vegetable servings for the day into one meal (hey, it’s OK to go a bit overboard on the veggies!). The chicken gives this meal some serious staying power. (337 calories, 13 g fat)
  • Raspberry-Mango Sundae: Round out your dinner—or snack on—nonfat frozen yogurt topped with a fruity, sweet sauce. The best part, besides the excellent nutrition stats? Frozen berries are recommended, so they’ll keep for weeks in your fridge. (167 calories, 2 g fat)

What foods signal spring for you?

Fit Links: The Science Behind the Runner’s High

Written on February 18, 2011 at 2:30 pm , by

Photo by A. Green/Corbis

Photo by A. Green/Corbis

A few fit links from around the web:

6 Snow Day Recipes

Written on January 27, 2011 at 4:00 pm , by

New York City and much of the Northeast U.S. was walloped with another snow storm last night–leaving about 19 additional inches of snow around Central Park and outside my front door! Weather like this leaves me craving certain dishes for dinner…It’s comfort food time, folks. Here are my six go-to cozy meals created for days like today. Bonus: All have fewer than 375 calories per serving!

  • 5 Factor Lasagna: A meat-free take on the Italian treat, substituting eggplant in place of pasta for an extra veggie serving. (315 calories, 3 g fat)
  • Chickpea Soup with Spinach and Tomato: Warm up with a creamy, protein-packed bowl. Hummus is the secret ingredient in this quick cooking recipe! (228 calories, 12 g fat)
  • Cozy up to a bowl of chili.

    "Snow" way you won't love this chili recipe!

    Chipotle Veggie Chili: Your pot will be filled produce at its peak during winter, like sweet potatoes, parsnips and butternut squash. (369 calories, 9 g fat)

  • Gooey Grilled Cheese: This isn’t your mom’s American on white bread. Sliced pears give these sandwiches grown up flair. (296 calories, 13 g fat)
  • Mac and Cheese Lite: Celebrity chef and triathlete Rocco Dispirito’s lightened up version of everyone’s favorite school lunch side. (237 calories, 7 g fat)
  • Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes: Who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner? These fluffy pancakes taste fantastic, even sans-syrup.(238 calories, 8 g fat)

What is your go-to comfort food dish?