Healthy Cooking Plus

Contest Bonus: Reader Tips on Lightening Recipes

Ten calorie-saving tips on everything from baking to pan-frying

Contest Bonus: Reader Tips on Lightening Recipes

Grand-Prize Winning Lasagna Deliziosa

We're always telling you our favorite ways to lighten recipes, now it's your turn! Our latest contest provided a forum, and boy did you speak up! Here are ten of our favorite tips:

  • Reader Rebecca Ramirez of Grafton, Wisconsin makes her own whole grain breadcrumbs from rye crisp bread. This adds a little fiber and offers whole grains' healthful benefits to any recipe that calls for breadcrumbs.
  • Diana Rios likes to add a little vanilla extract and just a hint of bourbon to her Sweet Potato Pie when making it from her kitchen in Lytle, Texas. The small additions add a lot of flavor with very little calories or fat.
  • Vera Decker of Windsor, New York writes, "If you like coconut, add a bit of coconut extract to your desserts. It'll add the flavor without all the fat and calories of fresh coconut."
  • Virginia Anthony took a play out of our playbook with this tip. From Blowing Rock, North Carolina, she writes, "In some recipes, I reduce the quantity of nuts and toast the remaining nuts to enhance their flavor."
  • If you're making a layer cake, check your recipe. If the frosting is over-the-top, consider trying this tip from Marcy Kennedy of Ontario, Canada: Simply make less of the frosting and fill between the layers with reduced-fat whipped topping. Save the frosting for the sides and top of the cake.
  • Marti Brisky of Valley View, Ohio lightly brushes tilapia fillets with fat-free Italian salad dressing, and then coats them with bread crumbs. Next, she pan-fries the fillets in a small amount of olive oil and butter-flavored cooking spray. This eliminates the need for eggs, plus it gives the fish zippy flavor without requiring additional seasonings.
  • For a lighter moist cake, do what Debbie McBride of Owensboro, Kentucky does. Use any flavor cake mix and beat in a 12-ounce can of diet soda. She uses diet lemon-lime soda with white or yellow cake mix and diet cola with a chocolate cake mix. Do not add any other ingredients. Just mix and pour the batter into a pan and bake as usual. For a finale, she tops each piece with 2 tablespoons of fat-free whipped topping instead of icing.
  • Anita Roberson of Jacksonville, North Carolina writes, "My family loves stuffing made from a boxed mix to go with turkey for holidays and special occasions. But rather than following the directions to prepare the stuffing with water and butter, I substitute fat-free chicken broth for the combined amount. The change saves 400 calories per box, and the taste is still satisfying. My family loves this lighter version."
  • Marie Roberts is usually asked to bring fruit salad to family dinners in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Typically, she combines pineapple chunks, orange sections, banana slices and miniature marshmallows and dresses it all with whipped cream. The last few times she's shaken things up a little. "I used fat-free whipped topping mixed with vanilla yogurt. Everyone seems to enjoy it just as much as the traditional version, but it has fewer calories and less fat."
  • Looking for a way to make cheese sandwiches better for you? Try this hint from Beth Young of Elkhart, Indiana: "I spray each slice of bread with butter-flavored cooking spray instead of using butter, then I cook them as usual. My family never notices the difference."