How do I convert my fat- and sugar-filled recipes into healthy recipes?

Ask Peggy

Ask Peggy

DEAR PEGGY: How do I convert my fat- and sugar-filled recipes into healthy recipes? — J. B., Georgetown, OH

This is a good question with a lot of possible answers. Here are some general tips to consider as you begin to lighten recipes.

  • In baked goods, you can typically decrease sugar by about 25 percent without missing it. But, it’s a bit of an experiment, so see how you like the product after this change. If you are pleased, try cutting sugar by 1/3 the next time.
  • Fat is easiest to decrease in baked goods that use oil. Start by replacing half the oil with unsweetened applesauce; again, it will be experimental. If you like the final product, use more applesauce and less oil. If you find it too dry or dissimilar from the original, add back some fat.
  • You can make these substitutions in recipes that cream butter and sugar as well, but there will be some differences in the batter’s texture. The butter-and-sugar mixture will not have a nice creamed appearance; it will look crumbly. And, after the applesauce is added, the batter often looks curdled. Both are acceptable and expected when making this substitution.
  • In savory items, use nonstick pots and pans to decrease the amount of fat needed to saute. Try to saute with nonstick cooking spray or a minimal amount of healthy oil like olive or canola oil.
  • Look to reduced-fat dairy products like sour cream, cream cheese, shredded cheese and more. Fat-free dairy products do not stand up to heat as well as reduced-fat products, but can typically be substituted in recipes that aren't baked or heated on the stovetop.
  • Choose lean meats. For beef and pork, look for cuts with “loin” or “round” in the name (i.e., round steak, pork tenderloin, sirloin steak and pork loin chops). Remove the skin from chicken and turkey before eating.

I hope that helps give you a place to start.