Try these strategies for lightening up your favorite recipes.
For baked items:
- Replace 1/4 or 1/2 of the butter or oil with unsweetened applesauce. Keep in mind that applesauce is a better replacement for oil than it is for butter.
- If you're substituting a substantial amount (1/2 to 1 cup) of applesauce for fat, you can cut down on sugar a bit because of the natural sweetness of the applesauce.
- Substitute egg whites for some of the whole eggs. But don't use all egg whites unless specified in the recipe since that can result in a spongy, tough end product.
- Sugar can often be decreased slightly without any substitute, especially with recipes that are 40 or more years old since they tend to be disproportionately high in sugar.
- Sugar packs on the calories quickly. One tablespoon of sugar equals 48 calories.
- Confectioners' sugar can almost always be decreased in a frosting without missing the sweetness. One tablespoon of confectioners' sugar equals 29 calories.
- If you have trouble with a tough, dense texture in a lightened-up baked good, try substituting cake flour for all-purpose flour the next time you make it.
- Decrease the amount and chop mix-ins like nuts, chips (use mini chips), raisins, coconut, etc.
- Toast nuts and coconut to make a smaller amount have additional flavor.
- Reduce the amount of frosting. You can usually cut that amount by 1/4 or 1/3 without missing it.
- Reduced-fat cream cheese and reduced-fat butter work well in place of their full-fat varieties, but since the lighter products tend to be more soft-set, the recipe may need noticeably less liquid.
- Keep in mind that it's very difficult to successfully lighten cookie recipes and still keep the original texture and shape. The better option is to prepare cookies as usual and savor a single serving.
For general recipes:
- Invest in a food scale so that you can weigh foods until you get a feel for what typical serving sizes are.
- Use the leanest cuts of meat: skinless poultry, white-meat poultry, beef with "loin" or "round" in the name and pork with "loin" in the name.
- Consider 4 ounces of raw meat to be a serving.
- Cut back on some of the added high-fat and calorie ingredients like cheese, olives, avocado and nuts.
- Watch how many high-sodium foods you're including like anything canned, packaged mixes, tortillas, breads, olives, cheese, salsa and seasoning mixes. Can you find a low-sodium/no-sodium alternative? Perhaps one of the canned products in the recipe can be changed to fresh or frozen (corn, green beans, sliced mushrooms, etc.).
- Watch portion sizes when serving rice and pasta. Pastas are usually 1-1/2 ounces uncooked per serving. Cooked rice is typically 1/2 or 2/3 cup per serving.
- Use 8- or 6-inch flour tortillas instead of 10-inch. The 10-inch tortillas have 213 calories before any fillings are added.