There is a real trend towards preparing and having a greater role in the production of your own food as you know exactly what has gone into it. It is easy to make your recipes healthier when you know a few tips and tricks…
The amount given in the recipe doesn’t need to be followed exactly
When you are cooking or baking you don’t need to feel compelled to follow a recipe exactly. Meals can be adjusted and made healthier by a few substitutions or additions and with a bit of trial and error you can still make your favourite recipes, but feel confident you are serving up a healthier dish.
A great way to make your meals healthier (and tastier!) is to use herbs and spices instead of fats and oils. The range of flavours that are encompassed by all the herbs and spices is huge and even a small sprinkling of spice is enough to make a mediocre meal taste great. Great ways to use herbs and spices are to include cinnamon on your oats instead of brown sugar, add basil to tomato pasta sauces, add coriander to your favourite salad, add a sprinkle of chilli to your spaghetti bolognaise or mexican burritos or add a couple of sprigs of rosemary to your lamb. Honey is also a great way to add a more natural sweetness to your meals instead of using refined sugar. You can also add sweetness with some spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, mixed spice).
There are a number of substitutes that you can use in your cooking to make your meals healthier. If you are baking you can substitute mashed banana for the oil in your recipe. You can also substitute pureed apple (or any other fruit) for sugar. By doing this you increase the amount of nutrients in the finished product. Reducing the amount of oil (fat) or sugar will also mean that you have fewer calories.
To make your baking healthier you can also use wholemeal flour instead of white flour. Try using a low fat spread instead of butter as this reduces the amount of saturated fat in your product. Adding bran flakes also increases the fibre content (which is better for your digestive system).
If you are making a mash try using a sweet potato instead or make a mash with cannellini beans. These have a lower glycemic index but still taste great. If you are making a pie use a mash topping instead of a pastry topping – this will save you a lot of calories. When you make your mash avoid adding butter or margarine and try garlic instead for flavor.
Cream can add a lot of fat and calories to a meal but you can reduce this by substituting plain yogurt or evaporated milk. These alternatives will save you extra fat and still provide you with the same consistency.
Make your own sauces and toppings at home
You can make your meals healthier by making your own sauces and toppings at home. Generally sauces and toppings are very high in salt but if you make your own you can control what goes into it. A simple sauce to start with is to try making your own tomato based pasta sauce with tomatoes, garlic, Spanish onion, chilli and basil. You can guarantee that it will taste even better than a store brought one.
Low fat products
To make your meals healthier reducing the fat content can make a significant difference. A good way to do this is to make sure that you use low fat dairy products. They have less fat but you won’t notice any difference in the final product. If your recipe calls for cheese try using a smaller amount of a stronger cheese (for example; a blue cheese or parmesan). Always choose low fat meats and trim all visible fat off before cooking as once the fat is cooked it may be hard to tell it apart from the meat.
If you need to use oil in your recipe use less, but also use unsaturated oil for cooking. If you find that you drizzle a lot into your pan try a spray as you will end up using a lot less.
Add in more nutrients
To make your meals even healthier you can also add in more nutrients. Lentils are a great addition to stews and casseroles as they bulk up the meal, provide protein but are also cheaper than more meat. Barley is a great grain to add to soups and salads. It is high in fibre and low glycemic index. Vegetables can also be added to meals in their natural form or by grating them in. It is easy to grate carrots and beetroot into cakes and you will end up increasing the fibre content too.
There is no reason why you cannot make up your own meals, make substitutions and add in extras in order to eat healthier. Add more vegetables, choose better and leaner cuts of meat, use low fat dairy products, unsaturated fats, and herbs and spices for flavour. You might just find that your favorite meal just got even tastier!