Monday, June 1, 2009

Healthy Swaps

As I mentioned before, the bf and I are really trying to eat healthier. From the comments to my brown bagging it post, I see that we are not alone! So, I've decided to post a list of healthier substitutes for higher fat ingredients (some of these substitutions are also a little bit cheaper or have a longer shelf life).

Before I get to that I have to scold myself for my constant use of exclamation points. I never realized how often I use them when commenting on blogs or posting on my own blog until I saw a Seinfeld rerun recently. Part of this episode was related to Elaine's frequent use of exclamation points and now I'm paranoid that I too use an exclamation point all too frequently.

That said, here are a list of some of my favorite lower fat substitutions for high fat ingredients:
  • Evaporated Milk (or evaporated skim milk) for Heavy Cream: this is one of my all time favorite substitutions! Not only do you get the taste of heavy cream for a fraction of the fat and calories, but you don't have to refrigerate the evaporated milk so it's shelf life is way longer than that of the heavy cream. A word of warning about the use of evaporated skim milk -- if you decide to use it, only do so over low heat otherwise it will scorch and look kind of gross; in other words, you MUST babysit your pot if you decide to use the evaporated skim milk. This warning does not apply if you use just regular evaporated milk.
  • Creamed Corn + Evaporated Milk for Heavy Cream: this is a recent discovery and is a great substitution if you are making either a southwestern pasta cream sauce or a potato and corn chowder. Creamed corn (in a can) has like 90 calories per serving and little to no fat. The flavor is just as rich as the heavy cream and so is the consistency. However, only use this substitution if the recipe calls for both CORN and HEAVY CREAM otherwise it may turn out a little odd. I should also note that the dishes that I've used this trick for have turned out a little rich so keep that in mind as well.
  • Whole Wheat Pasta for White: I'm not sure how many calories you save with this substitution but whole grain pasta is way healthier than the regular stuff. Some people may complain about the texture of the whole grain pasta, but honestly I can't tell that much of a difference.
  • Brown Rice for White: Again, I'm not that sure of the calorie difference, but the nutritional difference is amazing. I also can't tell the difference taste wise. It should be noted; however, that the cooking time is a bit longer so make sure and read the label before you start.
  • Use Olive Oil + 1/2 amount of Butter required instead of using only Butter: I love this idea for two reasons: (1)olive oil is better to cook with because it does not burn like butter and (2) you save a lot of saturated fat yet still get the flavor of butter. Recipes call for butter because of the flavor of the butter, not for its cooking qualities (unless you are making eggs). By substituting olive oil for 1/2 of the butter you still get the flavor of the butter but you save a lot of saturated fat. Remember olive oil is a heart healthy oil so while it may contain a bit of calories it's still good for you in moderation.
  • Lean cuts of meat instead of fattier ones: This one is obvious; the leaner the meat the lower in fat and calories it is. So instead of buying regular ground turkey buy ground turkey breast. Same goes for ground beef, buy the 93/7 instead of the 85/15 and so on. Substitute chicken breast for dark meat chicken and remove the skin before cooking. The same goes for beef, pork, etc. This is an area where it is really important to focus on the labels, so make sure you read the label and figure out the fat content before you purchase.
  • Extra Vegetables for Meat: Anyone who watches Oprah or the Biggest Loser knows that a serving of meat should be no larger than a deck of cards. That said, one of the easiest ways to make your meat portions smaller (especially in sauces, soups and casseroles) is to double the amount of vegetables needed. Besides being healthier and adding more flavor to your dish, this is also a great way to stretch a dish. I've started using half the amount of meat required in my soup recipes and compensating with a ton of extra veggies. Honestly, I can't even notice a difference. That said, this is not something I'd recommend for a non-one pot wonder. If you're serving steak and potatoes by all means prepare the amount necessary, but if you're serving mac and cheese with chicken use half the chicken and add more celery, onions, pepper, broccoli, whatever you've got on hand.

That's about all of the tips I can think of for today. As I learn more, I'll let you all know.

On another note, the bf and I are attending a wedding this weekend and have yet to purchase a gift. We've spent quite a bit of money already on this wedding and when I looked at the registry today even the moderately priced items were quite expensive, like in the $150 range. Honestly, we can't afford to buy the couple a gift off of the registry based on the amount of money we've already spent. This is where I need your advice fellow readers. Would it be horrible to buy the couple a generic but useful gift from a lower priced retailer instead of one of the items off their very expensive registry? Keep in mind that both the bf and I are unemployed and still living off of either student loans or monthly allowances from our parents.


AmyT said...

great ideas....I do use a lot of olive oil, and use very lean meat - when at all possible, and I have switched to brown rice!!! thanks for the tips!

Freck said...

There is a Crate & Barrel outlet in the city, you can't go wrong with C & B for a wedding gift!

CTB said...

Oh no! I use a LOT of exclamation marks. I wonder if people are judging me?

I think getting something off the registry is perfectly fine. I would have been so sad if my friends went broke because of my wedding. I truly believe it is the thought and effort that counts. I don't know how close you are to this couple, and this might be a lot of time that you don't have, but you could give a recipe book and include some of your favorite recipes. Maybe even put that with a fun (but cheap) serving piece or kitchen gadget you can't live without. I would love to get something like that.

Anonymous said...

Love the tips! I was laughing so hard when you said about the exclamation points, b/c I use them constantly! See, there's another one. haha

C in VA said...

I also love to use applesauce instead of all of the oil needed in a cake or muffin recipe.

LiLu said...

"... and now I'm paranoid that I too use an exclamation point all too frequently."

I know I do. But I'm okay with it!


Little Pink Magnolia said...

I always use brown rice and whole wheat pasta. Another good substitute for white rice is quinoa. It is more expensive, but it contains a lot of protein and is good if you're doing a vegetarian dinner (which I try to do once a week at least).

Sadako said...

Awesome--no ideas, but I salute your attempts to be healthy!