It’s rare for me to find a recipe that I didn’t want to tweak. I don’t tweak recipes because I think that I’m a better chef than people with published cookbooks and entire websites with hundreds of recipes. I do it because I like to make things work for me and most recipes don’t work for me out of the gate.
#1 I start with the oil
The oil in recipes is usually where most of the calories come from. Whether it’s copious amounts of butter or loads of olive oil, I always start there. Seemingly healthy meals like salads are notorious for this – for example, some salad recipes require 1/4 cup of oil for the dressing in a salad that feeds four people!
That’s a lot of oil!!!
My criterion is that a recipe should be able to taste good with no more than 2 tbsp of oil to make enough servings to feed my family. And when I’m making a family recipe, it usually feeds 4 to 6 people, so that’s two tablespoons for that many servings. If it’s got more than that, then I make a point to cut it down.
#2 Then I move on to other ingredients that add unnecessary fat
The next thing I look for is ingredients that add a lot of unnecessary fat like high-fat meats or full-fat dairy. And when I find things like this, I always go for the leanest cut of meat that’ll still give me the flavor that I’m looking for in a meal or choose a lower fat dairy option that’ll still give me a great consistency.
For example, if I’m cooking a dish that calls for sausage, I usually go for the leaner chicken sausage of the similar variety to what the recipe calls for instead of the fattier pork sausage. I still get the flavor but less of the saturated fat and calories.
#3 I revisit the amount of protein
Eating less meat is something we committed to in our family plan this year. My husband and I sat down and planned out what we hope to achieve in 2018. We had financial goals and goals for each other and the kids, but we also wrote down goals for eating and exercise. With eating, we committed to cutting our meat intake in half and doubling our veggie intake to make our meals even healthier.
Our commitment means that when we’re looking at recipes, we almost always reduce the amount of protein they call for. This eliminates quite a few recipes from the list – so things like pot roast and meatloaf that used to be in our regular rotation aren’t anymore. But we still enjoy some of the old staples that we were able to cut the meat in without compromising the flavor.
And when I’m tweaking a recipe, I always ask myself if it can do with less meat. It’s been a worthwhile challenge because it’s significantly reduced our grocery bill and it’s helped improve our health.
#4 I tweak the carbs
The carbs are another place that I tweak – are they refined carbs or are they starchy vegetables or whole grains (s in the VAFs® mental model for lasting weight loss)? If the answer is refined carbs, I almost always swap it out. The only exception is if my husband really wants to make the recipe and it’s a one-pot dish that I can’t serve myself a healthier carb separately. In this instance, I call it a 10% meal.
#5 Then I make sure I have enough veggies
In keeping with our commitment to eat half the meat and twice the veggies, I always look to make sure there are enough veggies in a recipe before I make it. Most recipes don’t lend themselves well to adding unplanned veggies to the dish itself. And when this is the case, I make a separate vegetable side dish to bulk up the meal and make it more in line with our food values.
How do you tweak your recipes to make them healthier?
Tweaking recipes this way to make them healthier opens up a world of options for healthy eating for me. It puts me in a mindset that nothing is truly off limits and I can enjoy the food I cook as far as I’m willing to get creative. And it works wonders when ordering meals at restaurants too.
I’m always game to learn new things so over to you ~ How do you tweak your recipes to make them healthier?
Leave a comment below to share with the community so we can learn from your healthy cooking prowess!