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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Health


Altering recipes can be easy and healthy

Janet Hackert, regional nutrition and health education specialist, Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension


People often wonder about recipes that are appropriate for health conditions like heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes. Although there are cookbooks that are marketed to people with these conditions, sometimes a little alteration of a recipe you already have is enough to make it suitable for someone with a special diet. The bonus is that it makes it a healthier choice for everyone eating.


To make a recipe a healthier option, you can lower the fat, increase the fiber, decrease the sodium or cholesterol, or lower the sugar. To alter a recipe, you can do one of three things: omit an ingredient, decrease or increase the amount of an ingredient, or substitute a more nutritious ingredient for a less nutritious one.


For example, in many baked goods the salt can be reduced or eliminated. You can also reduce the amount of sugar or fat by using the next lowest common measurement. So if the recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, use 3/4 cups instead. If it calls for 1/3 cup honey, try 1/4 cup. As for substitutions, applesauce or yogurt can often be used to replace up to an equal amount of fat in a recipe. Other seasonings, like basil, cardamom, thyme or cayenne pepper can replace salt as a flavoring (what seasoning to use depends on the recipe). Another option is to use fruit, its juice or the rind (e.g., a lemon or lime) to bring out the flavor of fish without using salt.


No matter what kind of alteration you’ve made, it’s wise to try a small batch of the new recipe before you serve it to others. It’s also important to make small adjustments until you go too far — then back up one small step to a product that still tastes good but is healthier than the original. Keep in mind that altering recipes is all about experimentation and you can try it for anything you cook. When you create healthier alternatives for everyday favorites, the health benefits add up over time.



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Last update: Monday, January 11, 2010