PREPARING HEALTHFUL MEALS
Much has been learned about how to prepare healthful foods that are enjoyable, convenient to make, and economical. Many of the leading chefs of Europe and the United States have abandoned cooking styles that once depended on fats and oils and are now using healthier cooking methods. This “new” cuisine uses the cook's culinary skill to create delicious meals that bring fruits, vegetables, and
grains to center stage.
Simple yet innovative techniques can be used to modify favorite recipes to maximize the nutritious value of the meal without jeopardizing its taste. When you modify an existing recipe, it is generally best to start slowly, making one change at a time. Persistence, willingness to experiment, and a few tried-and-true hints can help you prepare healthful and flavorful meals.
CHANGE IS GOOD
Recently, fat, sugar, and salt have been vilified for the roles they play in increasing the risk of certain dis-
eases such as obesity, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and high blood pressure. However, they are only “bad” when eaten in excess. The key is not to banish them from the kitchen but to use them in moderation.
Fat provides flavor, substance, and a mouth-pleasing creamy texture. Sugar adds sweetness, crispness, tenderness, and color. Salt heightens the flavor of foods and is necessary in baked goods made with yeast.
The art of cooking is to put the proper amounts of these ingredients in each food. Recipe modification is one of the more useful cooking skills. In some instances, modification of the fat, sugar, or salt content actually can make the food tastier, moister, and more satisfying than it was originally.
When should a recipe be modified? Sometimes it is difficult to know whether a recipe can be adjusted without sacrificing taste, texture, and appeal. Try modifying a recipe if you answer “yes” to any of the following questions:
• Is the recipe high in fat, sugar, or salt?
• Is this a food I eat frequently?
• Is this a food I eat in large amounts?
Keep in mind that not every recipe needs to be modified. If, for example, a certain high-fat dessert is a family favorite and it is prepared infrequently, there is no need to change it. As long as it is treated as an item from the top of the Food Guide Pyramid , the occasional food enjoy it in its familiar form.
Because every recipe is different, experimentation is necessary. There are numerous ways to make a recipe
healthier. Of course, not every experi- ment works. It may take several attempts
to achieve the desired taste and consistency. Once the modified recipe meets your expec-
tations, file it for future use.
As a start, try these five methods:
• Reduce the amount of fat, sugar, or salt.
• Delete a high-fat ingredient or seasoning.
• Substitute a healthier ingredient.
• Change the method used to prepare the recipe.
• Reduce the amount of meat in the recipe.
Can the Amount of an Ingredient Be Reduced? Start by reducing the amount one ingredient at a time. In most baked goods, sugar generally can be reduced by one- third to one-half without substantially changing consistency or taste. Because sugar increases moisture, as a rule retain one-fourth cup of sugar, honey, or molasses for every cup of flour in baked goods. To maximize the sweetness of foods, when appropriate, serve the dish warm or at room temperature rather than cold. In addition, there are spices that can enhance sweetness. Some possibilities include cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and vanilla and almond extract or flavoring. Eliminating a cup of sugar in a recipe saves about 800 calories.
Fat also can be reduced by one-third to one-half in baked goods. Use puréed fruit or applesauce to replace the fat in a 1:1 ratio. For example, use one-half cup of oil plus one- half cup of unsweetened applesauce (instead of 1 cup of oil). Eliminating 1 cup of oil or fat saves about 2,000 calories and
225 grams of fat. Another way to decrease fat and cholesterol is to substitute egg whites or egg substitute for a whole egg. For every egg, use 2 egg whites or a quarter cup of egg