Fettuccine alfredo and chocolate chip cookies aren’t known for being healthy but boy do we like them! Well, these 16 tips will show you how to make food healthier while still tasting taste good, even alfredo or cookies. Learning how to make your favorite recipes healthier is the secret to success when you’ve decided to make health a priority. Ready? Let’s get started making your recipes healthier…
Table of Contents
How to Make Recipes Healthier
1. Substitute Like for Like
Unless you’re following a keto diet, one of the best ways to trim calories is by trading higher fat, higher-calorie ingredients for their lower fat, lower calorie counterparts or…a plant-based option. You can even substitute firmer vegetables for many animal proteins, all while adding a bunch of colorful nutrients.
Healthy Seasonal Recipes Thai steak would be great with some cauliflower rice or wrapped up in lettuce leaves with shredded carrot, red onion, and cilantro.
This recipe from Delish sounds great but the it calls for bone-in pork chops which usually have a big fatty edge. Have no fear.
You can enjoy this recipe and “substitute like for like” by swapping thin boneless pork chops for the fattier bone-in chops. Most thin boneless pork chops have little to no fat still attached making them a great lower-calorie option for most pork chop recipes.
2. Omitting the Fat
Cooking with fats and oils is a great way to add a ton of calories without even realizing it. So, use wine, juice, or low-sodium broth to saute, stir-fry, and baste foods instead.
You can also use good quality non-stick or cast iron pans so foods won’t stick while they’re getting a nice sear.
If you’re roasting food, toss it with one of the above liquids and plenty of herbs and spices.
Even most baked goods can be made with 50% less fat. Just replace the removed fat with pureed fruits, or low-calorie yogurts or sour cream.
3. Use Fat for Flavor, Period!
Now that you’ve trimmed the fat from food in order to cut back on calories, it’s time to start using fat for flavor.
Prepare your amazing healthy meal and build up plenty of flavor in your dish using herbs & spices. Then, right before you eat, drizzle 1-2 tsp of high-quality EVOO into the food and allow it to carry all the beautiful flavors you’ve built.
This is where fat truly shines.
This low-fat recipe from Sugar-Free Mom uses no fat except what’s naturally found in the chicken breasts. Make this chicken recipe alongside these Oven Roasted Vegetables from Shane Simple.
Taste these vegetables right before dinner.
- How do they taste without oil?
- Then drizzle 2 tsp of extra-virgin olive oil on the veggies and taste them again.
- Notice how the addition of a small amount of oil helped carry the flavors?
The veggies didn’t need the oil but the oil helped carry their flavors even further.
4. Add Veggies To…
No matter what you’re making, there’s always room for veggies.
What you’re making will determine the kind of veggies and the size or shape you want them in. Shredded, chopped, fresh, frozen, or roasted veggies can be melted into sauces or mixed into most everything else.
You can even stir veggies into baked goods. Don’t limit yourself to carrots and zucchini though, try sweet potato, winter squash, beets, and more.
These muffins from Veggie Desserts are a tasty way to eat more greens. But…this recipe could be made even healthier by replacing the white flour with whole wheat.
Ever thought a traditional mac ‘n cheese recipe could be healthy?
This recipe from Today’s Parent shows us how to make a recipe healthier by adding chickpeas, butternut squash, carrots, and onions.
5. Replace Animal Protein with Plants
There are so many ways recipes can be made healthier when plants are used instead of animal proteins. Meatballs and meatloaves can be made entirely of beans, lentils, and vegetables or…you can start slow by replacing half of the animal protein a recipe calls for with plants.
Did you know chicken wings can even be made with veggies?
Another option is using veggies in enchiladas like these from Cookie & Kate.
6. Reduce (better yet, omit) the Sugar
Processed sugar has become so prevalent in the US that you even find it in spice blends and medicines. So if you’re committed to losing weight and getting healthier, you need to cut the sugar.
When you’re making recipes healthier, use spices to boost the ingredient’s natural sweetness, and then replace the sugar with pureed fruits (bananas, baby food plumes, dates, etc.).
In most recipes, you can shave ⅓-½ of the sugar called for. Another option is replacing the sugar with a high-quality sugar alternative such as erythritol, monk fruit, or stevia.
Use these alternatives in moderation (if at all). Sugar replacements have a solid track record of ending up harmful to our health but so far, these three appear to be safe.
7. Salt. It’s Just Not Needed
We’ve become so accustomed to salt, we’re seldom aware of just how salty our foods become.
To make your recipes healthier, start cooking without salt.
Instead, use plenty of fresh herbs, dried spices, or a squeeze of citrus juice to boost the food’s flavor. Get creative with the citrus and use lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit.
Baked goods can also go without the salt as long as they don’t contain yeast. If yeast is called for, experiment with how much salt you can remove without the product becoming dense or flat.
8. Zoodles not noodles
There are so many things that can be “zoodled.” Carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini, summer & winter squash, cucumbers, and beets to name a few. If pasta recipes are a family favorite replace half of the noodles with zoodles and use whole wheat or bean noodles for the other half.
Want to try zoodled carrots? Try The Roasted Root’s recipe. She’s got two more recipes for vegetable noodles below the carrot noodle recipe as well.
9. Unmilk It
Have a dairy intolerance or just want to cut calories and curb inflammation? Then learning how to make recipes healthier by removing dairy is a smart thing to do. Thankfully, it’s easy to replace dairy these days because grocery stores are full of non-dairy alternatives.
Just be sure you’re choosing unsweetened non-dairy milk that doesn’t have any added carrageenan.
This non-dairy latte is a healthy recipe everyone needs. Enjoy this anti-inflammatory drink from Real+Vibrant morning, noon, and night.
Cookie & Kate has a great recipe that’s both healthy and easily adaptable. Fill it with whatever veggies you want, throw in some fresh herbs and you’ll have a healthy meal in no time.
10. Somethings Can Just Go
There are a lot of ingredients that can be cut from recipes completely.
Depending on the food you’re making healthier, the following replacements can be made:
- use fresh veggies instead of high salt condiments
- use hummus instead of higher-calorie spreads
- use fresh berries, apples, and bananas instead of jams and jellies or sugary syrups
- cheeses should be finely shredded and then ½ the amount used (or use nutritional yeast and add all sorts of B-vitamins in the process),
- frostings can be cut in half or make a naked cake and only spread a thin layer of frosting between layers (maybe add some fresh fruit as well to bump up the cakes sweet flavor)
You can make this recipe healthier by using nonfat Greek yogurt instead of mayo, boosting flavor with fresh dill and tarragon (you probably won’t need the salt…), and using lettuce leaves instead of bread. Thanks for a great recipe Joyful Healthy Eats.
11. Trading Out & Adding Nutrients
Most recipes for baked goods (such as muffins, cakes, and breads) call for all-purpose flour, and…it’s missing all its purpose. The good news is you can substitute 100% whole wheat flour for ½-⅔ of the all-purpose flour and not compromise taste or texture.
If you’re avoiding gluten, you can substitute gluten-free flour for all of the all-purpose flour and typically not compromise texture or taste. The key is using cup-for-cup gluten-free flour. Otherwise, you may need to add 1 tsp of xantham gum for every 1 ½ cups gluten-free flour.
I love the nutrients these flour swaps provide. Whole wheat flour adds 16g protein and 15g fiber per cup and Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour adds 12g protein and 12g fiber vs. all-purpose flours 3g fiber and 13g protein. In addition, there are all of the vitamins and minerals the whole wheat and gluten-free flours bring.
Here’s a healthier bread recipe from She Loves Biscotti. In this recipe, you can even sub non-dairy milk for the buttermilk. Just measure out 2 TB lemon juice or vinegar and then add enough non-dairy milk to equal 2 cups.
12. The Incredible Egg
If you want to know how to make food healthier by shaving calories, eggs are another thing you can cut. An egg’s calories are concentrated in the yolk, so replacing whole eggs with egg whites (or splitting the difference 50/50) can save you 55 calories per removed egg yolk.
The problem with this is that while the whites contain protein, the yolks are where the vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats are concentrated.
Another option with eggs is to replace the eggs with a flax or chia seed egg.
- 1 egg = 1TB ground flax or chia seed + 2TB water
If you’re looking for an alternative to scrambled eggs or quiche, you can use tofu and cut calories in half.
Looking for a recipe for scrambled eggs or quiche? Check out these recipes from My Darling Vegan and Bianca Zapatka.
This recipe from The Worktop is a perfect example of how you make recipes healthier. It doesn’t use eggs and can be made with less sugar and gluten-free or whole wheat flour.
That’s a win in my book.
13. Fresh for the Win
When possible, use the freshest ingredients you can afford.
Also, use fresh garlic and onions vs. dried or powders whenever possible.
Your tastebuds and family will thank you.
You’ll be surprised at how making recipes healthier by using the freshest ingredients possible, improves their flavor.
This recipe from Homespun Capers is a perfect example of using fresh, quality ingredients to make a recipe healthier.
14. Quality over Quantity
Most recipes that call for oils and high-fat ingredients allow for switcheroos. Look at the temperature the food will be cooked at and then use the most nutritious, high-quality oil or fat that can be cooked at that temperature (for more information on fats and oils click here).
This sauce from Pinch of Yum is a perfect example of using quality ingredients. It’s also a great way to make everything healthy taste better.
Use it on:
- steamed veggies,
- as a salad dressing,
- tossed with a bean pasta,
- on roasted chicken, or
- on a bison burger.
What recipes do you love that could be made healthier by improving the quality of oil you use?
15. Creamy without Being Cream-y
If you’re wondering how to make sauce healthier, use non-dairy milk or low-fat dairy in place of heavy cream. These switches will give you just as much creaminess without all the calories and saturated fat.
Depending on what you’re able to eat, try substituting 1 cup of unsweetened non-dairy milk + 4 tsp whole wheat or gluten-free flour per cup of heavy cream. Whisk it over medium heat until thickened and then proceed with the original recipe.
Another option for making creamy sauce recipes healthier is to use potatoes, winter squash, or carrots. Roast starchy veggies until soft and then blend them with some broth and use them as the cream in your sauce recipe.
16. Nutritious Patties
Any recipe that calls for ground meat can be improved. Add 1 cup of cooked whole grains, chopped or shredded veggies, nuts, seeds, or beans to each pound of meat. Then, build into patties, loaves, balls, or saute for sauces and enjoy.
This meatloaf recipe by Kitchen Nostalgia has been made healthier with the addition of zucchini and onion. You could also make this with ground bison, chicken, or turkey, use brown rice in place of bread crumbs, and flax instead of egg.
There you have it – 16 tips for making recipes healthier and some healthy recipes to get you started.
- What are your favorite ways to make food healthier?
- Do you have any healthy recipe tweaks up your sleeve?
I’d love to hear about them and would also love to hear how you’ve used these 16 tips to make some of your favorite recipes healthier.
Until next time remember what Morgan Spurlock said:
“Sorry, there´s no magic bullet. You gotta eat healthy and live healthy to be healthy and look healthy. End of story.”