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Cooking Tips

Learn how to cut calories creatively—and discover delightful new flavors at the same time!

 
 

Cooking Tips

Let's face it—no one likes to cut calories. But making little adjustments here and there to ingredients and cooking techniques can add up to big calorie savings over time. With these tips, you won't even know you're "cutting back."

  • Method madness. Some cooking methods are inherently healthier than others, requiring little, if any, oil or fat in the cooking process. Steaming, poaching, grilling, roasting and broiling are all great techniques to turn to when you're trying to cook using as few calories as possible.
  • Spice it up. Spices, herbs and low-fat condiments can be a terrific way to add flavor without loading up on fat or calories. Stir ribbons of fresh basil into pasta sauce before serving or toss a handful of fresh dill fronds and cilantro leaves into a salad. For a little kick, try Pace® salsa on a baked potato dolloped with plain low-fat yogurt, spread on a turkey sandwich or wrap, or mixed into your favorite low-fat salad dressing.
  • Be a gourmet! Try new things. Don't be afraid to experiment with specialty items you've never tried before. Try adding roasted red peppers to salads, or minced sun-dried tomatoes to pasta or pan sauces. If you're using oil-packed brands of peppers or tomatoes, rinse them of excess oil before using. (Sun-dried tomatoes not packed in oil should be rehydrated in hot broth or water for 30 minutes until pliable before using.)
  • More fruits. More vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are filling, full of nutrients and low in calories. Here are a few easy ways to make fruits and vegetables an even bigger part of your cooking routine.
    • Keep frozen vegetables on hand. They're easy to add to pasta dishes, soups or omelets.
    • Include more vegetables on sandwiches instead of extra meat or cheese. Try slices of cucumber, red pepper or spinach on sandwiches to sneak in extra veggies.
    • Add raspberries, slices of peaches and strawberries to cereal and yogurt.
    • For a cool, healthy treat, freeze stemmed grapes or sliced melon on a wax paper-lined baking sheet until solid, then store in freezer bags. When you crave something icy and sweet, go for a couple of pieces of frozen fruit instead of ice cream.
    • Add slices or cubes of fresh fruit to salads. Try tossing fresh spinach, sliced pear and a few walnuts with a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Or how about mixed greens with orange segments, toasted almonds, a few Greek olives and a drizzle of red wine vinegar and olive oil? The possibilities are virtually endless.
    • Grill fruit on skewers for a unique and yummy dessert. Pineapple, bananas, peaches, strawberries and plums are all great candidates for grilling. Thread big chunks of fruit onto wooden or metal skewers and grill over medium heat until lightly charred and soft but not mushy, 8 to 10 minutes depending on how ripe the fruit is. Serve the warm skewers with frozen yogurt.
    • Have fruit fondue for dessert. Dip chunks of fresh fruit into a small dish (about 1/4 cup) of chocolate syrup.

Smart Swaps

One of the advantages to cooking at home is that you have complete control over what goes into the dishes you make. Making healthy ingredient substitutions is an easy way to slim down your favorite recipes or give them a nutritional boost. Not all substitutions will work for all recipes, but with a little bit of experimentation, you’ll discover that you can cut calories without cutting flavor. Try some of these substitutions:

Replace: With:
Whole milk Skim, 1% or 2% milk
Whipped cream Chilled, whipped evaporated skim milk or nondairy whipped topping
Sour cream Plain low-fat yogurt, or 1/2 cup cottage cheese blended with 1½ tsp. lemon juice, or low- or nonfat sour cream
Evaporated milk Low- or nonfat mayonnaise, fat-free evaporated milk, or plain low-fat yogurt combined with low-fat cottage cheese
Whole egg Two egg whites, or 1/2 cup egg product
One egg yolk One egg white
One egg (to thicken) One tablespoon flour
Full-fat cheese Low-fat, skim-milk or fat-free cheese
Ricotta cheese Low-fat or nonfat cottage cheese (puree in a food processor or blender before using), or low-fat or nonfat ricotta cheese
Bacon Turkey bacon, Canadian bacon, smoked turkey or prosciutto, or simply reduce the amount of bacon you use
Standard pasta Whole wheat pasta
White rice Brown rice
Butter or oil (baking) Applesauce (substitute only half the amount of butter or oil called for with applesauce; use butter or oil for the other half or the baked goods may turn out tough and chewy)
White flour (baking) Whole wheat flour (substitute up to half the amount of white flour called for with whole wheat; use white flour for the other half or the baked goods may turn out heavy and dense)
Cream cheese Neufchatel-style cream cheese (one-third less fat)
White wine or beer An equal amount of apple juice or chicken broth with a touch of apple cider vinegar
Red wine An equal amount of cranberry juice with a touch of red wine vinegar
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