May Monthly Mouthful

This recession economy makes it easier to succumb to unhealthy foods that are less expensive, but Chew on That is trying to fight back. We recognize that the key to eating healthy is cooking healthy. It never hurts to pack a little more nutrition into the kitchen whether you’re cooking for yourself or your family. But how does one cook healthier? On a quest for healthy cooking tips, we turned  to our favorite food bloggers and asked:

What do you do to make a recipe healthier? Be it substituting applesauce for oil in baked goods or cooking with olive oil instead of canola oil, what are your secret tips and tricks to healthier eating?”

Helpful healthy cooking tips after the jump!

Maggie from The Pithy and Cleaver:

For me, it’s less about making existing recipes healthier (though swapping non-fat Fage Greek Yogurt for cream/sour cream in a recipe often does the trick) and more about focusing on what’s in season. Basing our eating on the freshest produce available automatically lightens up our diet in the spring. Salads and grilled vegetables, light soups, etc…it seems natural to eat a produce-rich diet when all my favorite fruits and vegetables are in season!

Kristen from Food Renegade:

I believe that the healthiest foods are the most traditional, the ones our bodies have adapted to eating after many hundreds and thousands of years of being on this planet. So, instead of using vegetable shortening, I’d sub in lard from foraged hogs. Instead of using margarine, I’d substitute in butter from grass-fed cows. Instead of using refined vegetable oils from corn, soy, and canola, I’d substitute in a traditional cold-processed oil like coconut or olive according to how heat-sensitive the oils are and how the oil will be cooked. I avoid processed and pre-packaged foods, instead opting for recipes that use real ingredients that my great-grandmother would have recognized. I always source traditionally raised meats, rather than the meat products of industrialized agricultural practices, and I don’t shy away from eating their fats. If I eat grains like oats or wheat, I make sure they’re traditionally prepared (meaning that they’re sprouted, soaked, or fermented before being turned into food). As much as possible, I like to cook with whole foods. Most people think of that in terms of vegetables and fruits, but for me it even applies to animals. I make use of every edible part of the animals — from the fat, to the meat, to the organs, to making a nutrient-dense broth from the carcass. And, I try to eat as many calories as I can reasonably fit in (usually about 60% or so) in raw and/or fermented forms — so that spells raw cheeses, truly cultured sour cream, yogurt, and buttermilk, really raw nuts, raw milk, sauerkraut, and other traditionally fermented foods.

Joan from Foodalogue:

This is an easy question for me. I love vegetables and I’m very mindful of making my food healthier so I always incorporate vegetables in almost everything I eat. Spinach and tomatoes seem to be the easiest for the Mediterranean type dishes I prepare but not exclusionary to other vegetables. So if it’s eggs for breakfast, they’re usually made with spinach, peppers, mushrooms or tomatoes, etc. as well. My absolute favorite way to incorporate vegetables into a meal is with pasta (especially broccoli) — it has helped me to cut down on the portion of pasta by loading up on vegetables. On the infrequent occasions I do something that requires breadcrumbs, I generally try to use oatmeal instead. And I’ve more recently tried incorporating more beans into my menus. But, everything tastes so good, I still tend to overeat!

Ruth from Once Upon A Feast:

Well, given that I seem to frequently make pasta dishes…I use multigrain or other interesting pastas and minimize the creamy sauces. Instead I quickly saute vegetables, shrimp and whatever using a splash of white wine, and olive oil.

For baking, I started making my own bread and using grains and seeds to make it healthier. Even muffins gets a handful added to the recipe.

Melissa from Alosha’s Kitchen:

I don’t replace ingredients. I’m all about owning a recipe with all its full-fat glory ha! I use real butter, good oils, whole milk and cheeses, etc.

However, I know there needs to be a balance. So if I want to watch my calorie intake or my health, I make sure to have plenty of weeknight dinners with no carbs or starches like pasta, rice or potatoes. Instead I’ll serve either fish or a lean meat with flavorful sauce, spinach or some other rich-tasting vegetable and a big salad with a simple vinaigrette. And eating like that, particularly throughout the week, makes both my husband and I feel much more energized at work the next day.

Susan from Food Blogga:

I’m always looking for ways to slash fat and calories and pump up the nutrition in my dishes. When it comes to cooking, I rely on heart-healthy monosaturated olive oil. I prefer to bake instead of fry. I love using fresh herbs for flavor. They help reduce the need for salt and make food so much more aromatic.

When it comes to baking I often substitute half the butter with Smart Balance butter substitute, mashed bananas, non-fat sour cream, or low-fat buttermilk. I like to use two egg whites in place of one egg with the yolk. I usually swap half of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour. Since my dad is a diabetic, I’ve also baked frequently with the sugar substitute, Splenda, and can say that it works quite well.

Stef from Cupcake Project:

As someone who pretty much exclusively makes cupcakes, making things healthier is not typically top on my list. However, I definitely think about health all of the time. People always ask me how I have cupcakes around and don’t gain weight. I think the key is setting personal limits. The nice thing about cupcakes is they are already portioned. I never have more than one per day. Also, if the cupcake has a giant frosting swirl (to look fancy), I will remove most of that. It’s pretty much all fat. Another thing to do is to make mini cupcakes instead of full-sized ones. The problem I have there, though, is that with minis, I can never just have one – I always end up eating the same amount as I would with a full-sized one. I think it’s OK to have butter and sugar in your dessert – it tastes better. But, save the calories for stuff that you really love. If it’s not super yummy, don’t eat it.

Michelle from Je Mange La Ville:

I do substitute apple sauce for oil in muffins and banana breads. :) I also decrease butter in recipes if I can. Not really in cookies or baked items, but a lot of times a sauce will call for butter and usually A LOT! I typically decrease that (especially if it’s for a pan sauce at the end) to just a tablespoon or so, rather than the original 3-4 tablespoons sometimes called for. Also, if a recipe calls for sauteing in butter, I use olive oil instead!

Jessie from Cakespy:

Unfortunately, I seem to possess a decided lack of interest in making recipes healthier. I guess that until butter is magically rendered fat-free without sacrificing any taste, I’m going to have to depend on smaller portions and long walks after eating!

Karen from Rambling Spoon:

I add extra garlic, one of the healthiest foods we have. Garlic has its own antibacterial properties, which the plant uses to fight disease. Those properties are released when the plant is injured, such as through chopping or crushing. Cooking destroys this benefit, so garlic is most healthy when eaten raw and sliced, diced or pounded. I cook with a lot of garlic anyway, and I usually add a pinch of raw just before serving. Ginger and turmeric are two more ingredients I use heavily, both with anti-inflammatory and other health benefits. Many Asian curries rely greatly on these three ingredients.

I also use a lot of fresh herbs, which I think deserve more attention in many cuisines. Fresh herbs also contain antibacterial properties and some, such as cilantro, help rid the body of toxins and heavy metals. Add fresh sweet basil to a fruit salad or drink, add rosemary to soups and potatoes — not only do you enhance the flavor, but you help protect your stomach. Same with hot chiles. Contrary to popular belief, spicy chiles actually help alleviate digestive ailments.

Christie from Fig and Cherry:

I believe fibre is one of the most important elements for healthy eating. That’s why I always try to substitute wholemeal flour in as many recipes as possible, especially for baking sweet treats. For savoury recipes I like using fibre rich starches such as chickpeas and brown rice instead of potatoes or white pasta.

As always, thanks to everyone who participated! If you were not contacted for this month’s Monthly Mouthful and would like to be included in future Monthly Mouthfuls, please e-mail us at chewonthatblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

Post your own healthy cooking tips in  the comments section below!

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  • Jessie

    I try to make a lot of lean dishes that consist of vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains. I use extra virgin olive oil on a daily basis as well. Corn Oil is actually good for you in moderation, so I use it once in a while.

    I am also an avid runner and work out 4-5 days a week at the gym to stay healthy and in shape!

  • Christie @ Fig & Cherry

    This is a really great question Hillary!

    There’s some fantastic answers too, really inspiring. Thanks for the round up! :)

  • Joan Nova

    Lots of smart bloggers out there. I look forward to re-reading all the comments. P.S. Thanks for including my logo! It was fun to see it.

  • Hugging the Coast

    Great roundup! I’m a big fan of garlic, olive oil, using natural ingredients whenever possible, and eating more fiber.

    One of the great things about cooking at home is one can decide what ingredients one uses. It sounds boring, but reading ingredient labels makes a huge difference too!

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