How to cut 100 calories from your favorite recipes

Naomi de la Torre is freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom with two delightful boys, ages three and six. Naomi has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, is a self-proclaimed salsa diva, and can make a killer octopus ...

Recipe makeovers

Does the word “diet” send shivers up and down your spine? Do you tremble at the idea of saying goodbye to all your favorite dishes just because you are watching your weight? Eating light doesn’t have to be a painful, tasteless experience. With these easy low-calorie substitutions, you can still have your cake and eat it too!

Husband tasting healthy meal

Did you know that an estimated 80-95% of people who lose a significant amount of weight will eventually gain it back? This is because most diets encourage people to make radical changes to their eating that they simply cannot follow over an extended period of time. "You have to start small," says Holly Wyatt, MD, a clinical researcher at the Center for Human Nutrition in Denver. "People tend to launch on a weight-loss program and try to change everything in their lives all at once." A better way to maintain a healthy weight is to make smaller, sustainable changes. Making low-fat, low-calorie substitutions is a great place to start because you are still eating the foods you love, just a healthier version.

There are dozens of simple and easy ways to reduce the calories in your favorite recipes, but even registered dietician and co-author of The Great American Eat Right Cookbook, Colleen Doyle, admits that if it doesn't taste good, no one will eat it. Doyle recommends that people experiment with different kinds of food substitutions to find what appeals to them. "If people have never done any kind of substitutions like oil and applesauce, I tell them to do it half and half. Do half the amount of oil and half the amount of applesauce." Once you get used to the taste and texture of a specific type of food substitution, you can graduate to the whole amount.

Here are some of the best and tastiest low-calorie substitutions around:

1Egg whitesReplace whole eggs with two egg-whites

This is a painless and simple solution that reduces the egg calories in your recipe by two thirds. Not to mention, egg whites are practically fat-free. This substitution is great for everything from baked goods and omelets to French toast and meatballs.

2Swap out your dairy products

High-fat dairy products can add lots of extra calories and fat to your dishes. Try substituting skim milk for whole, low-fat cheeses for their higher-fat alternatives, evaporated milk for cream, low-fat cream cheese for regular, and yogurt for sour cream or mayo. You will be surprised by how little this easy switch affects the taste and flavor of your favorite dishes.

3Go halfsies

One way to easily cut the calories in almost any recipe is to find some of the highest-calorie ingredients and cut them in half. Is your cookie recipe super sweet? Cut the sugar by half. Does your favorite stir-fry call for a cup of cashews? Switch to half of a cup. Do you love pepperoni pizza? Save yourself a gangload of calories by using only half the pepperoni and adding veggies instead. Does your smoothie recipe call for honey or agave nectar? Trying doing without (the fruit is probably sweet enough on its own!) or reduce the sweetener by half.

4Substitute the oil in baked goods

There are a variety of pureed fruits that you can use to replace oil in your favorite cakes, cookies, sweetbreads and brownies and the results are out of this world! Try your favorite brownies with applesauce or canned pumpkin instead of oil. Or make your favorite muffins and add mashed bananas or pureed carrots instead of butter. Make sure to check your reduced fat baked goods five minutes earlier, as these low-fat items tend to cook faster.

5Make the switch to lean meats

Do you just grab whichever package of ground beef is on sale? Consider switching to lean or extra lean and you will save tons of calories, as well as dramatically reduce the fat content. Whether you are making hamburger patties, meatloaf, sloppy joes, casseroles, meatballs or pasta sauce, you will be pleased with the low-calorie version of your favorite meals.

6Remove the skin from your poultry

By simply ditching the skin from your chicken or turkey, you will save yourself from consuming extra calories and fat. Also, choose the leaner cuts of poultry like breasts instead of legs and thighs.

7Grilled veggiesMinimize your use of cooking oils

Make the switch from oil or butter to a non-stick cooking spray and you can save lots of calories every time you fry something in a pan. From veggies and meats to pancakes and refried beans, you will be delighted with the reduction in calories without sacrificing flavor.

8Broil, grill or bake instead of fry

Do you love the crunchy goodness of homemade French fries? You don't have to ban them forever. Just bake them in the oven instead of deep frying them and you will shave off oodles of excess fat and calories. The same goes for chicken, seafood, beef, veggies and any other foods that you regularly fry. If you have access to a grill, try tossing some of your favorites over the fire and savor the delicious smoky goodness.

9Pump up the spices

You may feel that you are sacrificing flavor by making some of these low-calorie substitutions in your cooking. One way to combat this is to add more healthy herbs and spices to your cooking. You will be amazed at how much richer your recipes are when you pump up the spice.

Recipe makeovers

Some recipes are ideal for makeovers and simple substitutions could save you calories. With these easy steps you can transform your favorite meals from fatty to fabulous.

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