NDSU Extension - McLean County


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Revising our Favorite Recipes

Dietary guidelines recommended that we reduce the amount of fat, sugar, and salt that we eat.

Those same guidelines encourage us to include more fiber in our diets by eating whole grain products and more fruits and vegetables. But how do your favorite foods fit into those guidelines?  One way to eat healthier but still enjoy your favorite dishes is to alter the recipes.

skillet and recipe rehab in writing.

Some recipes can be altered by simply reducing an ingredient or substituting one for another. General reductions and substitutions for some basic ingredients include the following:

  • Sugar can be reduced by 1/3.  Example:  if a recipe says one cup, use 2/3 cup.  this works best for in home canned and frozen fruits and in making puddings and custards.  It may be less desirable for cookies and cakes. 
               Remember that non-calorie sweeteners work best as substitutes for sugar in uncooked foods.  Non-calorie    sweeteners are usually adversely affected by heat.  These substitutes also do not perform the other functions of sugar.
  • Fat can often be reduced by 1/3.  Example:  If the recipe has six tablespoons, use four tablespoons.  This works best in gravies, sauces, puddings and quick breads.
  • Salt may be left out or reduced by 1/2.  Use spices and herbs for a different flavor.  

  • Whole grain flour can be substituted for 1/4 to 1/2 of refined flour.  Example:  If a recipe has three cups all-purpose flour, use 3/4 cup whole grain flour and two and a half cups all-purpose flour. 

  • Yogurt or cottage cheese may be substituted for sour cream in some sauce and dip recipes. 

  • Use low-fat cheese in place of higher fat cheese in recipes.
  • Skim milk may be substituted for whole milk in most recipes. 

  • Evaporated milk or whipped nonfat dry milk may be substituted for cream in some recipes calling for whipped cream.

A favorite food to bake is cookies.  Reducing the fat, sugar and slat in that cookie recipe may save you some calories but it can have other effects.  Sugar increases browning, tenderness and spreading while baking.  it also gives a sweet flavor.  Fat increases tenderness and salt adds flavor.  Less sugar means less spread, paler crust, less tender texture and less sweet flavor.  Reduced fat may make cookies less tender and reduced salt may affect the flavor slightly. 

Another favorite is the family of quick breads.  Whether banana or other fruit, in quick bread recipes, fat shortens and tenderizes by coating the gluten in dough.  Sugar sweetens, tenderizes and causes outer surfaces to brown during baking.  Sugar also delays drying out and may increase the volume while salt adds its usual flavor.  Less sugar may result in less browning, less tender texture, a greater tendency for the structure of the bread to tunnel, a greater tendency to dry out and less sweet taste.  Less fat may result in a less tender and dry texture and again a greater tendency to tunnel.  Reduced salt may affect flavor slightly. 

The following is an example of how a recipe can be altered by reducing or substituting certain ingredients.  On the left the original ingredients are listed.  Immediately following each ingredients is the suggested change.  Enjoy!


Chicken with Mushrooms       
Yield:  6 servings

6 meaty chicken pieces - Remove skin from chicken pieceschicken with mushrooms

1/3 cup butter or margarine - Replace with 2 tablespoons margarine

1 can (4oz) mushrooms, drained - Remains the same

2 cans (10 3/4oz) cream of mushroom soup - Replace with 1 can of reduced sodium soup

1 large garlic clove, minced - Remains the same

2/3 cup cream - Replace with 2/3 cup 2% milk

In large skillet, brown chicken in butter.  Remove chicken.  Brown mushrooms; stir in soup and garlic.  Add chicken.  Cover and cook over low heat for 45 minutes.  Blend in milk; heat slowly.

Serve with rice.


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