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Prairie Fare: Slim Down Your Recipes

Sometimes, simple changes can make major differences in a recipe’s calorie, fat and sodium content.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Yum! Can you make that?” my 5-year-old asked as she watched the TV chef pull a fudgy brownie soufflé out of the oven.

“I’m so hungry now!” my 10-year-old chocolate-loving daughter exclaimed.

“Let’s change the channel before we eat everything in sight,” I said, silently pondering whether there was a chocolate chip bag in the cupboard to raid.

My older daughter grabbed the remote control and flipped through some stations. She landed on another food show. This one was about making cakes. She flipped to another channel. It featured creamy caramel custard.

She giggled as she encountered one treat after another. No, we don’t have a Dessert TV subscription. To my knowledge, that option doesn’t exist, yet.

Food shows are “hot” these days. Although the foods are very enticing, some of the recipes featured on TV and in magazines are not particularly healthful.

Although occasional treats certainly are OK, a steady diet of chocolate soufflé and caramel custard could prompt the need for larger jeans by spring.

I thought about some not-so-extreme makeovers for the recipes we had observed. Sometimes, simple changes can make major differences in a recipe’s calorie, fat and sodium content.

Before you change a recipe, though, ask yourself a couple of questions. How often do you eat the food? If you have a favorite recipe that you enjoy once or twice a year, changing it probably isn’t necessary.

How much of the food do you eat? Simply having a smaller portion automatically reduces the amount of fat and calories.

Weight for weight, fat has more than twice the number of calories of an equal weight of carbohydrate or protein (9 calories per gram, compared with 4 calories per gram). That’s why recipe modification usually involves trimming some fat.

For example, you may have a vegetable dip recipe that calls for regular sour cream, which has 495 calories and 48 grams of fat per cup. A simple swap to plain nonfat yogurt, at 125 calories and no fat per cup, trims 375 calories and 48 grams of fat from your recipe.

For each cup of solid shortening, you usually can swap 3/4 cup of oil, such as sunflower or canola oil. Solid shortenings usually contain significant amounts of trans fats, which are linked to raising blood cholesterol levels. Liquid oils are much more heart-healthy.

In piecrusts, though, you need to use a recipe that specifically calls for oil.

Try using applesauce for some of the fat in brownies or quick breads. One cup of applesauce has 100 calories and no fat, while a cup of shortening has 1,840 calories and 48 grams of fat.

Maybe a member of your family has been told to trim some sodium. Perhaps you have a recipe that calls for 1 teaspoon of garlic salt, which has 1,900 milligrams of sodium. Consider using garlic powder, with no sodium, in its place.

Here’s a modified cheeseburger soup. The original recipe had higher-fat beef with added oil to brown the meat, no advice to drain the meat, added salt, half and half cream and fat-containing chicken broth. Before the changes were made, a serving had 440 calories, 30 grams (g) of fat, 20 g of carbohydrate and 860 milligrams (mg) of sodium.

For more information about modifying recipes, see this publication: http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn432.pdf.

Modified Cheeseburger Soup

1 pound lean ground beef

1 large onion

1 c. diced celery

1/2 c. diced red bell pepper

1/2 c. carrots, julienne-sliced

3 c. peeled and cubed potatoes

1 tsp. parsley flakes

1/2 tsp. dried leaf basil

1 quart fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth

4 Tbsp. butter

1/3 c. flour

2 c. low-fat milk

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 tsp. pepper

Brown the ground beef, onion, and celery in a large saucepan or stockpot. Add the red bell pepper and cook for one minute longer. Drain the fat. Add the chicken broth, carrots, potatoes, parsley and basil or herb seasoning blend. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium low heat; stir in flour until smooth, about 30 seconds. Slowly stir in the milk. Stir in the cheese. Continue cooking and stirring until the cheese is melted and the mixture is thick and begins to bubble. Stir the milk mixture into the soup mixture until well blended. Heat thoroughly and season to taste.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 350 calories, 18 g of fat, 21 g of carbohydrate and 460 mg of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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