Simple Swaps: Healthful Takes on Family Favorites

by Together Counts Partner | April 18, 2013 at 2:55 pm | comments

Spring is here, and my thoughts have turned to favorite foods of the season. I live on a small ranch between Carmel and Big Sur and am the mother of two young boys. Like moms everywhere, I want my kids to grow up healthy and active and have a great appreciation for good food, which is why I’ve encouraged them from an early age to help in the kitchen as a way to introduce them to variety of nutritious foods.

(see also A New Look at How We Count Calories)

This time of year, stews, soups and casseroles sit at the top of my family’s wish list. Though my first thought when approaching these luscious dishes is, “How can I make them more healthful?” I’ve found that following Together Counts’TM advice and using a few calorie-saving tips allow for a new take on our family favorites!

Sensible Seafood Stew

Take one of our family’s favorite meals– seafood stew. To create the broth, I poach onions in water that creates a thick juice. I then add my favorite vegetables and herbs— red bell peppers, mushrooms, fennel, canned tomatoes and herbs – as well as the seafood. Since I live near the Monterey Bay I head right to the docks and get a large salmon fillet and combine with snapper and scallops. Frozen fish works just as well, when using seafood that has firm flesh.

To finish, I add smoked paprika, orange zest and a splash of wine. The great thing about this dish is the flavor gets better over time, so I make a big pot for leftovers to enjoy with my family over a few chilly evenings. You can go to Olive’s Seafood Stew for the complete recipe.

Sour Cream Substitutes

Chicken Enchiladas are a standard dish in my house. I poach chicken and add green onions, salsa and just a light sprinkle of cheese. As a topping, I use a generous dollop of 0% fat Greek yogurt. The 6 oz. version equals 100 calories (compared to 6 oz. of sour cream at 369 calories). Greek yogurt is also a great substitute that is flavorful and packed with protein. It’s a simple swap that the kids don’t even notice!

Applesauce in Baking

My kids love muffins and fruit breads, so to cut some of the calories I use applesauce in place of oil in many recipes. Use an equal amount of applesauce, so if the recipe calls for ¼ cup of oil, use ¼ cup of applesauce. Experiment by adding more or less applesauce according to your taste. This easy alternative can save up to 450 calories in just one batch.

(see also Including Kids in Cooking)

Hide the Broccoli!

*Pureed Baby Food from left to right:  Plums, Carrots, Green Beans and Squash

Thank you, Jessica Seinfeld! Deceptively Delicious is one of my favorite cookbooks. One quickly learns to prepare, puree and portion vegetables to add to most any recipe. Sounds great, right? Well it’s even easier than you think. I use off-the-shelf baby food in my recipes. Already pureed, each jar is an 8 oz. portion – no mess, no freezing pureed vegetables. Use this ‘trick’ to add veggies to pancakes, chicken nuggets or a favorite dessert recipe.

By applying these techniques I have reduced anywhere from 10-30% of calories in some of my favorite dishes, and no one can taste the difference! For more recipes and calorie reducing ideas, check out our website.

What tricks do you have to add a more healthful punch to your family’s favorite recipes?

Lenora Carey wrote this blog post on behalf of Together Counts. Lenora lives on a small ranch along Highway 1, between Carmel and Big Sur with her two sons, Jack and Josh and husband, Richard. She loves to cook and is always looking for creative ways to cut the calories and maintain the great taste in dishes she prepares. She works as a writer, filmmaker, and part time olive farmer. She enjoys scuba diving and running on the beach with Ginger, the family’s yellow lab.