So many tasty foods are high in fat and calories, you might think you'll be deprived when you go on a diet or try to get your family to eat healthier. If you're a creative cook, this is never the case. You can convert almost any favorite dish into one that's healthier by making better choices in ingredients and cooking methods. Cook great, reduced-calorie dishes your family will enjoy by being smart about the way you cook.
When people think of Mexican food, many of them picture gooey cheese and fried foods. Make your own healthy versions of traditional favorites to keep the flavor and cut the fat. Fill corn tortillas instead of flour ones to cut back on calories. Dip tortillas in warmed salsa to help them to bend without breaking. Fill the tortillas with a mixture of shredded chicken breast, vegetables, salsa and low-fat cheese. Use light ranch dressing instead of sour cream to keep the cool, creamy flavor on top. Cut plain tortillas into triangles and bake them in the oven for chips without the fat, and dip them into salsa instead of queso dip for an extra vegetable punch with practically no calories.
Nothing spells diet disaster like a carry-out pizza. Greasy pepperoni and oozing cheese can pack on the calories and the pounds. Create a healthier version at home by changing some of the ingredients. Use flatbread, tortillas or thin pizza crust instead of a doughy crust. Spread the dough with extra sauce, or replace tomato sauce with a light version of creamy salad dressing for a flavor punch with fewer calories. Add low-fat toppings such as chopped peppers, mushrooms, pineapple or onions. If you like meat on your pizza, choose turkey pepperoni or Canadian bacon for the same flavor without the high fat. Sprinkle cheese on top of the toppings instead of underneath for the same gooey effect with half the cheese.
Comfort food often seems like it will be unhealthy but it doesn't have to be that way. Make a healthy pot of stew that will fill you up without adding a lot of fat or calories. Choose lean beef or chicken and brown it in a nonstick pot without any oil. Use low-sodium broth as a base for your stew gravy. Fill the pot with a wide variety of root vegetables such as carrots, onions, potatoes and turnips. Add visual appeal with spring peas. Thicken the gravy with cornstarch or creamy dressing instead of fatty roux, and serve the stew on its own.
Chicken can be your best friend or your worst enemy when it comes to healthy cooking. Skip fried chicken and breasts breaded in panko and, instead, bake chicken in the oven for crunch. Grill chicken without the skin to lose a lot of the fat. Marinate the meat before barbecuing to eliminate any need for sugary barbecue sauce. Roast your chicken in oven bags to keep it moist and you won't feel the need to pour on gravy. Season the chicken with dried dressing mix to add flavor. Stick to chicken breast meat for less fat and fewer calories, and serve it with fresh vegetables.
Working in sunny Florida, Anne Baley has been writing professionally since 2009. Her home and lifestyle articles have been seen on Coldwell Banker and Gardening Know How. Baley has published a series of books teaching how to live a frugal life with style and panache.