Rush Medical Center Home Page Information for healthcare Professionals Rush University

Bookmark This Page
Health Information Healthy Eating

Recipe Makeovers: Making It Healthy, Keeping It Simple

Simple and easy tips for making cooking healthier

Many people feel like making healthy meals will take extra time and effort. They often add to this the concern that the new dish won’t taste as good as the original. Yet, it can often be just as easy — and tasty — to use healthy substitutes in your favorite dishes.

“When I make a recipe with a few healthy substitutions, I don’t tell my dinner guests that there’s been a makeover,” says Lara Rondinelli, RD, LDN, coordinator of the Rush University Diabetes Center. “It’s nice to see them enjoying healthy food, which they think high calorie and high fat because it tastes so good.

“A meal doesn’t have to be boring, tasteless or take a lot of time to be healthy,” Rondinelli continues. “A meal can be flavorful and satisfying without extra calories. Just adding the right herbs and spices, for instance, can provide rich flavor with virtually no extra calories.”

The emphasis you place on the type of food and the portion sizes can also change a meal from heavy to healthy. “For instance, you can focus more on fresh, vegetables and whole grains, rather than high-fat meat choices and large portions of carbohydrates like white bread and pasta,” Rondinelli says. “Simple adjustments like this can help you get more nutrients with fewer calories.”

Some helpful tips:

  • Cut fat
    • Choose leaner meats (substitute ground turkey for ground beef)
    • Try soy substitutes, such as veggie burgers, instead of beef
    • Choose low-fat versions of your favorite ingredients
      • “When you go to the grocery store today, you have wider selection of easy-to-use options for reducing fat in your recipes,” says Rondinelli. “There are reduced-fat versions of almost every dairy product — from milk and cheeses to sour cream and yogurt. And many of them taste great”
  • Cut empty calories
    • “Empty calories refer to foods that have a lot of calories, but offer little nutritional value,” says Rondinelli.
    • Choose drinks that are low in sugar or sugar free (like unsweetened tea, water flavored with lemon, diet soda, etc.) instead of sodas or other high calorie drinks
    • Reduce sugar or use sugar substitutes when making candy, cakes and cookies
    • Reduce or avoid alcohol
  • Add fiber
    • Add more fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet
    • Choose whole-grain breads, pastas and crackers
    • Try beans (legumes like kidney, navy and pinto beans) as a high-fiber, protein source
  • Control portion sizes

Simple Makeovers

“You would be surprised that you’ll hardly notice the difference in some dishes, when you make a few healthy substitutions. Healthy eating and cooking can be quick, easy and jam-packed with flavor,” says Rondinelli.

  • Lasagna
    • Make it with lean meat (add vegetables for flavor and texture)
    • If you choose to add meat, use ground turkey instead of ground beef
      • Use reduced-fat cheeses (in smaller amounts)
  • “Fried” chicken or fish
    • Coat chicken or fish with egg whites instead of whole eggs
    • Roll in flavorful coating of bread crumbs and herbs or try crushed cornflakes
    • Bake instead of frying
  • Chicken stir fry
    • Use the skinless, bonelesss chicken breasts
    • Cut back on the oil, try using cooking spray in place of some of the oil
    • Serve on brown rice, instead of white rice
  • Meatloaf
    • Use a lean ground turkey or lean ground beef, such as ground round or ground sirloin
    • Use only one egg or two egg whites
    • Use herbs to add flavor
  • Cream soups
    • Make a similar version without cream
    • Try fat-free half-and-half instead of cream

Some Recipes to Get You Started

“Once you’ve started eating lighter healthier meals, you won’t miss their heavier versions,” says Rondinelli. “Plus, your body will certainly thank you.”

More Information at Your Fingertips:

  • Looking for a dietitian? Call 312 942-DIET (312 942-3438)
  • Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (888 352-7874)

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

If you enjoyed this article and are not already a subscriber, subscribe today to Discover Rush Online. You’ll receive health information, breaking medical news and helpful tips for maintaining your health each month via e-mail.


Nutrition Services at
Rush University Medical Center

Eating well is key to staying well, so Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, offers many nutrition-related services. These include:

Nutrition and Wellness Center
Our team of nutrition experts can help you achieve your goals, including losing weight, increasing energy, lowering blood cholesterol and living a healthier life.

Nutrition Clinic
Registered dietitians use state-of-the-art methods to analyze nutrient content of food intake, assess baseline caloric needs, measure body fat percentage and help patients comply with diets.

Nutrition Consultation Service
Services include nutritional assessment, enteral and parenteral nutrition therapy and indirect calorimetry. Clinical staff members are experienced in nutritional management of bone marrow transplant, surgical, gastroenterological and critically ill patients of all ages. This service is staffed by a multidisciplinary nutrition support team consisting of registered dietitians and pharmacists. The team is co-directed by a registered dietitian and a physician.

For more information about nutrition services at Rush visit our Food and Nutrition Services home page.

Looking for Other Health Information?

Visit Discover Rush’s Web Resource page to find articles on health topics and recent health news from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. You will also find many helpful links to other areas of our site.

Looking for a Doctor?

Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, is a leader in caring for people of all ages, from newborns through older adults.

Just phone (888) 352-RUSH or (888) 352-7874 for help finding the Rush doctor who’s right for you.


Promotional Information

Past Issues
Discover Rush, 2007 - Spring
Healthy Eating

Find a Doctor | Patient & Visitor Services | Health Information
Clinical Services | Events & Classes | Rush News Room | Clinical Trials
Research At Rush
Disclaimer | Privacy Statement | Site Map

© Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois