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Health Information Recipe Makeovers: Making It Healthy, Keeping It Simple

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."

  • Come hear Lara Rondinelli, RD, LDN, present on healthy eating and cooking on Wednesday, March, 14, 2007. The program includes lunch and a cooking demonstration by Chef Jennifer Bucko. The program will be held at the Searle Conference Center. There is a $10.00 per participant fee.

    Phone 888 352-RUSH (888 352-7874) for more information or to register. Or visit the Upcoming Events page. You can also use the registration request form to register online.

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.

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