Dietitians share how to make your favorite food healthier

October 25, 2023 | by NorthShore – Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

We all have our go-to comfort food. Maybe it's a favorite dish from growing up or a go to meal that leaves us satisfied in the body and mind. It is normal and healthy to find comfort in your favorite foods, however, often times these foods have limited nutritional value.

Would you be surprised to learn that you can make your favorite comfort food in a way that still tastes good but is actually healthier?

Yep, it's possible. Dietitians know the secret.

"There are healthier foods that can be swapped in for unhealthier ingredients and most people will not notice a significant difference in taste," said Kate Kinne, RD, a dietitian at Galter LifeCenter, a medical fitness center that is part of NorthShore University HealthSystem (NorthShore).

Take Greek yogurt, for example. Its texture is nearly identical to sour cream, and its similarly tangy taste make it the perfect swap for sour cream in dips and soups. The best part: A half-cup substitution will save you more than 220 calories, 22 grams of fat and 13 grams of saturated fat---while adding up to 12g of protein!

Having healthier items on hand is also a good idea.

"While all foods can fit into a healthy diet, there are some ways to make everyday recipes healthier without sacrificing taste or texture" said Annie Scott, RD, the community outreach registered dietitian at Swedish Hospital. "Keeping basic ingredients like eggs, low fat milk, fruits and vegetables and lean protein including beans, chicken or salmon in your fridge, makes adding nutrition to your favorite meals easier."

Check out these tasty swaps:

  • Cauliflower for potatoes. While potatoes are a nutritious part of a healthy diet, cauliflower is full of fiber and vitamin C, is low in calories and carbs, and tastes very similar to potatoes. It’s a great substitute for mashed potatoes, which are high in carbohydrates and can raise your blood sugar quickly. You could also use mashed cauliflower instead of cream in cream-based soups, sub it for rice, or mash it into pizza crust! When you use mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes and use low-fat milk instead of cream and butter, you save over 150 calories and about 35 grams of carbs per cup.
  • Zoodles for pasta. Zucchini is a great source of fiber, B vitamins and vitamin C. And the fiber in zoodles helps keep you fuller longer and regulates your blood sugars. Creating noodles out of zucchini — "zoodles" — to replace pasta can slash more than 160 calories and 35 grams of carbs per cup. Zoodles can be used instead of noodles in almost any recipe, even lasagna (sliced into long thin strips). A spiralizer tool, available at most large stores or online, easily creates zoodles from veggies.
  • Nonfat plain Greek yogurt for sour cream. It tastes so much like sour cream, you won't notice the difference in your taco, holiday dip or soup.
  • Unsweetened applesauce (or mashed banana) instead of oil. You can cut a whopping 900 calories and 109 fat grams per half cup by using unsweetened applesauce or mashed bananas in place of olive or canola oil in your baked goods.

Talk to your doctor or dietitian before starting a new meal plan. They can give you the support and tools you need to make smart food choices. Get more Healthy Driven recipes.

For more healthy meal tips, visit Healthy Driven Chicago.

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