The Pioneer Woman Tasty Kitchen
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Making Recipes Healthier

Posted by in Kitchen Talk

Tasty Kitchen Blog Kitchen Talk: Making Recipes Healthier

The start of a new week, month, or year aways feels like a good time to make changes, or at least attempt a few. At the top of many lists is the resolve to be healthier, which is a nice change from simply wanting to shed pounds. Being healthier means being stronger, less ill, and—dare I say it—even happier.

We all know there’s no shortcut to health. That road is paved with honest intentions and many small good habits that make up a lifestyle.

(Is it just me or do I sound like I’m making up stuff here?)

So let’s help each other! For our first Kitchen Talk topic this year, tell us:

What’s your favorite tip for making a recipe healthier?

If you were wondering about the photo above, it’s from a recent Tasty Kitchen Blog post for The Best Cauliflower Crust Pizza, which was a great way to make a pizza a bit healthier. As you’ll read in our tips below, cauliflower is one of our favorite healthy substitutions for many things like potatoes and grains.

Nanci uses Greek yogurt on top of nachos and Mexican food, or to dollop into soup or on baked potatoes instead of sour cream. She also likes using pureed cauliflower as a base for cream soups instead of all cream.

Betsy says replacing heavy cream with coconut milk in soups or sauces can be tasty and a little healthier. She also serves pureed butternut squash or mashed cauliflower as sides in place of the usual potatoes, pasta, or grains.

As for me, I love making soup because it warms me up and is filling without being too heavy. I do enjoy creamy soups and will sometimes puree soup with a tablespoon or two of cooked rice to make it creamy and thick without adding cream or flour. (But now I’m going to try pureed cauliflower as a base too!)

How about you? What do you do to make a recipe a little bit healthier? Come share!



Comments are closed for this recipe.

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Cinnie Martin on 2.23.2014

I add rolled oats, wheat or grated vegetables whenever possible. I also like to replace potatoes with sweet potatoes or butternut squash. As for soups I like to use red lentils or pearl barley as a base.

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cilegna on 1.14.2014

I sub fat free evaporated milk for heavy cream or half-n-half in many recipes. It provides the creaminess without all the fat and calories.

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Shawna C on 1.13.2014

I usually substitute about a third of the white flour in a recipe for whole wheat; I use low-fat (5%) sour cream, and reduced fat peanut butter and cream cheese; I cut the oil in most baked goods recipes; I reduce the amount of sugar in baked goods and use brown sugar (I think it’s probably just as bad for you as white, but using brown seems to allow me to use less); I almost never use cream and add milk or coconut milk instead, depending on the recipe; I sneak grated or finely-chopped veggies (and sometimes fruit!) into things like meatballs, meatloaf, and chili, even if it’s not part of the recipe; I often use ground turkey or chicken in place of beef or pork.

My big challenge is my son has a severe egg allergy, so I’m always on the hunt for tasty, healthy, egg-free recipes. The cauliflower crust, for example, is something I’d love to try, but I’m not sure how to make it egg-free and still hold together.

Nan on 1.11.2014

One thing I’ve started doing is getting butter infused extremely high quality olive oil at a specialty shop in Lincoln, NE, Oliverde. I use it to grill salmon fillets, along with some dill, lemon and onion salt. The same store also carries various infused balsamic vinegars, and I love to get the mission fig and pour a little over red tomatoes or a crisp fresh vegetable salad instead of dressing with oil.

I try to eat high fructose corn syrup almost NEVER – which is a challenge – but being single makes it a little easier. It means making most things at home from scratch. There is some medical research that indicates it’s possible that HFCS contributes to gout, among its other disadvantages to overall health. I’m convinced I’m chemically addicted to sugar, and I think for me that eating HFCS may trigger a craving.

Sarah on 1.10.2014

I’ve been using a cauliflower “cream” sauce if I crave Alfredo. Boil or roast cauliflower, blend with a touch of milk, a bit of chicken broth, garlic and the tiniest bit of Parmesan. I can’t believe how delicious it is!!!

I also just bought a spiralizer and made zucchini pasta, this is great for me as I’ve been feeling punky when eating wheat and rice noodles while good for some things dust don’t make me happy with pasta. The zucchini noodles are amazing. Tonight I’m trying sweet potato noodles with roasted pecans, roasted butternut squash and cranberries.

Gee on 1.9.2014

Lowering sugar amounts in baked goods usually works fine. If a recipe asks for 1 1/2 cups of sugar, I might use 1/2 cup of brown sugar…or substitute honey or maple syrup. It really makes very little difference, amazingly.

Kris on 1.9.2014

I substitute a can of evaporated skim or 2% milk for heavy whipping cream or half & half in soups.

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Aparna B. (Not A Leaf) on 1.9.2014

My go-to’s for healthier alternatives when cooking:
-Use almond flour or whole wheat whenever possible, over all purpose
-Use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream (more protein, lower calories and fat!)
-When cooking Indian food that calls for paneer, I always use tofu instead
-When a recipe calls for heavy cream or half and half (not as a base, but as an additional luxurious item) I always use almond milk, lite coconut milk or light soy milk
-I use salsa as my dressing for a lot of salads
-I use quinoa in place of rice whenever possible, sometimes brown rice but not often
-Using grapeseed or flaxseed oil instead of olive oil, although olive oil isn’t a bad fat for you!

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    Betsy (TK) on 1.9.2014

    So many good ideas! Thanks, Aparna!

Beth B on 1.9.2014

I add more veggies (chopped onions, peppers, celery, carrots) to recipes like chili and bolognese sauce than called for and substitute ground turkey or chicken for ground beef. I also use half pasta and half zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash. I bought a spiralizer and have had fun experimenting with combining the noodles with pasta in dishes.

lena on 1.8.2014

I usually add fiber to recipes…beans, veggies, whole wheat depending on what I’m making. The pureed cauliflower for soups is a good idea. I’ve been wanting some chowder.

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    Betsy (TK) on 1.9.2014

    Adding fiber is a great thing to think about it. Thanks, Lena!

Ali on 1.8.2014

I substitute spaghetti squash for pasta in a lot of dishes. I even like it better sometimes!

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Kari Lindsay on 1.8.2014

In baked goods, I replace much of the fat with Greek yogurt. In cooking, I just add tons of veggies to my favorite dishes. For example: In mac & cheese, I replace half of the pasta with cauliflower, and I add lots of spinach to shrimp scampi.

Deborah on 1.8.2014

Cut back on the salt. Add more herbs and pepper to your dishes.

Annie @ Annie's City Kitchen on 1.8.2014

When I want to make healthy foods I try to think vegan. It tends to shift my focus to fruits and vegetables and makes me be creative with spices since cheese, butter and milk are off the table. I’ve managed to whip up a ton of delicious vegan Mexican recipes that are so filling and don’t taste “vegan.”

Alissa W. on 1.8.2014

For a lighter cake, I take boxed cake mix add 1 cup greek yogurt and 1 cup water instead of the eggs and oil and bake the same. More protein less fat!

Patty Paulsen on 1.8.2014

Because I love potatoes and refuse to believe they are bad for you, I do not try to replace potatoes with other things. A good plate of mashed potatoes, once in a while, can completely cure the “I want some comfort food” blues. And mashed potatoes by themselves are really not unhealthy at all. It is the butter and the cream that push them into “naughty”. I can get a beautiful, low fat mashed potato by simply substituting low fat buttermilk for the butter and cream. I like to heat it up slightly, then stir in until they are the right consistency. YUM…a little tangy, very creamy. Top with some chopped chives and you have a winner. (Just remember, everything in moderation).

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    Nanci (TK) on 1.8.2014

    That sounds awesome, Patty. I do agree that a good helping of mashed taters will wash all your cares away! I like the low-fat buttermilk idea. And maybe some Greek yogurt too?

Jessica H on 1.8.2014

You don’t have to replace grains. Grains – whole grains – are good. The best way to making recipes more healthy is to serve them in proper portions.

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    Betsy (TK) on 1.9.2014

    Of course, portion control is good!! Some extra veggies aren’t bad, either!

Heather || Heather's Dish on 1.8.2014

I’m a soup girl all the way, but love the use of cauliflower and Greek yogurt like y’all mentioned too. It all helps save room for the really BIG splurges that I crave (cheesecake anyone?)

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    Betsy (TK) on 1.9.2014

    Yes, Heather! It’s all about balance. And cheesecake. :)

Alicia S. on 1.8.2014

I almost always swap the oil in baked goods to unsweetened applesauce. And instead of using regular cream cheese I try to use the 1/3 less fat if the recipe allows (it tastes the same!). I can’t wait to try the cauliflower pizza crust soon… The hubby will never know it’s good for him!

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    Nanci (TK) on 1.8.2014

    Great idea, Alicia. I’ve always wanted to try that. So is it a 1:1 substitution?