Like most health-conscious parents concerned about raising a healthy eater, you are likely looking for ways to make your everyday recipes even healthier. Here are a few time-tested tips to make your meals healthier (without sacrificing any flavor!).

Cut the meat 

Jessica Cox, RD, culinary nutritionist at eMeals.com, suggests cutting the meat ingredients in your recipes in half. Yes, in half! For the missing half, she has some great suggestions:

  • For meaty comfort foods, try substituting cooked lentils, beans, or vegetables for half the meat.
  • In meatloaf, replace half the meat with cooked lentils and add shredded carrot and zucchini.
  • Making meat sauce? Trade half the ground beef for finely chopped mushrooms, bell pepper and carrot. Carrots are great because kids love their natural sweetness.
  • Burgers? Use half ground beef and half canned beans. Your meal will be more flavorful but with less fat and more nutrients.

Trim the fat

Cox also suggests using a basic white sauce (also known as a béchamel) instead of cream or creamed soups. She adds some flavor to hers with the addition of chicken stock.

  • Basic White Sauce: Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons flour and cook, while stirring, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in 1 1/2-cup low-fat milk and 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth. Simmer, whisking constantly, 3-5 minutes or until thickened. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg, if desired.

Instead of using sour cream in recipes, use plain nonfat Greek yogurt. You can substitute Greek yogurt atop baked potato, in lieu of sour cream in or on Mexican dishes, or as the cream in creamy soups. You will be hard pressed to find a difference in taste, and you will boost protein and have less fat in your recipe.

No-brainer substitutions

Good news! There are many healthier substitutes you can work into your young child’s diet:

  • Whole wheat pasta instead of traditional white pasta
  • Brown rice instead of white rice
  • White whole wheat bread instead of regular white bread
  • Whole wheat flour instead of white flour in baked goods

To ease your family into more whole grain products, try mixing them with their white counterpart. For example: half whole grain and half refined grain (white) and, over time, move over to whole grains exclusively.

  • Low fat milk instead of whole milk
  • Olive oil instead of butter in stove-top recipes
  • Naturally low-fat cheeses like mozzarella instead of full-fat cheese

The idea is to get these substitutions started early so they become part of your child’s accepted palate. If you haven’t done this yet, it’s not too late!

Takeaways

  • You can make your meals healthier without sacrificing any flavor.
  • Substitute lentils, beans, or vegetables in place of meat.
  • Opt for a low-fat, homemade white sauce rather than heavy cream sauces and soups.
  • Ease your family into whole grains by pairing them with refined grains and slowly using less over time.

Comments

  1. I always use plain Greek yogurt rather than sour cream. I actually think it taste better and my daughter doesn’t notice a difference.

    Reply
  2. I love the suggestions that are listed above and plan to try several of them. I am really excited about cutting the meat in burgers with black beans. I may have to hide this from my husband and see what he thinks after the fact! 🙂 I really like the idea about mixing white rice with brown to slowly ease into eating brown. I have tried just eating brown instead and wasn’t a fan of it but I think doing it this way first may help with the transition!

    Reply

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