Calories really matter when you are losing weight.
It’s just a fact of life.
Because of this, you need to learn how to make your favorite dishes in a lower calorie version so you don’t feel deprived and your family won’t notice the difference. There are all kinds of ways to cut calories from a dish, but here are my 10 favorites. My family never even notices the difference between the lower and higher calorie versions.
That’s sneaky at its best.
My family used to think they didn’t like diet food. Of course, their definition of diet food was anything with vegetables as the main ingredient. They also got annoyed when I told them I had made a dish healthier for them. In their minds–and sometimes in mine as well–that made it not as delicious.
Over time I learned it was better not to say anything about cutting the calorie count by substituting ingredients. I just did it and enjoyed knowing I was feeding my family healthier meals that they still loved. And from a weight loss perspective, I ate smaller portions of the lower calorie meals and lost weight at a reasonable pace. It worked out well for everyone.
Here are the top 10 sneaky methods I use to cut calories from a recipe.
1. Reduce the sugar in your favorite dessert recipes. You can often reduce the sugar by a third without adversely affecting the texture or taste. Make a test batch, though, to be certain you like it with less sugar.
2. Use half the fat or none at all in recipes that call for oil or butter. I usually skip sautéing in oil and just use some water and a lot of stirring. I save over 200 calories by doing this, and no one can tell the difference. If you want to get rid of the fat in muffins or baked goods, unsweetened applesauce often works well.
3. Substitute finely chopped vegetables for some of the meat in casseroles and sauces. Instead of using all ground turkey for a meat-based spaghetti sauce, I use one-quarter of the recipe amount and add 1 cup of finely chopped zucchini.
4. Skip the add-ons that add nothing but calories to your food. I’m talking about the habit of finishing vegetables with a tablespoon of oil, adding whipped cream to a low-calorie apple crisp, or dousing a green salad with 200 calories of dressing.
5. Use some fat-free ingredients when possible. I’m not an advocate for a completely fat-free diet, but using fat-free salad dressing, sour cream, and fat-free milk and cheeses in a higher calorie recipe can save a lot of calories.
6. Change the cut of meat to save calories. Use a leaner cut of beef, chicken instead of pork, or ground turkey instead of hamburger.
7. Leave out most of the cheese called for in a recipe. If you’re making a Mexican dish that calls for 1 cup of cheese, use 1/4 or 1/2 cup instead.
8. Use egg whites instead of whole eggs when possible. I use a combination of egg whites and whole eggs in omelets, breakfast casseroles, and in some muffin recipes.
9. Use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream. Greek yogurt and sour cream have similar textures and flavor profiles. Try using Greek yogurt instead of sour cream for Mexican dishes, salad dressings, and in baked goods. If your family is like mine and thinks they don’t like Greek yogurt, wash and save an empty sour cream container and fill it with Greek yogurt. They’ll never know the difference.
10. Take it easy on the sauces to save calories. Make gravy with less fat and use it sparingly, serve dressing on the side, make marinara sauce instead of meat sauce, and use lower calorie versions of Alfredo sauce. When we have an Asian-inspired meal, I give each person a small container of dipping sauce. That way I control the calories and they all feel special.