When you're trying to lose weight or help a family member slim down, every calorie counts. Cutting calories doesn't have to mean buying prepackaged diet plan food or completely changing the way you cook. With some simple calorie-saving ingredient substitutions, you can trim excess calories and still make your family's favorite dishes.
In this article, we'll look and 10 easy food substitutions that will cut the calories without dramatically altering the taste or texture of your meals.
In dishes where meat provides flavoring, use mushrooms instead. Chopped mushrooms can take the place of ground beef or Italian sausage in spaghetti sauce. Use thick-sliced mushrooms in place of bacon and pancetta in pasta carbonara. The calorie savings of substituting 1 cup (99 grams) of mushrooms for 4 ounces (113 grams) of meat: 250 for ground beef, 314 for ground pork.
See a trick to lighten lasagna on the next page.
Lasagna is a terrific comfort food, but it packs an uncomfortable amount of calories. A surprising number comes from the lasagna noodles. You can slash the calorie count by substituting fresh vegetables. Insert zucchini or eggplant sliced lengthwise for every other noodle layer. This reduces the calories from 210 (for 3 noodles) to around 20.
Be wise about rice on the next page.
Introduce your family to wild rice and drop 18 calories per 1-cup (99-gram) serving. In addition to fewer calories, you'll get higher fiber and much better nutrition than you do with white rice. Because wild rice still has its fibrous outer layers, it holds up well in soups and casseroles. Plus, its varied grains and textures provide delightful flavors and chewing pleasure.
Dessert on a diet? See how to do it on the next page.
When you need a celebratory dessert, try this light-as-air cake. Start with angel food cake instead of butter or cream cake. Slice the cake in half horizontally. Spread a layer of sliced strawberries on the bottom half. Replace the top half and fill the center hole with more sliced strawberries. Instead of frosting, cover the cake with a low-calorie, non-dairy topping and garnish with a few fresh, whole strawberries.
Save calories every day with the tips on the next page.
Many calories in dairy products come from fat. By stepping down fat content in milk and cheese, you can save calories on a regular basis. Moving from whole milk to 2 percent milk cuts 25 calories from each 8-ounce (237-milliliter) serving. Reach for 1 percent and trim another 17 calories.
If you substitute evaporated milk or half-and-half for heavy cream in sauces or casseroles, you'll eliminate over 50 percent of the calories. Choose 1 percent milk-fat cottage cheese over ricotta and dump 135 calories from each 1/2 cup (50-gram) serving.
Cut calories from bread and pasta next.
Whole grain foods are healthier for you, because they bring more fiber to your diet. They can save you calories, too. Switch to reduced-calorie whole wheat bread and save 21 calories per slice over regular white bread. That's 42 calories per sandwich. Whole wheat pasta shaves off 8 calories per 1-cup (99-gram) serving over regular pasta.
The next calorie-cutting strategy cuts cholesterol, too.
The difference in calories between whole eggs and egg whites is astounding. You can make most dishes using only the whites. You'll need to use twice as many -- two egg whites instead of one whole egg -- but you'll save about 40 calories overall.
On the next page, see how to bake goods without the bads.
When a baking recipe calls for vegetable oil, use unsweetened applesauce instead. It provides the moisture necessary to bind your ingredients together and gives your baked goods a light, fruity taste. Plus, look at all the calories you'll save:
- 1/2 cup of vegetable oil = 970 calories
- 1/2 cup of canola oil = 964 calories
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce = 53 calories
Find more low-cal stand-ins on the next page.
Let 1 cup of plain, low-fat yogurt stand in for sour cream in your recipe and save a whopping 338 calories. Serve frozen juice popsicles instead of ice cream and trim over 100 calories off your dessert. Pack a crisp apple in your lunch instead of potato chips to eliminate 60 calories from your snack. When the afternoon lull hits, reach for a banana instead of a doughnut. You'll get 105 nutrient-rich calories instead of 175 empty ones.
Trim calories from meat entrees on the next page.
When meat is central to your meal, shave calories by using turkey instead of beef or pork. Because it takes up spices well, ground turkey is ideal for tacos, chili and spaghetti sauce. By exchanging ground turkey for ground beef, you'll nip 12 calories off every 4-ounce (113-gram) serving; you'll save 70 calories over every 4-ounce (113-gram) serving of ground pork.
As an entrée, a 4-ounce (113-gram) serving of roasted turkey breast has about half the calories of a 4-ounce (113-gram) lean, center-cut pork chop.
Need more tips? See the next page.
HowStuffWorks looks at the new FDA-mandated food nutrition labels.
- American Institute for Cancer Research. The New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.
- Calorie King. Food Database. Calorie Counter. (May 7, 2010) http://www.calorieking.com/foods/
- CBS. "Healthy Food Substitutes." Up to the Minute. CBS News. March 9, 2010. (May 4, 2010) http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/03/10/uttm/main6284239.shtml
- Hark, Lisa, Dr. and Dr. Darwin Deen. The Whole Grain Diet Miracle. New York: DK Publishing, 2006.