Big family meals are a wonderful way to spend time with people you love. When you are in charge of the cooking, you may be tempted to reach for high-calorie ingredients to please picky eaters and impress your guests. Before you do, learn how to keep things tasty and nutritious by choosing the healthiest ingredients for your family’s favorite meals. Whether you’re making muffins, lasagna, or burritos, delicious dishes don’t have to be loaded with calories.
Eat It: Apple Sauce, Leave It: Oil
The next time you whip up your world-famous Christmas cake, swap out half the oil for unsweetened applesauce. You could cut up to 50 grams of fat and 450 calories for every quarter-cup swapped.
This calorie-cutting trick works well in baked goods that call for oil, such as muffins, quick breads, and some cakes. Unfortunately, it does not work well in many recipes that call for butter, including most cookies.
Eat It: Reduced-Fat Dairy Products
Using reduced-fat cheese can make a world of difference in terms of calorie counts, while still providing great flavor in your go-to lasagna, macaroni and cheese, or frittata recipe. For instances, choose reduced-fat cheddar cheese instead of full fat cheese to slash up to 35 grams of fat and 300 calories per cup added.
Reaching for milk instead of cream is also a great way to lighten your meals. For example, replace heavy cream with 2% milk in soups, scalloped potatoes, and corn bread to trim up to 40 grams of fat and 295 calories per cup added.
Eat It: Skinless Chicken Breasts
Most of the fat found in chicken is in the skin. Purchase skinless chicken breasts or remove the skin at home to shave up to 14 grams of fat and 40 calories from each breast.
Keep skinless chicken breasts flavorful and moist by marinating them in a vibrant sauce or brine before grilling, broiling, or baking. They also taste great in a pot of chicken soup or stew.
This trick works well for turkey too. If you find yourself facing a Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings, choose a cut of meat without skin or leave the skin uneaten.
Leave It: Flour and Corn Tortillas
Tacos, fajitas, and burritos provide kid-friendly vehicles for lean cuts of meat, fiber-rich beans, and crisp vegetables. Unfortunately, the calories found in flour and corn tortillas can quickly add up.
At your family’s next big taco night, get the same bold flavors with a lighter load by skipping the wrap, chopping some lettuce, and serving up bowls of taco salad instead. You can also serve up naked fajitas or burritos by adding meat, beans, vegetables, and other toppings to fresh greens or a small scoop of brown rice.
For every corn and flour tortilla that you skip, you could avoid up to 50 or 95 calories respectively.
Eat It: Veggies, Leave It: Meat
Protein is an essential part of a well-balanced diet, but most Americans get more protein than they need, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. In contrast, many families miss the mark when it comes to eating enough vegetables.
Reduce the amount of meat and increase the amount of veggies in family-favorite casseroles and other dishes, in order to cut calories and add heart-healthy fiber to your meals. For example, replace a half-pound of ground beef in shepherd’s pie or pasta sauce with a half-pound of sliced mushrooms. You will still achieve a meaty texture and savory flavor, with up to 450 fewer calories.
Chopped spinach, kale, and carrots also make versatile additions to many recipes.
Make Smart Swaps for Healthier Family Meals
You can still enjoy special meals and treats with your loved one, without sacrificing healthiness. Before you make a dish, read the ingredients and look for opportunities to swap in more nutritious options, such as reduced-fat cheese, leaner cuts of meat, or extra veggies. Over time, those small swaps can add up, leading to more nutritious meals and a healthier family.