It’s the new year and lightening up meals is part of many of our goals. You don’t have to forgo your favorite foods, however. With a few substitutions here and there, you can enjoy a bevy of healthier meals. Your family won’t even notice as you quietly reduce calories and fat. So here are 10 tips to lighten up recipes that are too easy not to try.
1. Switch Reduced Fat Milk for Half and Half
Chicken & Sun Dried Tomato Pasta with Mozzarella (exclusive to The Good Stuff!)
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 4 oz fat-free sun dried tomatoes, sliced
- 1 lb chicken breast tenders, sprinkled with paprika, salt and pepper
- 3 tablespoons half and half
- 1 cup low fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 8 oz whole wheat macaroni
- 1 tablespoon basil
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup reserved cooked pasta water (or more)
Saute garlic and sun-dried tomatoes in 1 tablespoon olive oil for 1 minute until garlic is fragrant. Remove sun-dried tomatoes from the pan, leaving the oil, and add chicken tenders cook on high heat for 1 minute on each side. Remove from heat. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve some cooked pasta water. Add sun dried tomatoes back to the skillet with chicken. Add half and half and cheese to the skillet, and bring to a gentle boil. Immediately reduce to simmer and cook, constantly stirring, until all cheese melts and creamy sauce forms. Add cooked pasta to the skillet with the creamy sauce, and stir to combine. Add 1 tablespoon of basil, and at least 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.
Add about 1/4 cup reserved cooked pasta water because the creamy sauce will be too thick. This will water down the thickness of the cheese sauce and make it creamier. Add by tablespoon to avoid diluting too much. You can substitute milk and reduced fat milk in many recipes with just a little half and half.
Note, if you’re substituting reduced fat milk for half and half in a one-to-one ratio, then reduced fat milk has fewer calories. One fluid ounce of reduced fat milk is 15 calories, while the same amount is 39 calories for half and half. But, if you’re only using a tablespoon of half and half, then that’s only 19 calories! So with this particular recipe, our three tablespoons of half and half only sets you back 58 calories, so your dish is still creamy without being too fattening. I also lightened up one of my favorites by substituting regular pasta for whole wheat and using low-fat mozzarella cheese.
2. Use Applesauce Instead of Oil
Applesauce Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: Like Mother Like Daughter
Applesauce is a great way to lighten up recipes by reducing the fat in baked goods. Make your favorite batch of chocolate chip cookies and reduce the fat, one to one with applesauce. You can also try half oil and half applesauce.
3. Replace Alfredo Sauce with Cauliflower Sauce
Potato Cauliflower Soup
Creamy cauliflower can be sauteed and then used as a soup, or even as a sauce substitution. We all know that Alfredo sauce is not the healthiest, so switch it up by adding cauliflower to the mix.
4. Try Non-Fat Greek Yogurt for Mayonnaise
Lamb Meatball Gyros with Greek Yogurt and Mint
Lighten up recipes with a Greek yogurt fix. Chicken salad gets lighter and healthier when you replace mayonnaise with Greek yogurt in any dressing or sauce. Make it an open face sandwich and reduce the carbs.
5. Go With Zucchini Noodles or Spaghetti Squash in Place of Pasta
Roasted Shrimp Over Spaghetti Squash
Source: The Good Stuff
Replacing your pasta with veggie pasta will instantly lighten up your meal. If you haven’t added a vegetable spiralizer to your kitchen toolbox you can still turn your squash into noodles. Use a vegetable peeler or run the squash lengthwise over a julienne slicer for more spaghetti-like noodles. Stop before you reach the seedy core of the squash.
6. Bake Not Fry Chicken Parmesan
Baked Chicken Parmesan
Source: Six Sisters’ Stuff
Chicken Parmesan retains the same great taste only it becomes a lighter, healthier dish when baked. Lighten up further by using an egg white instead of an egg.
7. Try Veggie Pizza Crusts
Sweet Potato Crust Hawaiian Pizza
Source: Taste and Tell Blog
Give your pizza a healthy makeover by making a veggie crust. This Hawaiian pizza is made with sweet potato that you can have prepared in just minutes. Other options include a cauliflower or quinoa crust.
8. Reduced Fat Cheese For Skinny Chicken Enchiladas
Weight Watchers Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas
Use reduced fat cheese in your favorite recipes. These skinny enchiladas are also made with fat-free sour cream and evaporated milk.
9. Cottage Cheese For Healthy Mac N Cheese
Cottage Cheese Mac
Source: A Duck’s Oven
In a hurry and have a box of mac n cheese in the cupboard? This recipe adds healthiness to an old time favorite with the addition of cottage cheese and broccoli. You end up with a satisfying meal minus any guilt.
10. Lettuce Wrap Your Tacos
Taco Lettuce Wrap
Source: The Taylor House
Kids love taco Tuesday but you want to lighten up. Try wrapping your favorite tacos in lettuce to lighten up the calories but still get a crunch.