Make Your Meals and Recipes Healthier

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Although I have developed hundreds of recipes and I know how to create them low in fat and sodium, I always learn something new every time I analyze them for their nutrient content.
Here are some of my favorite tips I have learned along the way:

  • Canned foods add a lot of sodium. Wherever possible, you should try to find canned foods without added salt. This includes soups, broths, canned tomatoes, canned beans and canned vegetables. At the very least these products should be rinsed before use. I could not believe the difference in outcome in sodium when freshly boiled beans, versus canned beans, were used. It was 941 mg sodium versus 176 mg for one recipe!!!
  • Cheese adds a lot of saturated fat and sodium. To keep a recipe within the latest guidelines by the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization, you should never use more than a half tablespoon of cheese per person. If you are looking to add flavor, consider ground black pepper or dried oregano. Cut way back on the amount of cheese that you use.
  • Bread adds a lot of sodium. To keep most sandwiches from going way over the new recommendations for sodium intake, I had to limit all sandwiches to one slice of bread per person. I can see how you would definitely need to have a variety of whole grains such as cooked brown rice and oatmeal in your diet to obtain enough fiber without getting too much sodium. There are low-sodium breads by Ezekiel bakery, but you have to go to a whole foods market to find them.
  • Deli meats add a lot of sodium. Everyone knows they should try to eat lean when it comes to meat and poultry. But I bet they don’t realize how much sodium is in the deli turkey they are eating, even when it is "reduced sodium." When this ingredient is put on bread with a tiny amount of light mayonnaise, the sodium goes to more than half a day’s supply. Fresh cooked chicken or tuna without added salt are great alternatives.
  • Beans and lentils add a lot of fiber. Whenever I analyze a recipe with beans or lentils, I always go back and double-check the ingredients because the fiber appears so high on those recipes.
  • Vegetables make the serving size of dishes a lot larger for the calories they contain. Salads, soups and stir-fry dishes that have a lot of vegetables always seem to have huge portions for the calories they contain as compared to other recipes.
  • Oil and margarine really add a lot of fat. Oil and margarine are fat, of course, so this should not seem like a surprise. But you really have to be stingy when using them. It is easy to get carried away because you want something to fry nice or taste good. I tried to limit the amount of fat used in a recipe to 1/2 or 1 teaspoon per person. Here are ways to help you use less fat:
  • Use a spray container of oil for cooking and baking.
  • Choose a cruet with a shaker top to sprinkle oil on salads.
  • Measure oil; don’t pour.
  • Cut oil in baked goods by half and substitute with unsweetened applesauce.
  • Use light margarine where possible. This usually doesn’t work for baked goods but is fine for spreads and cooking.
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