Healthy Cooking Tips and Techniques That Will Change Your Life

By now you have the mantra: low-fat; high-fiber; rich in fruits, vegetables, and grains. But how on earth can you put this into practice and still get anybody to the dinner table? Actually, the problem is not as insurmountable as it seems. The simple tips found here can help you turn shamelessly healthy food into truly exciting meals.

Don’t worry about tracking down eye of newt, wing of bat, or other arcane ingredients, either. Common staple foods and equipment are all you need. You can then incorporate out-of-the-ordinary condiments, spices, or food combinations at your own pace.

Begin by using healthy cooking techniques (baking instead of frying, for instance), substituting equivalent low-fat items in recipes (like using yogurt instead of mayonnaise), and seasoning foods in new ways (for example, topping vegetables with flavored vinegar or lemon juice rather than butter and salt). Gradually space your high-fat meals farther apart and fill in the gaps with intriguing, nutritious new dishes. Soon a new way of eating will become part of your lifestyle.

Nutritionally Correct Cooking Methods

Many Americans find fried foods and heavy cream sauces synonymous with “comfort.” But this style of cooking is definitely on its way out. For healthy eating, throw away the deep-frier and roast, broil, bake, saute, poach, steam, or microwave everything you cook. Or try baking in parchment paper; it’s an easy, elegant way to cook meats, fish, vegetables, and even fruits.

Roasting. In this dry-heat method of cooking, food rests on a rack in a roasting pan, enabling fat to drip away during cooking. A chicken or turkey may require basting so it won’t dry out; but be sure to use a low-fat broth or marinade, or separate the fat from the meat’s own juices before using them. A measuring cup with a spout at the bottom is great for getting rid of fat. Simply pour the pan juices into the cup and let the fat rise to the top. The liquid at the bottom can then be poured back over the meat. Never roast at temperatures over 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher temperatures will sear the meat and lock fat inside.

Broiling. This method is similar to roasting, only the meat is placed directly under the heat.

Grilling. In this familiar outdoor barbecue cooking technique, meat is cooked over—rather than under—direct heat.

Baking. Unless you use some kind of breading, you will need a covered container for baking; the process requires a little more cooking liquid than roasting. Try low-fat broth, milk, water, or marinades like fruit juices or wine. Non-stick cooking spray makes cleanup easier.

Sautéing. Ideal for foods that cook quickly, such as fish, thinly sliced meats, or vegetables, sautéing relies on constant movement to keep the food from sticking to the pan. Non-stick cooking spray works well with this method. The word sauté comes from the French sauter which means “to jump.” Wok cooking and other stir-fry methods that keep food “jumping” in the pan borrow this concept.

Poaching. This easy technique simply calls for simmering the food in liquid.

Steaming. If you cannot eat your vegetables raw, steam them in a microwave oven or use a low-cost collapsible steamer basket that fits inside a pot. That way the vegetables scarcely touch the water. Use no more than about an inch of liquid to prevent the loss of vitamins and minerals. If you add herbs and spices to the water, the steam will impart a delicate flavor to the vegetables. While the water is simmering, keep the lid tightly on the pot. Experiment to determine the time it takes for each of your favorite vegetables to reach the doneness you prefer. Broccoli will generally take three to four minutes; carrots, five minutes; green beans, four minutes; and small red potatoes, 10 minutes.

Microwaving. Microwave ovens cook efficiently because their energy heats the food, not the container or the appliance. Use only glass, plastic, or paper containers. Microwaves must be able to pass through the container to cook the food inside it; and metal containers reflect the waves, preventing the penetration of heat.

Here are a few tips for cooking by microwave:

Be sure to stir or rotate foods halfway through cooking time to distribute moisture and heat evenly.
Remember that sugar and fat attract energy, causing the food to cook faster.
Reduce the liquid in your recipe by about one-quarter. Liquids do not evaporate during microwaving.
To steam vegetables or facilitate the cooking of other foods, cover the dish with microwave-safe plastic wrap. To prevent explosions, make sure there is a small vent to let steam escape.
Use the quick-cooking variety of rice or pasta.


Microwaving Vegetables: Quick, Easy, Healthy

Here are some cooking tips from the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association. Cooking times are approximate; exact time depends on oven and container. Microwave all vegetables on full power.

Place whole vegetables at least one inch apart and turn them at least once.
Pierce whole, unpeeled vegetables, such as squash or potatoes, before cooking to prevent their skins from bursting.
Arrange vegetables so that the part that takes the longest to cook, like thick stalks, is toward the outside of the cooking dish.
Asparagus — Cut spears into 1/2-inch pieces. Microwave one pound in 2 tablespoons of water for 6 minutes.

Green beans —Cut beans in half. Microwave one pound in 1/4 cup water for 8 minutes.

Broccoli —Remove large leaves from one bunch of broccoli (about 1-1/2 pounds). Trim stalks, making a cut in the bottom of each. Microwave in 1/2 cup water for 11 minutes.

Cabbage —Wash, core, and quarter a medium head (about 1-3/4 pounds). Microwave in 1/4 cup water for 11 minutes.

Carrots —Slice into one-inch thick pieces. Microwave one pound in 1/4 cup water for 8 minutes.

Cauliflower — Microwave a whole head (one pound) in 1/4 cup water for 10 minutes. Or break into flowerets and microwave in 1/4 cup water for 8 minutes.

Corn-on-the-cob —Remove outer husks, carefully pull back inner husks, and remove silk. Replace husks and twist at the end to secure. Microwave, allowing 3-5 minutes per ear.

Mushrooms —Slice half a pound of washed, trimmed mushrooms. Microwave in 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine for 4 minutes.

Potatoes —To bake, prick clean potatoes several times to allow steam to escape. Arrange at least one inch apart on a paper towel. Microwave one potato 3 to 5 minutes; 2 potatoes 5 to 7-1/2 minutes; 3 potatoes 7 to 10 minutes; 4 potatoes 10-1/2 to 12 minutes.

Spinach —Remove stems from half a pound of spinach. Microwave in 1/4 cup water for 4 minutes.

Squash, acorn — Halve and scoop out seeds. Place cut side down in baking dish, microwave for 5-1/2 to 7-1/2 minutes per pound. Turn squash over. Place butter or margarine and brown sugar in each half, wrap in foil and let stand for 5 minutes.

Squash, summer and zucchini—Slice one pound. Microwave in 1/4 cup water for 8 minutes.

Tomatoes —Wash and halve tomatoes. Arrange in a circle on a dish and sprinkle with desired seasoning. Microwave 2 halves for 2 to 2-1/2 minutes; 4 halves, 3 to 4 minutes; 6 to 8 halves, 5 to 6 minutes.


Cooking with parchment paper. This method combines baking with steaming. Food is placed inside a packet made of folded parchment paper, then baked. As steam builds up inside, the food cooks gently without fat of any kind. Use this method when combining foods: for instance, cook fish in a packet with mushrooms and slivered carrots, or fruits with wine and raisins. You can find parchment paper in kitchenware stores. Aluminum foil and even brown packing paper will also work. Here’s how it’s done:

Fold a 16-inch piece of parchment paper in half.
Cut it as you would a valentine heart with the fold running down the center.
Arrange the food in the center of one side of the heart, and fold the other side over it bringing the edges together.
Crimp the edges together by making small, uniform folds, each one over the next, until the packet is completely sealed. Most foods will cook in 10 to 12 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Trick to Healthy Substitutions

The simplest way to trim down a too-rich recipe is to use reduced-fat or reduced-calorie ingredients. Skim milk can easily replace whole milk in many recipes, and if skim milk is not robust enough—for example, in a cream soup—you can use evaporated skim milk or thicken with cornstarch or dry skim milk powder. Buttermilk is another option, depending on what you’re making. It works quite well in waffles, as the editors of Eating Well discovered when they revamped a reader’s recipe for their monthly “Rx for Recipes” feature. The original version called for three eggs, 1/2 cup of butter, and 1 cup of milk, and resulted in waffles with 343 calories and 19 grams of fat apiece. By replacing the three eggs with one whole egg plus two egg whites, and using 2 cups of skim-milk buttermilk instead of butter and whole milk, the editors created a “flavorful waffle” with only 220 calories and 4 grams of fat. Substituting 1 cup of whole wheat flour plus 1 cup of all purpose flour for the 2 cups of all-purpose flour specified in the original recipe provided additional fiber.

Eating Well’s Waffles

1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose white flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 cups skim-milk buttermilk
1 large egg, separated, plus 2 egg whites
1 Tbs. vanilla extract (optional)
1 Tbs. vegetable oil plus extra for preparing the waffle iron
2 Tbs. sugar

In a large bowl, stir together flours, baking powder, salt and baking soda. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg yolk, vanilla (if using) and oil. Add to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon just until moistened.

In a grease-free mixing bowl, beat the 3 egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add sugar and continue beating until stiff and glossy. Whisk one-quarter of the beaten egg whites into the batter. With a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining beaten egg whites.

Preheat waffle iron. Brush the surface lightly with oil. Fill the iron two-thirds full. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the waffles are crisp and golden. Repeat with the remaining batter, brushing the surface with oil before cooking each batch.

Serves 6
Per serving: Cal. 220 Pro. 10 g Fat 4 g Carb. 38 g Sod. 368 mg Chol. 37 mg
Reprinted with permission from Eating Well, The Magazine of Food and Health.


Try These Healthy Stand-Ins

Here are some substitutions that can help wring extra fat from your cooking.

Fats and Oils
Instead of: Choose:
Marinating in oil Marinades of vinegar, lemon juice, red or white wine, vermouth, yogurt, juice concentrate, tomato sauce, or well-seasoned broth
Creamy/oily salad dressing Lemon juice, flavored vinegars, oil-free dressing
Cream/butter sauces Tomato-based sauces
Regular mayonnaise Low-fat yogurt; low-fat, reduced calorie mayonnaise
Butter or margarine as a topping for breads/rolls, pancakes, waffles Jam, jelly, fruit spread, marmalade, honey, fresh fruit, syrup
(Use butter or margarine sparingly, if at all.)
Instead of: Choose:
Whole milk Skim or low-fat (1 percent) milk (Add non-fat dry milk powder if necessary.)
Creamed cottage cheese Dry curd or low-fat cottage cheese, farmer’s cheese
Cream or whipped cream Evaporated skim milk or whipped evaporated skim milk
Sour cream Plain non-fat or low-fat yogurt or low-fat cottage cheese pureed in a blender
Cream cheese Low-fat cottage cheese
Whole milk cheese Part skim or low-fat cheeses
Whole eggs Egg whites (two per whole egg) or egg substitute
Instead of: Choose:
Bacon, sausage Lean ham, Canadian bacon
Bologna, salami Turkey breast
Marbled, fatty cuts such as rib roast, T-bone Tenderloin, top or eye of round, round tip brisket, ground chuck
Adapted from: Live Well The Low-Fat /High-Fiber Way. New York, NY: The American Health Foundation Food Plan; 1990.

Another reader sent Eating Well’s editors a recipe for the Greek dish pastitsio. The rich, creamy meat and pasta classic—with a whopping 723 calories and 45 grams of fat per serving!—called for 2 pounds of ground beef, 10 tablespoons of butter, 3 cups of cream, and three eggs. It’s easy to see why the editors say this was the fattiest recipe to ever undergo a makeover. They began by using ground turkey instead of ground beef and reduced the total amount of meat by half a pound, replacing it with half a cup of bulgur. Bulgur is a fast-cooking type of wheat that results from precooking, drying, and cracking wheat berries. Like tofu, it takes on the flavor of foods with which it is cooked, and thus is a handy filler ingredient to reduce fat and calories from meats. The butter and cream were entirely eliminated, with evaporated skim milk used in their place. Low-fat cottage cheese enriched the sauce. Finally, the eggs and butter for the pasta layer were omitted, resulting in a dish with only 467 calories and 12 grams of fat per serving.

Eating Well’s Pastitsio


1 tsp. olive or vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1-1/2 lbs. lean ground beef or ground turkey
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
1/2 cup bulgur
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper


2 cups 1% cottage cheese (1 lb.)
1-1/2 cups evaporated skim milk (12-oz. can)
1 cup defatted reduced-sodium chicken stock
2 Tbs. all-purpose white flour
1/2 cup freshly grated Kefalot´yri, Asiago,
or Parmesan cheese (1 oz.)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste


1 lb. elbow macaroni or ziti
6 Tbs. freshly grated Kefalot´yri, Asiago,
or Parmesan cheese (3/4 oz.)
1 tsp. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley (optional)

To make meat sauce: In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat; add onions and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add ground meat and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Drain off fat. Add 1 cup water, wine, tomato paste, bulgur, spices, salt and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the bulgur is tender, about 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.

To make cream sauce: In a food processor or blender, puree cottage cheese until completely smooth. Set aside. In a medium-sized heavy saucepan, combine evaporated skim milk and 3/4 cup chicken stock. Heat over medium heat until scalding. In a small bowl, stir together flour and the remaining 1/4 cup cold chicken stock until smooth. Stir into the hot milk mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the pureed cottage cheese and grated cheese. Season with salt and a generous grinding of pepper. To prevent a skin from forming, place wax paper or plastic wrap directly over the surface and set aside.

To make pasta: In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook macaroni or ziti until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and return to the pot. Toss with 1/4 cup grated cheese, oil and salt.

To assemble and bake pastitsio: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Spread half of the pasta mixture over the bottom of the prepared dish. Top with one third of the cream sauce. Spoon all of the meat sauce over, spreading evenly. Cover with another third of the cream sauce. Top with the remaining pasta mixture and cover with the remaining cream sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 Tbs. grated cheese. (Pastitsio can be assembled ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator before proceeding.) Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until bubbling and golden. Sprinkle with parsley, if using, and serve.

Serves 10
Per serving: Cal. 467 Pro. 33 g Fat 12 g Carb. 52 g Sod. 929 mg Chol. 55 mg
Reprinted with permission from Eating Well, The Magazine of Food and Health.

Other grains can also substitute for meats in a recipe. Rice, barley, quinoa (pronounced “KEEN-wa”), and kasha all work well either to lend fullness to a dish with less meat than usual or to make a meatless dish more filling. Barley, probably the world’s oldest grain crop, is a low-starch staple. The seeds of quinoa, an annual wild-growing herb, are rich in protein and high in fiber. Their saponin coating has a bitter taste, so you’ll need to rinse them with water before using. Kasha is cracked, roasted buckwheat groats. You don’t have to rely on these exotic grains, however. Ordinary rice will often do just as well.

Get Maximum Leverage from Seasonings

Since our taste buds recognize only four basic flavors—sweet, salty, sour and bitter—there is no real substitute for salt; but by over-stimulating the other areas of the tongue with extremely flavorful foods it is possible to actually “fool” the taste buds. Flavored vinegars, oil, chutneys, mustards, and herb blends are just right for the job because they pack a tantalizing punch in small amounts.

Flavored Vinegars

Add zest to salads, sauces, and marinades with this new culinary craze. Several varieties are available in most supermarkets, or you can create your own by combining various herbs or edible flower blossoms with vinegars made from cider, red or white wine, or rice wine. Although there are no rules about combinations, you might want to try cider vinegar with basil, mint and dill or full-bodied red wine vinegar with pungent herbs such as oregano and rosemary. White wine vinegar is the most versatile kind, blending well with almost any single herb or combination of herbs; and sweet, mild rice wine vinegar blends nicely with delicate herbs such as mint or lavender.

To make your own flavored vinegar:

Make sure the jar or bottle is completely sterile and dry.
Place herbs in the container and pour vinegar over them. A good ratio is one cup of fresh herbs (or 1/3 cup dried herbs) to one quart of vinegar.
If you place the container in a sunny location, it will steep more quickly and will be ready to use in about two weeks. It will take about a month in a shadier spot.
When it’s ready, strain the vinegar through a coffee filter into the bottle you’ll use for storage. Add a sprig of the herb that flavors the vinegar, if you like.

If you’re not feeling adventurous enough to experiment on your own, here are a couple of the many combinations you can try.

Vivid Vinaigrette

Use this delightful vinegar the next time you make a vinaigrette dressing.

2 sprigs chervil
2 sprigs basil
2 sprigs tarragon
1 sprig thyme
6 chive blades
1 quart white wine vinegar

Mediterranean Blend

This hearty mixture works as well in meat marinades as it does on a salad.

2 sprigs oregano
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig thyme
2 garlic cloves
1 small hot red pepper
1 quart white wine vinegar

Flavored Oils

Use flavored oils as you do flavored vinegars—but don’t go overboard. Even mono- or polyunsaturated oils such as olive oil contain relatively high amounts of calories and fat. For instance, one tablespoon of olive oil has 14 grams of fat and 120 calories.

Add flavored oils to salads, sauces, and marinades and use them when you grill or sauté meats and vegetables. They are as easy to make as vinegar; however, they can’t be stored indefinitely (as vinegars can) since they tend to become rancid. Keeping them in the refrigerator will extend their life to about three months.

Here are some suggestions for adding your favorite flavors to an oil:

Start with a dry, sterile container.
Place the herbs in the jar or bottle and pour oil over them. You will need one cup of fresh herbs —or 1/3 cup dried—for every quart of oil.
If you use garlic, remove it after the oil is finished steeping (about 2 weeks) or the taste will become overpowering.
Since mold can develop if the ingredients aren’t completely covered with oil, it’s a good idea to strain the flavored oil into another bottle and discard the herbs. Don’t add a sprig of the dominant herb (as you would with vinegar) unless you plan to continue adding oil to cover it.
Store in a cool place out of direct sunlight, or in the refrigerator.

Here’s one combination that goes especially well with seafood. Experiment with any other ingredients that catch your fancy.

Maritime Marinade

3 sprigs dill
3 sprigs parsley
3 sprigs tarragon
3 sprigs thyme
1 clove garlic
1 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. black peppercorns
Grated peel of 1 lemon
1 quart olive oil


If ever a seasoning could overwhelm the taste buds, it would be chutney. This condiment is a combination of fruit, hot spices, sweet vegetables, and tart flavorings. The word chutney actually comes from the Hindustani word chatni, which means “strong spices.”

To make chutney, cut fruits or vegetables into small pieces—or puree them—and add vinegar, sugar, herbs, and spices. Cook the mixture until it has the consistency of jam. Chutney can usually be stored in the refrigerator for up to two months.

Here’s a recipe for one of the classic chutnies. Use it as you would other condiments, such as mustard or horseradish.

Major Jones Chutney

3/4 pound tart green apples, unpeeled and finely chopped
(2 apples or about 2 cups)
1 cup finely chopped raisins
1 tsp. corn oil
1 tsp. ground mustard seed or crushed whole mustard seeds
1 tsp. ground coriander
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
2-1/2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1-1/2 cups water

Combine the chopped apples and raisins in a large mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly and set aside. Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and add all of the spices, mixing well. Combine the vinegar and the water, add to the spice mixture and bring to a boil. Then add the apple-raisin mixture and cook, uncovered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the apples are completely tender. Cool to room temperature and store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Makes 2 cups
2 tablespoons contain approximately: 30 calories, 5 mg. sodium
From: Secrets of Salt-Free Cooking, the 101 Productions series. Copyright 1991 by Jeanne Jones Inc. Reprinted with permission.


Quick Tip for Reducing Salt

Not only can you cut down on salt by replacing it with herbs and spices in recipes, but you can also remove much of the naturally occurring salt in foods such as feta cheese, capers, pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, ham, and other smoked meats. Simply soak the foods in cold water for 15 to 30 minutes. If the food is really salty, you may need to drain the water after 15 minutes, refill the container, and soak for another 15 to 30 minutes.



The pungent flavor of mustard makes it a great condiment for everything from fish to chicken and beef. It’s also great with vegetables. If you want to whip up a quick batch of homemade mustard, it’s easiest to start with a prepared mustard, such as Dijon; but if you feel more adventurous, you can use powdered mustard or grind various kinds of mustard seeds. You can vary the sharpness of your mustard by steeping it in various liquids. Use vinegar for a mild flavor, white wine for a Dijon-type flavor, flat beer for a fiery taste, or plain water for the hottest mustard of all. You can also add whichever herbs you like—for example, dill or fennel for fish, or tarragon for chicken. Put all the ingredients you choose in an air-tight jar. Mustard will usually last up to 3 months if you store it in a cool, dark place.

Here’s a recipe for Thyme Mustard from Herbs in the Kitchen that you can vary by using chives, oregano, savory, or tarragon in place of thyme. To make it sweeter, add more honey. You can also divide it into two batches and flavor each with a different herb. Whatever you decide, plan on mellowing the mustard for 3 to 4 weeks; it will be very hot when first prepared. The texture will depend on how finely you grind the seeds. It’s best to use a mortar and pestle or spice mill, but if you plan to use a food processor, soak the mustard seeds in water for 2 or 3 hours beforehand.

Thyme Mustard

1-1/2 cups mustard seed, freshly ground
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
1-1/2 tsp. honey
1 Tbs. minced thyme

Blend the ground mustard seed with the water and vinegar in a bowl. The mustard will absorb the liquid as it stands. Add the salt, pepper, honey, and thyme and blend well. Add a little water if necessary to bring the mustard to a spreading consistency.

Pack into jars and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Makes about 2-1/2 cups
From: Herbs in the Kitchen by Carolyn Dille and Susan Belsinger. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, Inc.; 1992.

Herb blends instead of salt

Instead of a salt shaker, why not combine your favorite spices in a shaker and put it on the table to use at mealtime? You can easily combine basil, rosemary, tarragon, and marjoram to serve with chicken or turkey; and a blend of savory, sage, cumin, coriander, ginger, and thyme goes well with pork. For Italian meals, shake on parsley, oregano, and basil, mixed with a little cayenne pepper and fennel. Classic herbs for fish are dill, chives, lemon, thyme, tarragon, and chervil.

Here are a few all-purpose mixtures you might want to try. See which one you want to make part of your daily diet.

Four-Spice Blend

This mixture is practically a staple in France, where it’s used for meats, vegetables, soups, and sauces. It’s especially good on carrots, turnips, and parsnips.

5 Tbs. ground cloves
3 Tbs. ground ginger
3 Tbs. ground nutmeg
3 Tbs. ground white pepper
Piquant Blend

1 Tbs. ground black pepper
1 Tbs. ground cloves
2 Tbs. sweet paprika
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. grated dried orange rind
Eastern Blend

2 Tbs. cardamom seeds
1 4-inch cinnamon stick
2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tsp. whole cloves
2 tsp. black peppercorns
1/2 whole nutmeg

Place all ingredients in an electric blender or coffee grinder and process until finely ground. In India and Pakistan, where this mixture is used as a table seasoning, it is known as “garam masala.”

Herb blends not only work well in shakers on the dinner table, but make a quick dip when combined with non-fat or low-fat sour cream, cream cheese, or plain yogurt. And that’s just the beginning. For more ideas on delicious ways to use herbs, see “Herbs and Spices: Your Allies for Healthier Meals.”

A Few Ideas to Start With

The new style of healthy cooking has an important bonus: It’s frequently easier than old-fashioned cuisine, with its complicated sauces and elaborate desserts. The fresh imaginative recipes you’ll find reprinted below show how much can be accomplished with simple combinations of unexpected ingredients. After you’ve tried a few, you may find yourself experimenting with some new ideas of your own. The key point is to make the food fun. Healthy eating definitely does not have to be dreary.


Bountiful Breakfasts

Fruity Amaranth Muffins

A delicious breakfast treat or anytime snack.

1-1/2 cups low-fat milk or calcium-fortified soy milk
1/4 cup safflower oil
2 Tbs. honey or brown rice syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 cup diced mixed dried fruit
1-1/2 cups amaranth flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 Tbs. baking powder
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Oil muffin tins. Combine first 5 ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Stir in dried fruit. Set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add liquid ingredients to dry ones. Stir just until moistened. Spoon batter into muffin tins, filling 2/3 full. Bake until tops are brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in tins for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from tins and place onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

Makes 12 muffins
Per muffin: Cal. 244 Pro. 7 g Fat 10 g Sod. 140 mg Carb. 35 g Chol. 1 mg
From: Vegetarian Gourmet Magazine. 1994;3:11.


How To Pick A Healthy Breakfast Cereal

Faced with such a huge selection, how can you zero-in on cereals healthy enough to eat on a regular basis? Here are a few clues to look for.
1. Choose whole grains: Ingredients listed on the box should mention whole grains (such as rolled oats or whole wheat) or whole grain flour. Watch for the words “flour,” “milled flour,” or “meal,” since this usually means “refined,” and hence less nutritious.
2. Each serving should have three or four grams of fiber: You’ll get the most fiber from one ounce (about 1/2 cup) of Kellogg’s All-Bran with Extra Fiber (14 grams) or from General Mills Fiber One (13 grams), but you don’t have to aim that high if these cereals fail to appeal.
3. Watch the sugar: If you’re counting calories, remember that sugary cereals can cost you.
4. Don’t be fooled by vitamin content: Don’t choose “fortified” cereal based solely on vitamin content. You could just as easily take a vitamin pill.
5. Hold the salt: If you like salt but need to cut down, don’t unnecessarily waste your daily sodium allotment on breakfast. If you stick with lightweight cereals such as flakes, you can usually keep sodium below 250 to 300 milligrams per ounce. But watch out for the heavier, denser cereals: They can contain up to 600 milligrams of sodium per ounce
6. Watch granola and mueslis: Granola can be high in fat, although some companies (Health Valley, Alpen, Breadshop, and Kellogg) now make low-fat varieties. Muesli, the European version of granola, is often lower in fat; but contrary to their reputation, neither granola nor muesli is high in fiber.


Orange-Fig Muffins

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbs. sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
3 cups Common Sense™ Oat Bran cereal, any variety
1/2 tsp. grated orange peel
1-3/4 cups orange juice
3 Tbs. vegetable oil
4 egg whites
1/2 cup chopped, dried figs

Stir together flour, sugar and baking powder; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine Common Sense Oat Bran cereal, orange peel, orange juice, oil, egg whites, and figs; beat well. Add dry ingredients to cereal mixture, stirring only until combined. Portion batter evenly into 12 lightly greased 2-1/2-inch muffin-pan cups. Bake in 400 degrees F oven about 28 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot.

Yield: 12 muffins
Per Serving (1 muffin): Cal. 200 Dietary fiber 3 g Fat 4 g Sat. Fat less than 1 g Chol. 0 mg
From: Live Well The Low-Fat/High-Fiber Way. The American Health Foundation Food Plan. New York, NY: 1990.
Banana-Raisin French Toast

With a nutritious surprise filling, this low-fat French toast is sure to please children.

1 ripe banana, peeled
2 tsp. frozen orange-juice concentrate
4 slices cinnamon-raisin bread
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup skim milk
1/4 cup cup nonfat or low-fat yogurt
1-1/2 Tbs. maple syrup or honey
1 tsp. butter

In a small, shallow bowl, mash banana coarsely with a fork. Stir in orange-juice concentrate. Spread the banana mixture over 2 slices of bread and top with the remaining 2 slices of bread, forming 2 sandwiches. In a pie plate, whisk together egg whites and milk; add sandwiches and soak for about 20 seconds. Turn sandwiches over and soak for 20 seconds longer. Transfer the sandwiches to a plate. In a small bowl, stir together yogurt and maple syrup or honey. Set aside. In a nonstick skillet, melt 1/2 tsp. butter over low heat. Tilt the pan to swirl the butter around the skillet. With a metal spatula, place the sandwiches in the pan, and cook until the underside is browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Lift the sandwiches and add the remaining 1/2 tsp. butter. Turn over and cook for 5 to 7 minutes longer, or until browned. Serve with the sweetened yogurt.

Serves 2
Per serving: Cal. 302 Pro. 11 g Fat 4 g Sod. 317 mg Carb. 57 g Chol. 7 mg
Reprinted with permission from Eating Well, The Magazine of Food and Health.
Turkey & Apple Sausage Patties

To ensure a moist sausage, be sure to use breadcrumbs made by whirling fresh or day-old bread in a food processor.

2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled and grated
1 lb. ground turkey
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (4 slices bread)
2 large egg whites
2 tsp. rubbed dried sage
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray or line it with parchment paper.

In a nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add apples and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes longer, or until the apples are very tender. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool completely. Add turkey, breadcrumbs, egg whites, sage, salt, pepper, nutmeg and allspice; mix well. Divide the sausage mixture into 16 portions and form into 3/4-inch-thick patties. (The patties can be prepared ahead and stored, well wrapped, in the freezer for up to 3 months.) Place the patties on the prepared baking sheet and bake until the outside is golden brown and the interior is no longer pink, about 10 minutes for fresh patties or 20 minutes for frozen patties.

Makes 16 patties, serves 8
Per serving: Cal. 92 Pro. 12 g Fat 5 g Sod. 552 mg Carb. 16 g Chol. 36 mg
Reprinted with permission from Eating Well, The Magazine of Food and Health.
Eating Well’s Cinnamon Rolls


3-1/2 – 4 cups all-purpose white flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 pkg. active dry yeast (1 Tbs.)
1/2 cup nonfat cottage cheese
1 cup plus 1 Tbs. skim milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 large egg white


1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
1 Tbs. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans


1-1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1-2 Tbs. skim milk
1 tsp. corn syrup
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

To make dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups white flour, whole-wheat flour and yeast. Place cottage cheese in a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a bowl. Gather cheesecloth into a ball and squeeze out moisture from cottage cheese. (You should have about 1/4 cup cottage-cheese solids remaining.) Transfer the cottage-cheese solids to the sieve and press them through the sieve into a small saucepan. Stir in 1 cup milk, sugar, oil and salt; heat, stirring, until warm (120-130 degrees F). Stir into the flour mixture. Add eggs and egg white; beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon (or dough hook of mixer), stir in 2 cups white flour. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, adding enough of the remaining flour to make a soft, smooth dough. (It will be slightly sticky.) Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn once. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

To make filling and bake rolls: In a small saucepan, combine brown sugar, corn syrup and cinnamon; heat gently, stirring, until smooth. Set aside to cool. Punch dough down. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll or pat into a 12-by-18-inch rectangle. Spread the brown sugar mixture over the dough. Sprinkle with raisins and pecans. Starting at the long edge, roll up jelly-roll fashion. Pinch the edges of dough together along the length of the roll. With a sharp knife, slice the roll into 12 pieces. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, and place the cinnamon rolls, cut-side up and slightly apart, in the dish. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled, about 45 minutes. (Alternatively, refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours, then let stand in a warm place for 30 minutes.)

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Brush rolls with 1 Tbs. milk. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until light brown. Transfer to a rack and let cool slightly in the pan.

To make glaze: In a small bowl, stir together confectioners’ sugar, 1 Tbs. milk, corn syrup and vanilla. Add more milk, if necessary, to make a drizzling consistency. Drizzle the glaze over the rolls and serve them warm.

Makes 12 cinnamon rolls
Per serving: Cal. 367 Pro. 9 g Fat 9 g Sod. 127 mg Carb. 73 g Chol. 36 mg
Reprinted with permission from Eating Well, The Magazine of Food and Health.
Frozen Fruit Slush

This healthful treat makes a versatile snack for you and your children. For an unusual twist, try this for breakfast.

3 bananas, ripe
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup orange juice
4 cups pineapple juice

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Combine crushed ice and water to the desired consistency ending up with a total of 5 cups. Add the blended fruits and serve. Or freeze the blended fruit juices in a wide unbreakable bowl or pan. Scrape frozen fruit mixture out with an ice cream scoop or spoon and put into a glass. Pour clear diet pop over the top to achieve the desired consistency and serve. Or freeze into popsicles.

Serves 12
Per Serving: Cal. 82 Pro. trace Fat trace Sod. 1 mg Carb. 20 g
From: Recipes to Lower Your Fat Thermostat by LaRene Gaunt. Provo, UT: Copyright 1992, 1984 by Vitality House International, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Norwegian Pancakes

These delicate pancakes are delicious and almost fat-free. Contrary to the impression created by its name, buttermilk is a low-fat (1 or 1-1/2 percent butterfat) liquid. It is so named because it is the liquid left behind when the cream is skimmed from the milk to make butter.


1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt (optional)


1 egg
3 cups buttermilk
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract


1/2 cup fruit butter (e.g., apple, pear, peach)
2 cups plain nonfat or low-fat yogurt
3 cups berries, sliced if large

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients, mixing them well. In a medium-sized bowl, beat the egg lightly, and add the buttermilk and vanilla, mixing the ingredients well. When you are ready to cook the pancakes, lightly oil a nonstick griddle (for example, spray it with vegetable oil), and heat it over medium heat. Make a well in the dry ingredients, and pour in the wet ingredients, mixing the two just enough to moisten the dry ingredients. On the heated griddle, pour sufficient batter to make 4-inch pancakes—4 of them at a time on an 11-inch square griddle. Cook the pancakes until they begin to bubble on the surface, then flip them over, and lightly brown them on the other side. Repeat the procedure until all the batter is used up, re-oiling the griddle only to prevent the pancakes from sticking to it. Serve the pancakes with the desired toppings.

Reprinted from JANE BRODY’S GOOD FOOD GOURMET: Recipes and Menus for Delicious and Healthful Eating, with the permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Copyright © 1990 by Jane E. Brody.


Novel Low-Fat Snacks

Mexican Tabbouleh

Preparation tip: For the best consistency, prepare the bulgur, the cut-up vegetables, and the dressing separately in advance, and combine them about 1 hour before serving the tabbouleh.

Serving suggestion: Instead of (or in addition to) tortilla chips, you could serve this with scoops made out of firm fresh vegetables: wedges of red, green, and yellow peppers, chunks of celery, leaves of Belgian endive, or diagonally cut slices of a large carrot. For maximum flavor, bring the tabbouleh to room temperature before serving it.


1 cup bulgur, medium- or fine-grind
1 6-oz. can spicy hot V8 juice or Snappy Tom or tomato juice spiked with Worcestershire sauce and hot pepper sauce
10 oz. beef broth (1-1/8 cups)
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced (1 cup)
2 to 3 firm plum tomatoes or 1 large firm tomato, chopped
1/2 cup diced sweet green pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup sliced scallions (including the green tops)
1 to 2 Tbs. chopped cilantro
1 minced jalapeño (1 Tbs.), or to taste

1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. thyme, crumbled
1 tsp. minced garlic (1 large clove)
Cayenne or freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the bulgur in a medium-sized heat-proof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the juice and the broth just to boiling, and pour the liquid over the bulgur, stirring the mixture once. Let the bulgur stand for about 1 hour. Then drain off any remaining liquid, pressing lightly on the bulgur to extract any excess moisture. Let the bulgur cool, then chill it until 1 hour before serving time. In another bowl, combine the remaining salad ingredients. Cover the bowl, and refrigerate it until 1 hour before serving time. In a small jar or bowl, combine the dressing ingredients. One hour before serving the salad, add the vegetable mixture to the bulgur, pour on the dressing, and toss the ingredients to combine them well. Let the tabbouleh come to room temperature.

6 to 8 salad servings or 10 to 12 hors d’oeuvre servings
Reprinted from JANE BRODY’S GOOD FOOD GOURMET: Recipes and Menus for Delicious and Healthful Eating, with the permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Copyright © 1990 by Jane E. Brody.
Spinach Dip

This very low-fat dip has a mild Roquefort flavor that really enhances fresh vegetables that have been steamed tender-crisp and then chilled.

Serving suggestion: Serve this dip with carrots, green beans, cauliflower, or broccoli that have been steamed tender-crisp.

1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove excess liquid
1/2 cup plain nonfat or low-fat yogurt
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

In a small skillet over low heat, sauté the garlic in the oil for 1 minute or until the garlic is tender (be careful not to burn the garlic). Combine the garlic and oil with the remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor, processing the ingredients until they are smooth. Cover the dip, and chill it until serving time.

Reprinted from JANE BRODY’S GOOD FOOD GOURMET: Recipes and Menus for Delicious and Healthful Eating, with the permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Copyright © 1990 by Jane E. Brody.

BL’s Beans

From the kitchen of Bonnie Liebman, the nutrition director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Spoon it over toasted tortillas and it’s a main dish. Scoop it up with fat-free tortilla chips or green pepper slices and it’s a dip.

4 medium onions, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed olive oil
2 Tbs. olive oil
3 16-oz. cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 16-oz. can tomatoes, no salt added, chopped
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce, no salt added
1/2 tsp. cayenne, or more, to taste
1 Tbs. each oregano and basil (optional)
1 tsp. cumin, or more, to taste
Juice from 1/2 lemon

Saute the chopped onions, green peppers, and garlic in the oil in a large skillet. Mash about half of the beans in a bowl. Add the mashed beans plus the whole beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, spices, and lemon juice to the skillet. Cook about 20 minutes, uncovered, until the excess liquid cooks out.

Serves 8
Per serving: Cal. 243 Pro. 10 g Fat 5 g Sod. 297 mg Carb. 42 g
Copyright 1994, CSPI. Reprinted from Nutrition Action Healthletter (1875 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20009. $24.00 for 10 issues.)


New Approaches to Lunch

Smoked Turkey & Celery Root on Pumpernickel

Seasoned with a mustard dressing, peppery celery root is a good match for the smoked turkey.

4 tsp. nonfat yogurt
4 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. reduced-calorie mayonnaise
1-1/3 cups grated peeled celery root
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 lb. smoked turkey breast, sliced
4 large lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried
8 slices pumpernickel bread

In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, mustard and mayonnaise. Stir in celery root and season with pepper.

To assemble sandwiches, layer smoked turkey, celery root mixture, and lettuce between slices of pumpernickel.

Serves 4
Per serving: Cal. 285 Pro. 17 g Fat 39 g Sod. 454 mg Carb. 35 g Chol.1 mg
Reprinted with permission from Eating Well, The Magazine of Food and Health.
Crab Salad in Pita Pockets

A fresh, lively dressing of ginger, jalapeño and lime juice replaces mayonnaise in this luxurious sandwich filling.

1 Tbs. red-wine vinegar
4 tsp. olive or vegetable oil
2 tsp. fresh lime juice
3/4 lb. lump crabmeat, excess liquid squeezed out
3/4 cup finely chopped celery heart with leaves
1/4 cup minced red onion
2 tsp. minced jalapeño pepper or to taste
1 tsp. minced peeled ginger root
2 8-inch pita breads, cut in half crosswise
4 large lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, and lime juice. Add crabmeat, celery, red onion, jalapeño and ginger; toss well. Season with salt and pepper. To assemble sandwiches, line pita halves with lettuce and fill with crab salad.

Serves 4
Per serving: Cal. 189 Pro. 18 g Fat 7 g Sod. 554 g Carb. 14 g Chol. 85 mg
Reprinted with permission from Eating Well, The Magazine of Food and Health.
Black Bean Soup

2 cans (15 oz. each) black beans, undrained
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper

Place 1 can beans and 1 cup of the chicken broth in an electric blender container. Process until smooth except for small pieces of skin. In 2-quart saucepan, combine processed beans, remaining broth, the 1 cup onions, carrots, celery and bay leaves. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until bean mixture starts to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add remaining can of beans and bring mixture to boil. Remove bay leaves and serve garnished with green onions and red bell pepper.

Yield: 5 cups
Per serving: (1-1/4 cups) Cal. 264 Dietary fiber 13 g Fat 2 g Sat. fat 0.2 g Chol. 0.5 mg
From: Live Well The Low-Fat/High-Fiber Way. The American Health Foundation Food Plan. New York, NY: 1990.


Sumptuous Main Dishes

Basmati Rice and Beef Salad

This salad can be adapted to taste and ingredient availability.

Preparation tips: The “hotness” of the dish can be adjusted to taste by using more or less hot curry powder (or none at all). The salad can be served warm or at room temperature.

5 quarts boiling water
1 Tbs. salt (optional)
2 cups basmati long-grain brown rice or an alternative
1 lb. lean boneless beefsteak, 1/2-inch thick, well trimmed,
and sliced into 1/4-inch strips
Salt to taste (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-1/2 Tbs. vegetable oil (preferably canola), divided
1 Tbs. cornstarch
1 tsp. sugar
1-1/2 cups water
3 Tbs. reduced-sodium soy sauce
4 tsp. white-wine vinegar
1 lb. carrots, scraped and thinly sliced on the diagonal
1-1/2 cups chopped onion
1 Tbs. minced gingerroot
2 tsp. minced garlic (2 large cloves)
1-1/2 tsp. hot curry powder
1-1/2 to 2 cups frozen peas
1 bunch scallions (including the green tops), thinly sliced

In a large kettle, combine the 5 quarts of boiling water with the 1 tablespoon of salt (if you are using it) and the rice. Stir the ingredients, bring the water back to a boil, stir the ingredients again, and boil the rice for 15 minutes (10 minutes if you are using white rice). Drain the rice in a large strainer, rinse the rice, and drain it again. Bring about 2 inches of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Place the strainer of rice over the boiling water, cover the rice with a dishtowel (be sure to fold the towel in so that it will not burn), and tightly cover the pan with a lid. Steam the rice for 20 minutes, or until it is dry and fluffy. Transfer the rice to a large bowl. While the rice cooks, sprinkle the beef with the salt (if desired) and pepper. Heat 1/2 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet, and brown the beef quickly. Transfer the beef and any juices to a medium-sized bowl, and set the bowl aside. Prepare the sauce in a small bowl by mixing the cornstarch with the sugar, the 1-1/2 cups of water, soy sauce, vinegar, and any juices from the cooled beef. Stir the ingredients to combine them thoroughly. Set the sauce aside. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the skillet, add the carrots and onion, and cook the vegetables, tossing them often, until they are tender-crisp. Stir in the gingerroot, garlic, and curry powder, and stir-fry the ingredients for 30 seconds. Add the peas. Stir the sauce mixture once again, and add it to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and cook the ingredients, tossing them occasionally, over medium heat for 2 minutes or until the sauce is slightly thickened. Stir in the reserved beef. Add the vegetable-and-beef mixture to the reserved rice. Add the scallions. Toss the mixture to combine the ingredients well, and serve the salad warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6
Reprinted from JANE BRODY’S GOOD FOOD GOURMET: Recipes and Menus for Delicious and Healthful Eating, with the permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Copyright © 1990 by Jane E. Brody.
Pineapple Ham Stir-Fry

Sweet and succulent! Your family will love this dish.

1 16-oz. can pineapple chunks, juice packed
1/2 cup orange juice
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. chicken bouillon granules
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 tsp. black pepper
4 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup chicken stock
6 oz. lean ham, diced
1 med. green pepper, cut into 1 inch squares
3 cups brown rice, cooked

Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Combine orange juice, soy sauce, bouillon granules, garlic, black pepper and reserved pineapple juice. Set aside. Whisk cornstarch into 1/4 cup cold water. Set aside. Heat wok or heavy non-stick skillet until very hot. Add chicken stock, ham, and green pepper. Cook until ham is just browned, about 4 minutes. Remove from wok. Combine orange juice mixture and pineapple chunks in wok. Cover and cook 2 minutes. Remove pineapple with slotted spoon. Return ham to juice in wok. Add cornstarch mixture. Cook and stir until thickened. Adjust thickness with chicken stock or water. Return pineapple to wok. Serve over brown rice.

Serves 6
Per serving: Cal. 204 Pro. 8 g Fat 4 g Sod. 323 mg Carb. 33 g
From: Recipes to Lower Your Fat Thermostat by LaRene Gaunt. Provo, UT: Copyright 1992, 1984 by Vitality House International, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Spicy Hawaiian Stir-Fry

Pineapple and chile peppers create a fragrant and exotic blend of flavors.


1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 Tbs. low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
2 Tbs. rice vinegar
2 tsp. arrowroot or cornstarch
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb. firm tofu, drained and cubed (about 2 cups)
1 (10 oz.) can unsweetened pineapple chunks
1 large green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 Tbs. canola oil
4 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup snow peas, trimmed and halved on the diagonal
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil

Combine marinade ingredients in a deep dish. Marinate tofu for 10 minutes. Drain, reserving marinade. Set aside. Drain pineapple, adding juice to reserved marinade. Saute pepper in 2 teaspoons canola oil for 5 minutes. Add scallions, snow peas, and pineapple and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside. Add sesame oil and remaining one teaspoon canola oil to skillet and stir-fry tofu until browned, about 8 minutes. Add pineapple mixture and reserved marinade to tofu. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly, about 8 minutes. Serve immediately over brown rice or crisp chow mein noodles.

Serves 4
Per serving: Cal. 228 Pro. 20 g Fat 15 g Sod. 320 mg Carb. 23 g Chol. 0 mg Calcium 251 mg
From: Vegetarian Gourmet. 1994; Vol. 3.
Seafood Pasta Supreme

1 pound lobster spacarelli or plain macaroni
(as long as they are not too dense).
Large pot boiling water
2 tsp. salt (optional)
1 Tbs. oil


1 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 lb. shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 lb. sea scallops, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1 Tbs. minced garlic (3 large cloves)
1/2 cup sliced scallions
2 cups peas, cooked if raw, thawed if frozen
2 cups fresh tomatoes, peeled (if desired) and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid
1 Tbs. minced fresh basil or 1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. oregano, crumbled
Salt to taste (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
Grated Parmesan or Romano for garnish (optional)

To make the pasta, place the pasta in the boiling water with the salt (if desired) and oil. Return the water quickly to a boil, and cook the pasta for 15 minutes or until it is al dente. Drain the pasta, and transfer it to a heated serving bowl or large platter. While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the shrimp, and saute them for 1 minute. Add the scallops, garlic, and scallions, and cook them for 2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients except for the cheese, and heat the sauce, stirring it gently. Pour the sauce over the pasta, toss the ingredients together, and serve the pasta immediately with the grated cheese (if desired).

Serves 6
Reprinted from JANE BRODY’S GOOD FOOD GOURMET: Recipes and Menus for Delicious and Healthful Eating, with the permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Copyright © 1990 by Jane E. Brody.
Chicken Spinach Manicotti


1/4 pound fresh mushrooms
2 cups cooked chicken meat
1/2 cup well drained, cooked spinach
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 egg (or 2 egg whites or egg substitute equivalent to 1 egg)
Freshly ground black pepper

Sauté the mushrooms in a little oil. Chop together with the chicken and spinach until fine. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, the egg, and pepper.

12 manicotti tubes, cooked according to package instructions

Fill manicotti tubes and place in an oiled 11 by 7-inch shallow baking dish.


2 Tbs. melted margarine
1-1/2 Tbs. flour
1 13-oz. can evaporated skim milk
Freshly ground black pepper and nutmeg
2 Tbs. Parmesan cheese, grated

Blend margarine and flour. Cook 1 minute over moderate heat. Gradually add the evaporated skim milk, stirring constantly with a whisk. Heat till sauce bubbles, then season with pepper and nutmeg. Remove from the heat and add the grated Parmesan cheese. Pour sauce over manicotti. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese and bake at 375 degrees F. for 10 minutes or until cheese browns.

• Yield: 6 servings
• Approx. cal./serv.: 460
From The American Heart Association Cookbook, Fourth Edition by Ruth Eshleman and Mary Winston. Copyright © 1984 by The American Heart Association. Reprinted by permission of David McKay Co., a division of Random House, Inc.
Charcoal Grilled Shiitakes with Rosemary and Garlic

Mushrooms take on a woodsy flavor when grilled over charcoal.

8 oz. shiitake mushrooms (about 3 cups)
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
1 Tbs. crushed fresh garlic
1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary or 1/2 tsp. dried
1 tsp. pure maple syrup (optional)
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil (optional)
Salt and black pepper to taste

Rinse mushrooms. Remove and discard stems. Toss mushrooms with remaining ingredients in a large bowl and marinate for at least 5 minutes. Grill mushroom caps over coals until slightly charred, about 3 minutes per side. Serve hot.

Hints: Use any large, firm exotic mushroom, such as portabello, in place of shiitakes. Broil mushrooms 4 inches from heat in your broiler.

Serves 4
Per serving: Cal. 218 Pro. 6 g Fat 5 g Sod. 158 mg Carb. 45 g Chol. 0 mg
From: Vegetarian Gourmet Magazine. Vol. 3, Issue 3, 1994 (No. 11).


Side Dishes With Snap

Quinoa (The Basic Recipe)

Before cooking, always rinse the grain well to remove a slightly bitter coating.

1-3/4 cups water
1 cup quinoa

Rinse quinoa thoroughly, either by using a strainer or by running fresh water over the quinoa in a pot. Drain excess water. Place quinoa and water in a 1-1/2 quart sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until all of the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes). You will know that the quinoa is done when all the grains have turned from white to transparent, and the spiral-like germ has separated. Makes 3 cups.

Nutty Broccoli


2 cups yogurt
1 egg
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Dash of cayenne (optional)


1 large onion, sliced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced thinly
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup minced parsley
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 Tbs. fresh dill
1 Tbs. tamari
1/2 lb. fresh broccoli
2 cups cooked quinoa (see recipe above.)

Saute onion, pepper, mushrooms, and garlic until peppers are soft and mushroom liquid is gone. Stir in rest of nut layer ingredients. Steam broccoli till just tender. In an 8-inch sq. buttered pan arrange quinoa, nut layer mix, broccoli, and sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and dash of cayenne. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes.

Reprinted with permission from White Mountain Farm, Inc., Mosca, CO.

Twice Baked Potatoes, Cottage Style

4 medium potatoes, baked
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1 Tbs. onion, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
Dried parsley flakes

Cut hot potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop out potatoes, leaving skins intact for restuffing. With wire whisk beat potatoes with cottage cheese, milk, and onion. Spoon mixture back into skins. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley flakes. Bake 10 minutes or until just golden.

Yield: 8 servings
Approx. cal./serv.: 90
From The American Heart Association Cookbook, Fourth Edition by Ruth Eshleman and Mary Winston. Copyright © 1984 by The American Heart Association. Reprinted by permission of David McKay Co., a division of Random House, Inc.
Brussels Sprouts and Pecans

2 10-ounce packages frozen brussels sprouts, thawed
3 Tbs. margarine
4 Tbs. flour
3/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1-3/4 cups boiling chicken broth
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 cup packaged stuffing mix

Cook the brussels sprouts, uncovered to preserve the color, in a small amount of boiling salt water until tender. Prepare the sauce. Melt 3 tablespoons of margarine over low heat and blend in the flour. Cook 1 minute, stirring. Add dry milk, then boiling chicken broth all at once, beating with a wire whisk to blend. Cook and stir until sauce comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg and pecans. Place cooked sprouts in an oiled 1-1/2-quart casserole. Pour in the cream sauce, and top with the stuffing mix. Bake at 400 degrees F. in oven till topping is lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Yield: 8 servings
Approx. cal./serv.: 160
From The American Heart Association Cookbook, Fourth Edition by Ruth Eshleman and Mary Winston. Copyright © 1984 by The American Heart Association. Reprinted by permission of David McKay Co., a division of Random House, Inc.
Arugula and Fennel Salad

Arugula is also known as roquette and rugola. But by any name, it is a now-popular nippy green that, if not carried locally, could be grown in a window box from early spring until the first frost. It’s worth the effort. And once you try this salad, you’ll know why.


2 Tbs. red-wine vinegar
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper


2 bunches arugula, tough stems removed and leaves torn in half
1 bulb fennel, cored and cut crosswise into 1/8-inch slices
1/3 cup lightly toasted pine nuts

In a salad bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Add the arugula, fennel, and pine nuts. Toss the salad lightly, and serve it immediately.

Serves 4
Reprinted from JANE BRODY’S GOOD FOOD GOURMET: Recipes and Menus for Delicious and Healthful Eating, with the permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Copyright © 1990 by Jane E. Brody.
Lentil Salad with Sorrel

The small green French lentils are delicious in salads and retain their shape better than most. The common brown lentils will work; be sure they are cooked until just tender. With a loaf of crusty bread and a simple, fruity red wine, this is a good main course salad for lunch, supper, or a picnic.

1-1/2 cups lentils
about 1/3 cup olive oil
1 small onion, diced fine
2 or 3 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 or 3 cooked new potatoes, diced
Juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste
1 cup shredded sorrel leaves
3 ounces (85 g) fresh mild goat cheese or feta cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Rinse and pick over the lentils. Put them in a pan with water to cover by 1/2 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until they are just tender, from 20 to 30 minutes. When the lentils are done, spread them on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil. Let them cool slightly, then stir in the onion, tomatoes, garlic, and potatoes. Season with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. When the lentils are at room temperature, stir in the sorrel leaves and crumble in the goat cheese.

The flavor improves if the salad is refrigerated for 3 to 4 hours, then brought to cool room temperature before serving.

Serves 6 to 8
From: Herbs in the Kitchen by Carolyn Dille and Susan Belsinger. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, Inc.; 1992.


Frozen Desserts 101

Don’t be fooled by a label that says “non-fat” or “low-fat” on a frozen dessert container, because the claim may refer only to the dairy ingredients and not to any added nuts, oils, or butter. And never assume that frozen yogurt automatically means healthier eating. While the fat content of some frozen yogurt products can be zero, others may have as much as regular ice cream! Here are a few more facts about frozen desserts:
Ice milk often has half the fat of regular ice cream—but read the label. While most companies base their figures on a half-cup serving, most people eat a full cup.
A dairy dessert can be fat-free and still have loads of sugar.
Frozen yogurt may claim to have active cultures, but none of the available brands have as much as regular yogurt.
To appear healthier than ice cream, frozen yogurt products usually measure a serving as three ounces, while most ice cream and ice milk companies use a four-ounce measure.
Copyright 1994, CSPI. Adapted from Nutrition Action Healthletter (1875 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20009. $24.00 for 10 issues.)



1/4 cup oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 onions, thinly sliced
3 green peppers, cut in strips
1 eggplant, diced
4 zucchini squash, cubed
4 or 5 fresh tomatoes, peeled; or 1 large can, drained
1-2 Tbs. fennel seed
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. dill
1/4 cup lemon juice

Heat oil until a haze forms. Sauté onions and garlic until golden brown, then add green pepper strips, eggplant and squash; continue cooking for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Put in the tomatoes, pepper, oregano, fennel, and dill. Cover and cook at a low temperature for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and continue cooking for 15 minutes to allow excess liquid to evaporate. Sprinkle on lemon juice.

Serve hot or cold.

Yield: 2 quarts
Approx. cal./serv.: 1/2 cup = 150
From: The American Heart Association Cookbook, Fourth Edition by Ruth Eshleman and Mary Winston. Copyright © 1984 by The American Heart Association. Reprinted by permission of David McKay Co., a division of Random House, Inc.
Sweet Potato Special

Preparation tips: This can be prepared two days ahead for baking. Cover the dish and refrigerate it, but bring it to room temperature before baking it. Although canned pineapple can be used, the flavor is not as good as when fresh fruit is used.

5 lbs. sweet potatoes
Water to cover
1 12-ounce package pitted prunes
1 cup water
2 cups (1/2 large) fresh pineapple, slivered
1/4 cup dark brown sugar (optional)
1 Tbs. butter or margarine (optional)

Cook the potatoes, whole and unpeeled, in water to cover until they are very soft. Drain the potatoes, pierce them one at a time with a fork, peel them, place them in a large bowl, and mash them. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small saucepan, cook the prunes in the 1 cup of water for 5 minutes. Add the prunes, their cooking liquid, and the pineapple to the potatoes, mixing the ingredients to combine them well. Place the potato mixture in a large ovenproof casserole. Sprinkle the potatoes with brown sugar (if desired), and dot the top with the butter or margarine (if you wish). Place the uncovered casserole in the hot oven, and bake the potatoes for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are heated through.

Serves 10
Reprinted from JANE BRODY’S GOOD FOOD GOURMET: Recipes and Menus for Delicious and Healthful Eating, with the permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Copyright © 1990 by Jane E. Brody.


Unbelievably Healthy Desserts

Strawberry Cheesecake

A fabulous low-fat variation of this all-time favorite dessert.

2 cups fresh strawberries
2 bananas
2 cups low-fat yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 egg whites
1 env. unflavored gelatin
2 Tbs. boiling water
1 unbaked Grape-Nuts Pie Crust (Below)

Combine 1 cup strawberries, bananas, yogurt, vanilla, egg whites, gelatin and boiling water in blender on high speed for 2 minutes. Pour into Grape-Nuts Pie Crust. Bake at 350°F for 1 hour. Refrigerate for 3 hours. Top with remaining 1 cup fresh strawberries before serving.

Serves 6
Grape-Nuts Pie Crust

Isn’t this a great idea? Only a trace of fat and a terrific taste.

1 6-oz. can apple juice concentrate
1-1/2 cups Grape-Nuts cereal

Mix juice with Grape-Nuts and let stand for a few minutes until moisture is absorbed. Press into a 9-inch non-stick pie pan. Bake at 350°F for 12 minutes. Cool. Fill with fruit and yogurt pudding. Serve.

Serves 6
Per serving: Cal. 164 Pro. 4 g Fat trace Sod. 148 mg Carb. 36 g
From: Recipes to Lower Your Fat Thermostat by LaRene Gaunt. Provo, UT: Copyright 1992, 1984 by Vitality House International, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Quinoa Pudding

3 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup raisins & almonds (optional)
grated rind of lemon and orange
pinch of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves

Heat quinoa in milk until it is soft and milk is absorbed. Add other ingredients, stirring after each addition. This is a variation of the old rice pudding; substitute ingredients from your favorite recipe.

Reprinted with permission from White Mountain Farm, Inc., Mosca, Co.

Simple Soft Ice Cream

1 cup nonfat dry milk
3 cups water
2 Tbs. sugar
Vanilla extract to taste

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. For a variety of flavors, replace vanilla extract with banana, cherry, or maple extract. Freeze in shallow pan. Just before serving, thaw slightly and break into small chunks. Whip until soft. Spoon into 4 dishes, top with fresh fruit and enjoy.

From: Recipes to Lower Your Fat Thermostat by LaRene Gaunt. Provo, UT: Copyright 1992, 1984 by Vitality House International, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.


For More Recipe Ideas

Each of the books from which these recipes were drawn contains a wealth of other inventive, healthy dishes. Check your local bookstore or order directly from the publishers at the addresses listed below.
Herbs in the Kitchen
by Carolyn Dille and Susan Belsinger, 1992
Interweave Press Inc.
201 East Fourth Street
Loveland, CO 80537
Phone orders: 800-645-3675
Fax orders: 970-667-8317
Other inquiries: 970-669-7672
Web site:
Nutrition Action Healthletter
$24.00 (10 issues)
Center for Science in the Public Interest
1875 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 300
Washington, D.C. 20009
Phone: 202-332-9110
Fax: 202-265-4954
Web site:
Jane Brody’s Good Food Gourmet
by Jane Brody, 1990
W. W. Norton & Company
c/o National Book Company
800 Keystone Industrial Park
Scranton, PA 18512
Web site:
Phone: 800-223-4830
Fax: 800-458-6515
Recipes to Lower Your Fat Thermostat
by LaRene Gaunt, 1992
Vitality House International, Inc.
1675 North Freedom Boulevard, #11C
Provo, UT 84604
Phone: 800-748-5100
Fax: 801-373-5370


Prediet Plan Editorial

Prediet Plan Editorial

Patrick Kihara is a weight loss enthusiast and fitness blogger. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism and several health and fitness certifications.

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