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Giving recipes a 'makeover' is easy

Healthy eating

POSTED: August 25, 2013 10:00 p.m.

Last time, I talked about the wealth of recipes available online and how they don’t always have your health in mind. Sometimes it seems that the easier a recipe is to prepare, the more unhealthy it is.
Many of the recipes that I have come across — especially those that are labeled “quick and easy” — are made completely with ingredients that are heavily processed.
If you are not checking labels carefully, that easy recipe could pack some serious calories, fat, sodium and preservatives. There is a way to have it both ways — eat healthier while preparing meals that are quick and easy. The first step is to read labels carefully and make healthier selections in the store.
When purchasing canned goods or jarred sauces, always opt for the “no salt added” varieties. Compare labels and see for yourself. When you see the difference in sodium between regular varieties and no-salt added products, you’ll never go back to regular again. Also look for all-natural or low- or no-preservative varieties. Dairy products, such as cheese, contain high amounts of fat and sodium. Select skim, part-skim or fat-free instead of whole-milk cheese.
I previously wrote about substituting ground turkey for beef in a meatball recipe. It is a much healthier option and cuts out a lot of fat and calories. Try ground turkey in other meat dishes, such as meatloaf or tacos. But be sure to select lean ground turkey, and drain it well after browning it.
I am going to break down a popular recipe, pizza casserole,  which I have seen several times recently on Facebook and Pinterest. It definitely is an easy recipe that families are sure to enjoy. Accounting for the fact that this recipe could be made with a variety of tomato sauce, cheese and pepperoni, I estimate the casserole packs more than 3,709 calories, 1024.4 grams of fat and 5271.3 milligrams of sodium!
My recipe starts off with pasta made of vegetables instead of egg noodles, which have more fat and cholesterol. I then halved the amount of sauce in this recipe and selected an all-natural brand, which cuts out lots of sodium and preservatives. Don’t worry about this recipe being too dry — the stock you’ll pour over the top helps to maintain moisture. The added tomatoes boost the flavor of the dish while contributing a dose of lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant known to help fight diseases like cancer.
As for the cheese, I cut it down to one-third of the original amount called for and chose a fat-free variety, thus reducing fat and calories. Using fat-free sour cream keeps the dish’s creamy consistency without having to rely on extra cheese.
Reading labels and watching what you put in your grocery cart will help you steer clear of unnecessary fat, calories, sodium and preservatives. And always opt for fresh ingredients as opposed to canned or boxed products.

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