Is Your Favorite Recipe Healthy (or Not)?


By Beth Bluestone, RD, LD

If you want to enjoy a healthier lifestyle, cooking at home is a great place to start. But how can you be sure the recipes you find online — or that your own go-to recipes — are healthy? Follow these tips:

1. Look for veggies

Search for vegetarian recipes that are loaded with all different types and colors of vegetables. (You can always add a side of grilled chicken or fish if you want meat with the meal.)

2. Use whole grains

Think beyond white rice. Try brown rice, quinoa, farro, spelt berries, and whole wheat or whole grain pasta or flour. Explore the ancient grains! They have a wonderful flavor.

3. Substitute pasta

In place of high-starch pasta dishes, look for recipes that feature alternatives like spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles. Or try bean-based pastas — they’re loaded with fiber and protein.

4. Bake, don’t fry

Avoid recipes that call for breading and frying. Baking is preferable.

5. Slash the sugar

You can typically cut sugar by one-third to one-half of what is called for in a muffin or breakfast bread (zucchini or banana bread) recipe.

6. Reduce the oil

Start with less oil than the recipe calls for, or sauté using low-sodium broth or water instead.

7. Cut the salt

Look for recipes that use lots of herbs and spices. This will bring in wonderful flavor without adding sodium.

8. Limit the cheese

Don’t ruin your wonderful vegetable bake by loading it up with cheese. Cut the amount in half and you’ll still enjoy a cheesy flavor. (Better yet: Find a recipe that doesn’t call for cheese).

9. Choose dark greens

Choose salad recipes calling for dark, leafy greens (spinach, mixed greens, arugula, kale) instead of iceberg lettuce. Include a variety of vegetables. Avoid heavy cream dressings like ranch; use a vinaigrette, or olive oil with a squeeze of lemon. Replace croutons with walnuts or pumpkin seeds for crunch.

10. Try meatless

Explore bean or lentil recipes in place of meat. You’ll be surprised to discover how satisfying a spicy black bean burger can be.

Follow these guidelines when planning your meals, and you’ll not only discover new flavors and textures — you’ll start feeling (and looking) better, too.