Thursday, 1 March 2012

Weight Loss Group: Making Your Recipes Healthier

My weight: last week 90.6kg; this week 90.4kg.

Weight loss group this week is looking at modifying recipes so they are healthier.

So let's just use a simple example.  Here's a basic recipe for a fast-food meal you could cook at home. (Note, even if you just stick with the recipe as written, you'll probably have a healthier meal than if you ate it at a take-away restaurant.)

Basic Recipe: Hamburger and Chips
(Serves 4)

4 x hamburger buns
4 lettuce leaves
1 sliced tomato
Tomato sauce

4 large potatoes

Oil (for frying)

500g minced beef
1 diced onion
1 egg
1 cup bread crumbs

To make rissoles: knead all ingredients together, shape into four large (or eight small) patties. Refrigerate at least an hour. Shallow-fry in hot oil.

For chips: peel potatoes. Cut into chips. Wash, and dry thoroughly. Deep fry in hot oil. Drain on paper towel.

Split and toast buns. Butter them. Fill with lettuce, tomato, rissole and sauce. Serve with hot chips on the side.

Yum! Huh?  Actually, I'm feeling quite nauseas looking at this - yet it's how I used to eat.

Healthier Variations

  • Start with low-fat mince, the leaner the better. (Reduces kilojoules, and saturated fat.)
  • Substitute half of the mince for cooked lentils. (Still good protein, reduces saturated fat, adds fibre, and adds flavour, lowers the GI of the meal.) 
  • Or You could substitute all of the meat for half and half lentils and mashed chick peas and add herbs for extra flavour - my personal preference. (No fat. Low GI carb and still good quality protein.) 
  • Use wholegrain breadcrumbs. (lower GI) Gluten-free variation: half rice crumbs half psyllium fibre.
  • Grill the rissoles or cook them in a pan sprayed with oil - there is no need to have them swimming in oil.
  • Use whole grain bread roll or sour dough roll. (Lower GI) Gluten-free variation: skip the bread roll all together - you've got plenty of carbs in this meal anyway.
  • Don't butter your bread. (Why add unnecessary fat?)
  • Add more salad. Try some cucumber, grated carrot, beetroot. 
  • For the chips. Substitute half the potato for sweet potato.  Peel and cut as usual. Half-cook in microwave. Place in a single layer on oven trays, spray lightly with oil, and sprinkle with your favourite herbs.  Cook in a hot oven until lightly browned. (Lower GI, dramatically less fat.  Want to increase the fibre? Leave skins on your potatoes.)

The reason most people have fast-food meals is that it is fast. (Even if the definition of "food" is a little fungible in this context.)  Cooking your fast-food meal at home isn't necessarily slower than going to the restaurant, ordering, picking up your meal and coming home. Cooking the healthier variation is no more difficult or time-consuming than cooking the original version.

Basic Rules for Varying Recipes

  • Reduce fat.  In many recipes, oil/butter/margarine can be reduced even by half without changing the taste or texture of the final dish. Substituting leaner meats cuts the amount of saturated fat in a dish. Dairy products can be substituted for lower-fat varieties. Don’t deep-fry or shallow-fry anything in oil – grill, cook in a non-stick pan with just a spray of oil,
  • Lower GI. Changing from white bread to multigrain bread, from another rice to basmati rice, etc can lower the overall GI of the meal without changing the overall experience of eating the meal.
  • Increase Fibre. Add extra vegetables where possible. Add whole grains, and legumes.  Add fresh fruit. Lots of plants as close as possible to the way they naturally grew. 
  • Add herbs for flavour. Don’t add oils, salt, etc.

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