As I was taking my walk with my dog Francie this morning, it occurred to me that there are essentially three ways to make recipes more friendly for Weight Watchers. As soon as I got home, I decided to jot my thoughts down here in a post before they evaporated from my short-term memory and were lost forever…
You can cut calories without eating less nutritious food. The key is to eat foods that will fill you up without eating a large amount of calories.
Research shows that people get full by the amount of food they eat, not the number of calories they take in. You can cut calories in your favorite foods by lowering the amount of fat and or increasing the amount of fiber-rich ingredients, such as vegetables or fruit.
1. Lighten Recipes by Substituting Less Fattening Ingredients
There are dozens of ingredient substitutions you can make to create recipes that are lighter and healthier by lowering the amount of fat:
- Lean chicken instead of beef
- Lean ground turkey for ground beef
- Reduced fat and nonfat dairy products instead of full fat
- Low fat plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream
- Buttermilk instead of cream in baking
- Reduced fat and nonfat mayonnaise instead of regular
- Sugar substitutes and artificial sweeteners instead of sugar (not for me personally)
- Applesauce and fruit purees instead of butter, shortening and oil in baking
- Mustard instead of mayonnaise
- Egg whites instead of whole eggs
- Lemon juice in place or salad dressing or oils in dressings + marinades
- Salsa instead of salad dressing or other more fattening sauces
- Spaghetti squash or zucchini ribbons instead of pasta
- Light bread or sandwich thins instead of regular bread
2. Bulk Up Recipes with More Fiber and Low Calorie Fruits and Vegetables to Make Them More Filling
Studies show that we eat a certain volume of food a day, rather than a set number of calories. To fill up our bellies on fewer calories, bulking up recipes with low calorie ingredients is a very effective strategy for making your recipes Weight Watchers Friendly. Here are some things you can do:
- Add fresh fruit to cereals, smoothies, and pancakes
- Add lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and peppers to sandwiches
- Add extra beans and/or vegetables to soups, stews, chilis, stir-fries, pastas and casseroles
- Top pizzas with lots of vegetables and small amounts of lean protein
- Toss beans and/or fruits into salads
- Bulk up with high fiber whole grains instead of refined ones
- Always be thinking about how you can add fruits and vegetables to your recipes
- Top potatoes with vegetables instead of butter and sour cream
Example: Lightening up Macaroni & Cheese. Let’s take macaroni and cheese as an example. The original recipe uses whole milk, butter, and full-fat cheese. This recipe has about 540 calories in one serving (1 cup).
Here’s how to remake this recipe with fewer calories and less fat:
- Use 2 cups non-fat milk instead of 2 cups whole milk.
- Use 8 ounces light cream cheese instead of 2-1?4 cups full-fat cheddar cheese.
- Use 1 tablespoon butter instead of 2 or use 2 tablespoons of soft trans-fat free margarine.
- Add about 2 cups of fresh spinach and 1 cup diced tomatoes (or any other veggie you like).
Your redesigned mac and cheese now has 315 calories in one serving (1 cup). You can eat the same amount of mac and cheese with 225 fewer calories.
3. Decrease Portion Sizes
Eating less is a strategy that sometimes gets overlooked in our more-is-better world. I think French women and other Europeans are naturally better at portion control than we are here in the U.S.
With this strategy you keep your recipe the same, but you eat less. Think tiny portion or piece. Little sliver or slice. Small spoonful. My nana, who lived to be 93, was a master at this.
I think this works especially well with sweets and desserts. Taste buds are where all the joy from eating comes from. And it’s all over once you swallow, so it pays to focus on really savoring the sweet, rich, flavorful stuff. Most sugar-free, fat-free desserts pale in comparison to real thing when it comes to taste and delicious satisfaction (at least for me). Check out these adorable little 4-Ingredient cookies to see what I mean.
Making These Strategies Work for You
I use a combination of all three strategies. I love to bulk up my pasta dishes with lean protein and vegetables. And there are some low fat dairy products, such as Greek yogurt that I actually prefer to their full fat counterparts.
When it comes to things like dips and appetizers, I like to keep them skinny so I don’t blow my whole calorie/points budget before dinner. My preference for skinny dips and spreads is a great example.
But when it comes to dessert, I usually find the real thing more deliciously satisfying than the lightened up stuff. Give me 3 bites of deliciously rich ice cream, gelato, chocolate mousse, mocha pots de creme, chocolate tart, chocolate pound cake, or silky dark chocolate any day over something made using fat-free and sugar-free substitutes.
By using a combination of these ways for making recipes more Weight Watchers friendly, I’m able to find the happy-healthy balance.
Which strategy do you like best for making recipes Weight Watchers Friendly or do you like me, tend to use an It-Depends approach?
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*PointsPlus® and SmartPoints® calculated by Simple Nourished Living; Not endorsed by Weight Watchers International, Inc. All recipe ingredients except optional items included in determining nutritional estimates. SmartPoints® values calculated WITHOUT Weight Watchers Zero Points fruits and vegetables using the WW Recipe Builder.
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