Special Feature

Healthy Substitutes by Missy Hennigan | Around The Town

Missy HenniganMissy Hennigan, MS, RD, LDN – Around The Town Contributor

The aroma of dinner simmering on the stovetop; the sound of a sizzling protein as it hits a hot skillet; the colorful view of a beautifully prepared vegetable medley; these are the things we want when it comes to food. When we hear the word nutrition, somehow society forces us to think of dry salads and flavorless vegetables. Nutrition is a whole spectrum of fueling your body for what your body needs. This does not mean you cannot eat your favorite foods, but it is a given that some foods may need to be limited to a once a year experience (Example: those Christmas morning cinnamon rolls and brown sugared little smokies).

Here are a few healthy substitutions to improve the nutrition content of your favorite dishes:
Breading in meatloaf, meatballs, stuffing, etc…try mixing in shredded or chopped carrots, celery, or zucchini.
Spaghetti or other noodle dishes…spaghetti squash is lower calorie and higher fiber; cauliflower can be doused in cheese and served to children as a macaroni substitute.
Mashed potatoes…substitute half the potatoes with mashed cauliflower (nothing wrong with potatoes, but sometimes you may want to lighten things up a bit).
Ground meat dishes…sub chopped mushrooms or frozen (thawed and drained) spinach for a portion of your meat in meatloaf/meatballs/hamburgers, or mix in beans with a ground meat dish like tacos, a casserole, or lasagna.
Jelly…use fresh or frozen fruit on top of pancakes/toast or in peanut butter sandwiches.
Graham cracker crust…substitute a portion of graham crackers with oatmeal
Fruit dip…instead of cream cheese/marshmallow cream dip, try a low sugar vanilla yogurt with a dash of cinnamon, spoonful of peanut butter, or a few drops of almond extract.
Pancakes…substitute part of the flour with uncooked oats (let the batter sit for a few minutes after mixing to allow the oatmeal to absorb some of the liquid).

Experiment around with substitutions. Remember, your goal is to either decrease something (e.g., sugar or saturated fat) or increase something (e.g., fiber or a particular vitamin/mineral).
Try one of these recipes for a healthy twist to your meal!

3-ingredient Pancakes
Yield: 4 servings
1 ripe banana (not a green one or barely ripe one)
2 eggs
¼ cup oats
Optional: pinch of salt, pinch of cinnamon,
Optional mix-ins: spoonful of peanut butter, blueberries, chocolate chips, pecans
Mash the banana with a fork.
Whisk in the eggs, oats, (optional) salt and cinnamon until smooth.
(optional) Add any mix ins (peanut butter, chocolate chips, pecans, etc.)
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium high heat.
Cook for approximately 2 minutes, until set.
Flip and continue cooking for 30-60 seconds.
Serve with fresh fruit or a sweetener of your choice.
Blended Meatball (source: mushroomcouncil.com/recipes)
Yield: 20 meatballs
NOTE: I made these for a family reunion and they were a hit!
1/2 pound mushrooms, finely chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove minced garlic
½ cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line baking tray with foil and spray with cooking spray.
Place the mushrooms in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until finely chopped.
In a skillet over medium heat cook chopped mushrooms until brown and most moisture has been released, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside to let cool.
In a large bowl combine cooled mushrooms, beef, seasoning, onion, garlic breadcrumbs and egg; mix all ingredients until incorporated. Shape mixture into 1½ inch meatballs. Place 1 inch apart on pan.
Bake 20-25 minutes or until meatballs reach 160°F, are cooked through and center is no longer pink.

Looking for other kitchen substitute ideas? Check out the following websites:
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: http://www.eatright.org
Mushroom Council: http://www.mushroomcouncil.com

Disclaimer: The information included in this article should not be used to replace personalized professional medical advice.

Editor’s Note: Watch for Missy Hennigan’s feature entitled ” Egg-cellent Nutrition” in the May Issue of Around The Town

Categories: Special Feature

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