Chew on This

How to cut calories, fat and sodium from your favorite recipes

Mushrooms can be a great way to add flavor and reduce fat in a recipe. Mushrooms contain potassium and vitamin D, among other nutrients.
Mushrooms can be a great way to add flavor and reduce fat in a recipe. Mushrooms contain potassium and vitamin D, among other nutrients.

A home cook is never happier then when her guests are feeling satisfied after a meal.

But what if that beloved meal is loaded with sodium, saturated fat and calories? Should a chance be taken with modifying a favorite recipe? Since you are reading a nutrition column, your answer to that question is probably yes. So here is reassurance to encourage continued nutritional improvements to recipes that are family favorites.

An article in the current issue of Obesity described a study in which recipes from four types of restaurants were modified to reduce sodium, calories and saturated fat. The restaurants were fast food, fast casual, buffet and full service. A hallmark of fast food is that the item will taste the same no matter where the restaurant is. So changing one of those recipes would be challenging.

Twenty four menu items received two levels of modification. Version one had 16 percent fewer calories and 28 percent less sodium. Version two had 26 percent fewer calories and 43 percent less sodium. Reduced fat in the item led to the calories reduction. The modified version had the same serving size as the original. The food items included soups, hummus, creamy salads, pizza, burgers and sandwiches.

The findings were that 19 of the 24 modified menu items with slight to moderate reductions of calories, fat and sodium were as well liked and acceptable as the original version. With some foods, the modified version was rated higher. The author’s goal from this study is to demonstrate to restaurants that reducing fat and sodium is an acceptable way to improve the nutritional value of their menu items.

I believe there is also a message to the home cook. Experimenting and updating favorite recipes can improve nutrition and taste. A very flavorful and fat-reducing modification that I recommend is blending chopped mushrooms with ground beef. Great recipes at http://www.mushroominfo.com/blendability-recipes/

Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.

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