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When I am creating recipes I choose ingredients that are lower in calories but very satisfying. Sometimes this means simply cutting down on the amount of fat in a dish by using healthier oils or leaner meats.
A recipe might call for a substitution to give the dish more volume, so that it’s more filling without adding too many calories. Adding more veggies like onions or mushrooms to a pasta dish, stew or soup, for instance, can make a big difference in the total calories.
There has been some very well designed research showing that eating lower calorie dishes that are higher in volume can be very satisfying. The interesting thing about this is that folks don’t tend to replace all of the calories they might be used to eating by snacking or eating more later in the day.
In one study of snacking Kathrin Osterholt and her colleagues at Penn State designed a study using puffed Cheetos with more air vs. crunchy style with less air. Those in the study consumed 21% fewer calories when they ate the puffed style Cheetos. This was true even though they ate about 73% more in volume of the puffed than the crunchy version.
This doesn’t just apply to snacks though. A group at Johns Hopkins compared two groups eating mushroom vs. meat lunches. This was done over a couple of weeks and they ate four lunches of either lasagna, savory napoleon, sloppy joes or chili made with mushrooms or with beef. The meat meals were about 730 calories and the ones made with mushrooms about 310 calories.
Even though the participants ate fewer calories with the mushroom meals, they rated the dishes equally as far as flavor and satisfaction. At the same time they didn’t replace anywhere near the difference in calories, eating only an extra 11 calories. That’s a savings of over 400 calories by having a lower calorie version of a favorite recipe.
I have written a number of columns about people’s perception of the foods we eat. Most often folks will eat and enjoy food that tastes good. If you tell them that the dish is healthier beforehand, however, they won’t like it as much. It is true that if people don’t know whether a meal is healthy or not they rate the healthy recipe as just as good as the traditional.
Make those changes in your own meal plans and recipes. Look for recipes that are healthier -- they are every bit as good as traditional (and usually better). Choose ingredients that are lower calorie for your dishes and you can save huge amounts of calories.
Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
May 19, 2008