Improving Your Recipes

One Step at a Time

It was my turn to host a friends’ luncheon, and I was making a chocolate cheesecake for dessert. The picture of the cheesecake in the cooking magazine had “delectable” written all over it, but my dietitian brain kicked in as I read the list of ingredients. The recipe called for lots of butter, cream cheese, and sour cream. With no time to do a test run before I made the cake for my friends, I jumped in and tinkered with the ingredients anyway. I replaced the full-fat cream cheese and sour cream with reduced-fat and fat-free products, and I reduced the fat in the crust, too. The cheesecake looked good as I pulled it out of the oven, but how did it taste?

When it came time to serve it, I held my breath as I passed around the slices. Would my friends like it? They did, and they were surprised when I told them it was a reduced-fat cheesecake. I was pleased with the results, too, and while I don’t recommend making last-minute recipe changes when cooking for special events or for large groups of people, this experience demonstrated how it’s often possible to make changes to recipes that not only make the dish healthier but that also produce food that looks and tastes great.

This article lays out a few general guidelines to help you lighten up almost any favorite recipe that you may have stopped making because it’s too high in fat, sugar, or sodium — and warns you about some changes that probably won’t yield good results.