It’s your goal to eat better, and there are thousands of healthy recipes out there waiting to be discovered. But what about your tried-and-true favourites — like your mom’s hearty casserole and Grandma’s famous cake? Or all of the tempting creations laden with rich ingredients that don’t meet your healthy new standards?

One word of advice… upgrade! Here are some ways to make your favourite recipes healthier, according to experts.

Try a new technique

How you cook is as important as what you cook, and many recipes have some leeway when it comes to cooking methods. For instance:

- Need to fry or sauté? Use good quality non-stick cookware to reduce or eliminate the need for fats and oils. You can also use nonstick cooking spray or broth to add some flavour and prevent sticking.

- Put away the frying pan and try other techniques like poaching, baking, broiling, roasting or grilling.

- Baste with broth, fruit or vegetables juices or wine instead of butter or fats.

- Cook rice and pasta until it’s firm (al dente) to slow the release of sugars into your blood stream as it digests.

- Make vegetables more interesting by steaming with herbs, braising or roasting. They’ll be more flavourful, and you won’t need to add salt or butter.

- Prepare the ingredients yourself. Instead of using roasted nuts (which are high in salt and fat), buy raw and toast your own. Start with dried beans and lentils and cook them yourself rather than using canned — they’ll contain less salt and digest easier with a proper soaking.

(For more tips, see Healthy cooking techniques from the Mayo Clinic.)

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Swap an ingredient

Some ingredient substitutions are easy — like using frozen yoghurt instead of ice cream or whole wheat pasta instead of white — but some require a little know-how to maintain the texture and flavour of the food. Here are some common swaps to try:

- All-purpose (white) flour: You may not be able to replace it all, but you can substitute up to half with whole wheat flour. If you’re experimenting with other flours — like oat, rice, barley, spelt or kamut — talk to the staff at your local health food store to find out which ones work best.

- Bread crumbs: Rolled oats or crushed bran cereal can make a crunchy coating, plus they add fibre and other nutrients.

- Butter, oil or shortening: In baked goods, substitute the equivalent amount of apple sauce or prune puree (i.e. 1/2 cup applesauce instead of 1/2 cup oil) for half the amount required in the recipe.

- Eggs: Use two egg whites or 1/4 cup of an egg substitute in place of one whole egg.

- Sour cream: Try low-fat or fat-free versions, or substitute in plain yoghurt for a probiotic punch.

- Ground beef: Choose leaner choices like ground chicken or turkey instead. If it has to be beef, try a leaner ground.

- One ounce of chocolate: Replace with three tablespoons of cocoa. You get the antioxidants, but not the fat and sugar.

- Iceberg lettuce: Whether its sandwiches or salads, use dark, leafy alternatives like spinach, romaine, bok choy and swiss chard to add more flavour, fibre and vitamins.

(For more suggestions, see Healthy ingredient substitutions.)

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Elizabeth Rogers