Home cooking finds healthier substitutes

Home cooking finds healthier substitutes

Artificial sweeteners like Splenda or Sweet and Low replace real sugar and eliminate more of it’s calories.

Leah Polakoff, Reporter

“Fresh Irresistible Tasty Nutritional Food” is the motto that Catherine Brown, Certified Personal Fitness Chef, follows in her everyday routine. She transforms lifestyles through her F.I.T. Nutrition program located in Windsor Mill, Maryland and coaches individuals to improve their overall health and wellness.

One of the main factors in Brown’s program is meal planning and preparation. “In making a decision for a healthier lifestyle and changing nutrition habits, one must review the ingredients and contents of a meal,” Brown said.

By eliminating unhealthy ingredients that are high in calories and fat but low in nutritional content, people can increase their chances of losing weight and being a healthier person overall.

According to Brown, “finding a healthier ingredient substitution is the answer to decreasing the amount of unhealthy choices.”

The nutrient content of a meal relies heavily on the method of cooking. In order to cook healthier food, Brown says to try cooking techniques that involve grilling, poaching, baking, broiling, stir frying, and sautéing instead of frying.

A piece of fried chicken with breadcrumbs has 362 calories with 19 grams of fat while a piece of grilled chicken has 184 calories and three grams of fat. The fat consumed from fried foods increases cholesterol levels and leads to weight gain, according to fitday.com.

The fat and grease that aid in the creation of fried foods aren’t the only unhealthy ingredients that can be substituted. “I like to eat fast foods but I am not really worried about it because I balance it out with the right diet and exercise,” junior Jon Galarraga said.  Sugar, butter, cream, and salt are all components of damaging foods that can be excluded when cooking or baking.

Artificial sweeteners such as Agave, Splenda, Sweet and Low, Truvia, and Nutra Sweet are all low calorie options that can replace real sugar. “I don’t really use sugar or splenda because I try to stay away from sugar,” said Galarraga.  One gram of real sugar has four calories, and there are four grams of sugar in one teaspoon. One 12-oz can of soda has eight teaspoons of sugar, about 130 calories.

Replacing the same amount of sugar with an artificial sweetener will eliminate all or most of those calories. All natural honey is also a great way to sweeten foods if a person is skeptical of adding artificial ingredients to their meals.

Butter is an ingredient that melts perfectly into cake batters and cookies, but it is not something that will help a person melt fat. Butter is a dairy product that is made from milk and animal fat. Margarine is a butter substitute that contains less calories and fat. It is composed mostly of vegetable oil, which helps to eliminate the levels of bad cholesterol in the body.  Applesauce, pumpkin, and olive oil can also be used when baking to sweeten the finished product.

Another product commonly used in baking and cooking is sour cream. The cream in this ingredient contains 12 to 16 percent butterfat, making sour cream very high in calories and fat. It offers little to no nutritional value, and while low-fat options are available, they are often thickened with artificial ingredients. A good substitute would be plain, fat-free yogurt. It will get rid of an extra five grams of fat per two tablespoons.

Salt, which is found in many foods, is needed to maintain a healthy diet. Unfortunately, table salt is the most common form of salt. “Table salt is most likely used for baking and most of the essential minerals are removed,” Brown said. Sea salt is an all-natural alternative. “Sea salt contains all of the essential minerals such as potassium, manganese, zinc, iron, and iodine. These are essentials that are needed for regulation of our body function. Sea salt is a good choice because of the balance of sodium and potassium,” Brown said.

By simply swapping out certain ingredients when baking, a person can still make their favorite foods. Almost every meal can be made in a healthier version by substituting ingredients.

Leah Polakoff is a reporter for “The Patriot” and jcpatriot.com.