When you have finicky eaters who refuse to eat foods that are good for them, it’s time to call on the Sneaky Chef. That’s the nickname a friend of mine called me one day after I had explained the art of substituting healthy ingredients in my family’s favorite meals. It’s not so much being sneaky, as it is being a savvy cook. It’s about making foods taste great without the extra calories and then adding ingredients that are actually good for you.
If you have ever eaten a cake made with applesauce rather than cooking oil, you will probably agree that there is little difference in the taste or texture. The cake is just as moist but without the higher calories of the oil. I use applesauce in many of my recipes.
I have substituted tofu for meat in many recipes and used ground turkey in place of ground meat. Cottage cheese is a wonderful substitute for ricotta cheese, and can be used in lasagna and other tomato sauce dishes. I like some low-fat cheeses, but others don’t have much taste. I never compromise the flavor of the dish by cutting too much fat or calories from a recipe.
Another way to sneak healthy foods on your family and yourself is to make a big salad. Add ingredients that you don’t normally try, but do it gradually. One new vegetable or fruit at a time will allow everyone’s taste buds and digestive system to adjust. Make your own salad dressing to control the amount of sodium and sugar that you are adding to your meals. You can make it ahead of time and store vinaigrettes on the table and cream based dressings in the refrigerator until you are ready to use.
As often as possible, substitute olive oil for butter and vegetable oil. Olive oil has so many health benefits; it’s good for your digestive system, your cardiovascular system, and your immune system. Eating foods with olive oil will give you radiant skin, lustrous hair and beautiful nails. It’s delicious on meats, vegetables and bread.
If you dare to be sneaky and substitute healthy ingredients in your family’s meals, you won’t regret the benefits of healthier eating. Keep them eating this way and they will continue to make healthy choices for the rest of their lives. A happy family is a healthy family; some foods your family members will like but others they may not, the important thing is that you all try new foods together as a family—that’s really what it is all about.