(BPT) - Creamy sauces, cookies, casseroles and cakes - as temperatures drop, it's natural to crave favorite comfort foods. However, it's easy to overindulge on rich dishes and decadent desserts, especially if you're hosting a gathering of friends and family. How can you enjoy amazing foods while bumping up the health quotient?
"Remember, when you're cooking or baking, you're in control. With a few smart ingredient substitutions and food swaps, you and your guests can enjoy favorite dishes and get more vitamins and nutrients," says Lyssie Lakatos.
Lyssie Lakatos and Tammy Lakatos Shames, both registered dietitians, are known as the "The Nutrition Twins." Together, they share their favorite strategies for cooking healthier, including clever ingredient swaps you won't even detect in the finished dish.
Eggs: When baking, eggs are a common ingredient, but not all eggs are created equal. Opt for Eggland's Best eggs, locally-sourced eggs that come from hens fed an all-vegetarian diet consisting of healthy grains, canola oil and supplements like alfalfa and vitamin E. As a result, they have 10 times more vitamin E, five times more vitamin D, three times more vitamin B12, two times more omega-3s, 38 percent more lutein and 25 percent less saturated fat compared to ordinary eggs.
Sour cream: Swap full-fat sour cream for plain Greek yogurt in recipes, dips, sauces and garnishes. Plain Greek yogurt tastes surprisingly similar to sour cream but offers higher levels of protein.
Butter in cooking: Cooking smart means choosing healthier fats and using them in moderation. Instead of butter, try olive oil. While 1 tablespoon of butter has about 7 grams of saturated fat, olive oil only has 2 grams of saturated fat.
Butter in baking: Oil can cause baked goods to get soggy, so a better butter alternative is applesauce or pumpkin puree for half of the called-for amount. The addition of applesauce or pumpkin puree reduces the fat content while keeping baked goods moist and delicious.
Bacon: Bacon adds flavor to any dish, but a ton of fat. To get the flavor-boost of bacon without the excess fat, try using Canadian bacon, lean prosciutto or turkey bacon. Whether beside scrambled eggs for breakfast or crumbled into a casserole, these tasty alternatives will satisfy.
Salt: Use less salt and add herbs to recipes to get succulent flavor. Whether fresh or dried, herbs satisfy the palate and add beauty of any dish. Have fun mixing and matching herbs to customize a recipe perfectly to your taste.
Sugar: All those amazing glazes and desserts require sugar, but you need not rely solely on refined white sugar. For baked goods, lessen sugar and add vanilla or cinnamon to intensify sweetness. For glazes, try alternatives like maple syrup or fruit purees.
Breading: Classic comfort foods often require breading. For a healthy alternative to traditional white bread crumbs, try whole-grain bread crumbs, rolled oats or crushed bran cereal (or a mixture of them all.)
Flour: Rather than using entirely all-purpose refined white flour for recipes, try swapping half of the amount with whole-wheat flour. You'll still get the desired consistency out of baked goods, but you'll be eating more whole grains.
Lettuce: Iceberg lettuce is a popular option for salads and recipes, but to get more important vitamins (and more flavor), use arugula, collard greens, spinach, kale or watercress instead. Insider tip: try buying a bag of mixed greens to enjoy a variety of nutrient-dense alternatives.
Want to start your day out with an indulgent, satisfying breakfast that features some of these smart cooking ideas? This recipe serves as a great breakfast and has vitamin-packed Eggland's Best Eggs, sweet potatoes and turkey bacon. For more recipes visit www.egglandsbest.com.
2 Eggland's Best eggs (large)
2 sweet potatoes
2 strips turkey bacon
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
Wash and scrub your sweet potatoes. Place on a baking sheet, pierce each potato a few times with a fork, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.Place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes.
When sweet potatoes are finished, slice them in half lengthwise and let them cool.
Scoop a bit of 'meat' out from the sweet potatoes to make room for the filling.
In a small nonstick skillet over medium heat, place two strips of turkey bacon. Cook until bacon begins to brown and crisp up.
Place a napkin on top of a small plate. When bacon is finished, place onto napkin to let grease soak out.
Rinse the skillet and place back on the burner over medium heat.
Place eggs in skillet and cook on medium-low for just a few minutes; ~3 minutes. Be sure not to overcook these eggs as they will continue cooking after removed from heat, and will be placed into the oven later on.
Break eggs into four equal parts. Place each into the hollow parts of the sweet potatoes. Sprinkle each with salt and pepper.
Break bacon apart with your hands into small pieces. Sprinkle over the eggs.
Sprinkle cheese over top. Set your oven to broil on high. Place potatoes in the oven and broil for three minutes or until cheese is melted.