How to modify a recipe for health and wellbeing

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Tuesday, 09 November 2010.
Tagged: guides, healthy cooking, healthy eating, healthy recipes

How to modify a recipe for health and wellbeing
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Most of your existing recipes can be given a healthy makeover – you can cut the butter or oil, use plenty of garlic, ginger, lemon zest and fresh herbs instead of so much salt, trim the fat from meat or add chickpeas or soy beans for more fibre. It's easy when you know how.

Most (but not all, in my opinion) recipes work well with less butter, margarine or oil. For those family and traditional recipes that Grandma handed down, save them as they are and make them on special occasions. For the rest, see how I suggest you give these recipes a makeover so they're better for you.

Dessert makeover example:   Apple pastry log


Here's an old-fashioned apple dessert recipe that starts out high in fat, sugar with little fibre.

Apple pastry log

Serves 4

375 g packet frozen puff pastry
   Apple filling:
3 green apples, peeled and finely sliced
1/2 cup sultanas
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup brown sugar

Preheat the oven to moderately hot, 190ºC (375ºF). Roll the thawed pastry into an oblong shape 25 x 35 cm.

Spread the apple filling to within 2.5cm (1 inch) of the edges. Roll up the pastry from the long side, and seal the edges.

Place on a greased oven tray and bake for 15 minutes, or until evenly browned.  Serve with whipped cream.


 How I've 'improved' its health rating in 3 ways :

1. Substitute 4 sheets of filo pastry for the puff pastry; brush in between the layers with a small amount of low-fat milk, fruit juice or water, or spray lightly with oil.

2. Reduce amount of brown sugar to 1/4 cup.

3. Serve with low-fat custard or a scoop of low-fat vanilla ice cream, instead of whipped cream.

Easy swaps to make to adapt your own recipes

Where your recipe has: Try the following options instead:
Cream Use canned evaporated low-fat milk mixed with cornflour
Sour cream Try yoghurt mixed with a little cornflour or arrowroot
Oil • Halve the quantity
• Cook in a non-stick wok or pan
• Use cooking spray or brush on oil sparingly
Melted cheese topping • Halve the quantity of cheese and mix with breadcrumbs,
   rolled oats or crushed cornflakes
• Use less of a strongly flavoured cheese like parmesan
Pastry such as shortcrust or puff Substitute filo, and spray lightly with oil between every
second sheet (brushing with orange juice, skim milk or
water instead of oil also works well)
Lots of meat in casseroles or curries   • Halve meat quantity, replace with drained canned beans
• Serve smaller portions of pasta, noodles, couscous or
   basmati rice
Salt • Omit, especially if the dish already contains salty
   ingredients like soy sauce, stock powder or bacon
• Use fresh herbs, chilli, garlic, lemon zest, ginger and
   curry powder to add flavour
Bread Use low-GI varieties, such as soy and linseed or mixed grain
White rice or potato Use brown rice, pasta, bulghur wheat for low GI or use
whole grain types
Salad dressing Use vinegar or lemon juice (their acidity helps to slow
down the digestion of carbohydrate) mixed with extra-virgin
olive oil
Catherine Saxelby About the author

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