Happy National Nutrition Month 2015!

By Kelsey Gabel 
Dietetic Intern

Heartland Health Outreach is celebrating National Nutrition Month with a recipe collection!  Do you have a recipe that can take the (nutritious) cake?
We seek creative, wholesome, and delicious recipes to please every pallet, from new concoctions to updates of old favorites.  Our dietitians will choose the winning recipe based on nutrition, creativity, and taste.  Plus, in addition to pride, the winning recipe’s author will win a special to-be-announced prize!

Before you submit your recipe, here are some ideas to get you started.  Generally, when making a recipe healthier, you can improve three main components: sugar, fat and salt. You may be surprised to learn that adapting these ingredients doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing flavor!

According to the newest recommendations, sugar intake should be limited to a maximum of 10% of total caloric intake. Sugar can be tricky.  It’s no secret that food companies add unnecessary sugar to their products to keep you coming back for more.

Often, taking out this extra sugar has no effect on the sweet taste of a food. Try it yourself: halve the sugar in one of your favorite recipes!  You will probably notice that it still tastes sweet.


Using fruit and spices such as cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg can also help bring out the sweetness in foods. Also, choosing whole grain pastas, rices, and breads can decrease your sugar intake.  Whole grains have the added benefit of being high in fiber, which helps your GI tract.  And remember, drinking water instead of sugary drinks can cut out major sources of added sugars at mealtime.

Fat intake should make up 20-30% of your daily calories, with no more than 10% coming from saturated fats. Every gram of fat has 5 more calories than a gram of protein or carbohydrates, making them more calorie-dense than other foods in our diets. That means fatty foods add up quickly, expanding our waistlines more stealthily than other foods.

How can we be healthier with our fats?  Replacing fatty cuts of meat with lean fish or poultry is an easy switch. Also, choosing low-fat and fat-free dairy products can help you cut calories.

Sometimes, fat doesn’t just come from the foods themselves.  Cooking methods like deep-frying and pan-frying add unnecessary fat and calories to all sorts of recipes. To reduce fat through your cooking, choose methods like braising, broiling, grilling, poaching, or steaming instead.


A high-sodium diet increases your risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, and heart attack. To keep your sodium intake at a healthy level, it’s recommended to keep sodium under 2,400mg/day.  Unfortunately, the typical American diet includes a lot of salt.  Not only are most foods salted when being cooked, additional salt is usually added after they hit your plate.

To reduce sodium, consider only adding salt while cooking. You can also replace salt with fresh herbs and citrus to ramp up the flavor of your dish.

Now that you have made small changes to your favorite recipes, don’t forget about portion sizes. Even with the best nutritional fixes, incorrect portion sizes can throw your meal back into unhealthy territory.  Most Americans eat portions far larger than what food labels expect them to eat!  When reading labels, remember that your portions and the recommended serving size may not always be the same.  Better yet, try to control your portion sizes with these two tips:

  1. Slow down –  Your stomach will tell your brain when you’re full – but the signal moves pretty slowly.  Slow down your meal by putting your fork down between bites.  This simple step can help your brain and your stomach communicate better – and help you control your calories too.
  2. Plan ahead – Be extra careful about portions when eating out!  Restaurants often serve you a days’ worth of calories in one meal.  When you go out to eat, share your dish with a friend or family member.  Or, consider immediately putting half of your meal in a to-go box to avoid overeating (and enjoy two meals instead of just one.)

For more healthy cooking substitutions,check out the chart below.  In the meantime, we look forward to receiving your recipes (apolke@heartlandalliance.org). Good luck and happy cooking!

cooking substitutions


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