Fat-free + sugar-free = taste-free

by Khushboo on April 19, 2013

Happy Fri-YAY!

In my recent post on the Blood Group Diet, I mentioned that my eating approach has evolved over the past few years.  The same can definitely be said about my cooking style.  For a long while after I decided to clean up my eating habits in 2004, I steered clear from recipes which contained “unhealthy” ingredients like butter, sugar, all-purpose flour, copious amounts of oil or cheese, etc.  While I’m still all for healthifying recipes, I think there comes a point with certain dishes where you have to draw the line.  Otherwise the entire dish loses its appeal and only fuels the stereotype that healthy food tastes like cardboard.    

If you want to make a dish that still tastes great while delivering health benefits, it’s all about striking a balance with your ingredients: a little bit of the real deal (e.g. butter/sugar) combined with more nutritious ingredients.  With that in mind, I wanted to share 2 culinary hits from this week:

Skinnytaste is a goldmine for healthy & delicious recipes.  Although the picture doesn’t do justice, this recipe for Mushroom Stroganoff came out SO well:

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The whole recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of butter & 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour, which really doesn’t work out to much per serving.  Yet even that little bit adds so much flavor and decadence.  And between the wholewheat pasta, mushrooms and Greek yogurt, it sounds pretty healthy to me.  I did make some changes along the way including:

  • Greek yogurt instead of sour cream
  • Balsamic vinegar instead of Worcestershire sauce
  • Whole-wheat penne instead of noodles
  • 4 tablespoons of wine instead of 2

I’m already looking forward to making it again!  The second dish is more on the sweet side: A Citrus-Walnut Oat Bran Loaf:

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I used my go-to recipe for Citrus Oat Bran Loaf as it always turns out great, but threw in some walnuts instead of raisins this time round.  Yep it contains oil & sugar, but there’s also oat bran, wholewheat flour and heart-healthy walnuts.  It turned out extremely, for lack of better word, moist…and tasted as legit as it looks :).

Where do you draw the line at healthifying recipes?

What’s been a culinary hit for you this past week? 

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Shreya @ rushofendorphins April 19, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Eek! That loaf looks DIVINE! I need to make that!

I think (unrefined/cane/brown/coconut) sugar, honey/maple syrup, butter and oil are all healthy foods that should be included in everyone’s diet as long as it’s all in moderation with a variety of other foods. I used to avoid even a drop of oil, used stevia instead of any other natural sweeteners, and only just introduced butter back into my life. It’s done wonders to my energy levels, and mental health!

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Khushboo April 19, 2013 at 9:27 pm

You nailed it by referring to mental health…using the real deal rather than “healthy” alternatives has helped keep my cravings at bay (and hence killed my fixation on food and trying to satisfy cravings)!

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Sophia April 19, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Hmm.. I don’t really “healthily”- most of the time my dishes are really traditional and I actually feel like farm and local ingredients like the fatty but home farmed prosciutto or pancetta and fresh whole eggs or real cream and milk are healthy to me 🙂 I also have pasta and rice all the time- not whole grain but white because that is what I grew up on. But I do really make sure I get quality local or organic meat and dairy products so I’m lucky that I have access to those! I love the look of both your recipes though and I bet they taste fantastic! I will Definetley be making that mushroom pasta, I love mushrooms. Sounds weird but I bet avocado would be lovely stired through to make it extra creamy and compliment the yogurt- ha see you got me healthifying lol. Keep on being creative, healthy- and indulgent you do it well! Xo Sophia

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Khushboo April 19, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Love your approach and I bet your food really does taste amazing thanks to quality ingredients! 🙂

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Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin April 19, 2013 at 4:39 pm

I totally agree with you here! I remember back when I tried to healthify everything, I made these muffins that had barely any sugar and absolutely no fat. And guess what? They tasted terrible! Shocker there.

Now I am a lot more liberal with using fat and sugar. Whenever I’m baking I always use the recommended amount of butter/oil, but I sometimes cut down the sugar by 25% depending on the recipe. And as for cooking, I agree that a little bit of the good stuff (butter, cream, oil) can go a looong way!

A culinary hit for me this week was a Cobb salad I made with a hard-boiled egg, pancetta, feta cheese, avocado, and tomato with a homemade dressing. It was amazing!

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Khushboo April 19, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Oh wow that cobb salad does sound amazing…I’ve been on a feta/avocado kick for a long while now :)!

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Parita @ myinnershakti April 19, 2013 at 5:49 pm

I’m not much of a baker, but I do know that when I want a real treat, I’ll make a real treat – just not all that often. Also, I think it’s actually healthy to eat “the good stuff” every now and then. All about that B-A-L-A-N-C-E!

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Khushboo April 19, 2013 at 9:29 pm

You got it, my friend 🙂

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Sam @ Better With Sprinkles April 19, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Yes! I did the same thing for years with my baking: replaced all the fats with applesauce, white flour with whole wheat, sugar with splenda. And they usually tasted awful. Umm, no surprise there.

Now if I want to healthify any baked goods, I might reduce the sugar a little, go half white/white wheat and use mashed banana or yogurt to replace “some” of the butter. Makes such a huge difference in taste! In cooking, I might reduce the amount of cheese or use almond milk + xanthan gum instead of full fat milk. But I absolutely will not go nuts with changes anymore – a bit of white sugar and flour is not the end of the world!

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Sam @ Better With Sprinkles April 19, 2013 at 6:09 pm

half white/whole wheat*

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Khushboo April 19, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Despite trying not to constantly healthify recipes, that’s a great tip about milk & xanthan gum instead of whole milk 🙂

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Liz @ I Heart Vegetables April 19, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Yum! That pasta dish looks amazing!

Last night I made a stir fry, but ruined the rice, so ended up making it with quinoa. I think it was even better that way!

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Khushboo April 19, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Love using quinoa as a rice alternative! 🙂

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Amanda @ .running with spoons. April 19, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Oh girl, I can’t even tell you how many horrid meals came out of my kitchen when I experimented with healthifying all of my recipes. I’d make things that were sugar-free and fat-free and end up not wanting to eat them because they tasted so bad. And when I -did- manage to choke them down, you can bet they weren’t satisfying in the least. I’m all for making some healthy swaps, but definitely not to the point where I’m leaving out all the sugar and fat – those things can be reduced in a lot of cases, but not completely left out.

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Khushboo April 19, 2013 at 9:31 pm

It’s funny – i used to healthify recipes to save on calories yet probably ended up eating more calories than planned because those “healthy” treats did nothing for my cravings…go figure! 🙂

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Tara @ Sweat like a Pig April 19, 2013 at 7:46 pm

I never used to cook with butter but now I do all the time! It’s amazing how most people consider something as fake and processed as margarine a better alternative to good old fashioned butter.

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Khushboo April 19, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Just the word margarine makes me shudder- yuck!

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dixya@food, pleasure, and health April 19, 2013 at 8:53 pm

I am all about healthifying traditional dishes but at the same time, do not want to compromise the taste. There has been times when I try to healthify things too much and it tastes cardboard 🙁 I am learning to find the balance where health meets taste..and that is one reason why I started blogging so I can document healthy + tasty food.

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Khushboo April 19, 2013 at 9:31 pm

In that case, keep blogging…your recipes always sound fab :)!

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Alexis @ Hummusapien April 19, 2013 at 9:16 pm

I don’t buy any fat-free or sugar-free stuff. They’re usually loaded with chemicals! I’m all about the real deal and sticking with mostly whole foods. I totally agree with you on how adding a bit of indulgence can take a recipe a long way. I added a tbsp of butter and some greek yogurt to the mashed “potatoes” recipe I just posted and it added sooo much goodness 🙂

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Khushboo April 19, 2013 at 9:32 pm

I need to make those “potatoes” soon- they sounded right up my alley 🙂

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Sara @ Nourish and Flourish April 19, 2013 at 9:34 pm

The Mushroom Stroganoff looks absolutely heavenly! I’m definitely going to check out that recipe, as Beef Stroganoff was one of my favorite meals when I was little. My mom used to make a pretty bangin version, however I’m pretty certain it was filled with tons of sour cream, butter and full-fat beef. 😉

The evolution of your cooking approach sounds exactly like mine–When I first began my “health quest,” I didn’t dip my toes in, I PLUNGED in. In other words, I removed all butter, eggs, white flour, sugar etc. etc. from every single thing I made. My poor family members had to cope with these baking “adventures,” which eventually resulted in lost cooking credibility on my part. It took a while to redeem myself! Now, I tend to heir on the side of making as few ingredient swaps as possible. I’ve found that “real” ingredients make more much more satisfying food, which helps me feel satisfied with one serving, rather than five. 😉

Happy Friday, and have a fantastic weekend! <3 xoxo

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Khushboo April 20, 2013 at 11:33 am

Ohh I bet Beef Stroganoff would be amazing! I’m thinking of using the mushroom sauce as a chicken topper next time instead of mixing in pasta…I’ll let you know how it goes :)! And I couldn’t agree more about one serving of the real deal being way more satisfying than multiple serving of something “super healthy”…quality definitely trumps quantity with food for the most part!

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Brittany April 19, 2013 at 11:02 pm

I love this! While I do alter my recipes to be “vegan friendly” I do still use “real” vegan products like fatty butters and lotsssss of sugar! Haha. That bread looks great.

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Khushboo April 20, 2013 at 11:34 am

Haha vegan or not, so long as a dessert is made from sugar or honey instead of Stevia/Splenda (or other sweeteners), I’m convinced it’ll taste good!

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Sarah @ Feeeding the Brain and Body April 20, 2013 at 6:45 am

Wow, both of these recipes look like they turned out fantastic! I agree there definitely needs to be a balance when it comes to baking. No sense putting in all the effort to make something that taste like cardboard.

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Khushboo April 20, 2013 at 11:37 am

Exactly…it just ends up being a waste of time and ingredients!

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Honey, What's Cooking April 20, 2013 at 9:21 am

I believe in indulging a little bit, and it’s okay to use butter and all in recipes, just in moderation. You are right 1 tbsp isn’t much in the entire dish. I just don’t have the heart to add a stick of butter to anything, except maybe dessert, and maybe around Christmas time. Ahhh.. my big winner this past week was the Crunchy Tortilla salsa mac and cheese, so good and only 2 tbsp of butter, but lots of cheese. I justify the latter by saying it has calcium and protein. 🙂 Have a great weekend K.

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Khushboo April 20, 2013 at 11:37 am

Haha unless I’m cooking for like 20 people, I don’t think I’d be able to put 8 tablespoons of butter in a dish either 😉

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Jess April 20, 2013 at 5:30 pm

I used to fear fat and sugar, but now I think the real deal leaves you feeling more satiated. I don’t over eat when I get the real thing! That said I don’t go overboard and I do still reduce the amount of sugar or fat if it seems really rich.

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Khushboo April 21, 2013 at 7:14 pm

My servings are much more in check when I’m eating the real stuff :)!

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z @ kickingkilos April 22, 2013 at 1:25 am

Eating healthy fat in the right amounts is good for our health.
Something I need to get rid of is sugar free nuisance.
I have the sugarless zero cal drink but Im sure with time I will let it go.
The cake looks divine wish i could eat a bite.

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Khushboo April 22, 2013 at 9:32 am

I gave up all sugar-free drinks (including Diet Coke) as part of my 2012 resolutions and haven’t looked back once- I feel infinitely better!

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Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets April 22, 2013 at 5:07 am

Again my food values are so in line with yours. I like to make things healthy, but I’m not afraid of a little sugar or butter and don’t get me started on eggs. Use the whole egg, dammit. I will use fruit, veggies, avocado’s and other odd things in my sweet treats, so it all balances out in the end.
I hope you had a great weekend and did more swimming in that pool. We’re a long ways away from pool weather so if you want to post another picture, I won’t complain.

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Khushboo April 22, 2013 at 9:33 am

Hahah thanks for your approval- I definitely did swim and will be thinking of you on my next visit to the pool 🙂

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Meghan @ After the Ivy League April 24, 2013 at 6:05 am

I completely took an all or nothing approach before to healthy cooking. Butter was off limits and considered unhealthy, no matter what the quantity was. It’s so silly to think of it that way. If an entire recipe uses only a tablespoon or two of butter, that’s really not bad at all and you’re right, the flavor it adds is so worth it!

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Khushboo April 24, 2013 at 7:59 am

Butter makes everything better…period :)!

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