The secrets of Meal Makeovers

Make kids’ favorite recipes a little healthier by following these ABCs:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the recipe first by reading it from top to bottom before getting started. Research any questions you may have.
  2. Gather all your ingredients and prepping/cooking equipment before getting started.
  3. Research beforehand what ingredients can be substituted for a lower calorie ingredient without ruining your recipe – see table below.
  4. Allow yourself sufficient time to prepare, cook and serve.
  5. Store any leftovers as quickly as possible (e.g. freezing).

Easy substitutions


Lower calorie substitution Instead of using this:
Low fat cheese Regular cheese
Low calorie sweetener Regular sugar
Evaporated or powder skim or low fat milk Whole milk or cream
Canadian bacon Bacon or prosciutto
Olive oil with lemon juice, pepper, and a little Parmesan cheese Dressings
Fresh herbs, onions, garlic and chile peppers Salt and fat

Try this lighter recipe Instead of using this regular recipe:
Low fat cheese Regular cheese
Flavor water with fruit chunks and herbs Regular sweetened beverages
Grilled meat Fried meats
Seasoned brown rice with sautéed vegetables Fried rice
Sandwiches or wraps with shaved or spiral vegetables with hummus or other bean dips Mile high filling for sandwiches or wraps
Lightened desserts by using skim milk, low fat cheeses, more spices and extracts such as vanilla or almond extracts, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. Regular desserts

Substitutions to Help You Cut Calories


Instead of this… Use this…
Bacon Canadian bacon, lean ham or vegetarian imitation bacon
Butter, lard, margarine No trans fat margarine
  • Angel food or sponge cake with fresh fruit
  • Grilled fruits like bananas, pineapple or peaches
Chips and dip
  • For chips: Raw sliced vegetables like jicama, celery, carrots, cucumber, peppers, or zucchini. Can also try roasted peppers, zucchini or eggplant
  • For dip: salsa; mashed cooked beans; spicy mustard; low-fat salad dressing; or mix seasonings with plain, non-fat yogurt or low-fat cottage cheese
Cream Fat free evaporated milk or fat free half & half
Cream soups Defatted broths, broth based soups or fat free milk based soups
Ground beef
  • 95% lean beef, or ground turkey or chicken
  • Or vegetarian option: chopped mushrooms or crumbled tofu in place of ground beef
Ice cream
  • Low fat or fat free ice cream or fat free, low fat frozen yogurt or sorbet
  • Popsicles made with real fruit. Can be made at home or store-bought
  • Pureed frozen chunks of fruit such as grapes, pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, or watermelon
  • Low fat, reduced fat or fat free mayonnaise, whipped salad dressing or plain fat free yogurt
  • Mashed avocado
Regular cheese Low fat, part skim milk cheese or cheese with less than 5 grams fat per ounce
Salad dressings
  • Use low fat, fat free or homemade salad dressings with less oil
  • Use a drizzle of olive oil and squeeze fresh lemon or lime juice on salad and add salt, pepper or other seasonings
Sausage Lean ground turkey, or 95% fat free sausage
Sour cream Fat free sour cream or plain low fat yogurt
Sugar (as sweetener) Citrus juices, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, ginger, vanilla extract or non calorie sweeteners
Sweetened beverages like soda or fruit juice
  • Water – plain or sparkling
  • Sugar-free soft drinks
  • Sparkling water with lime, lemon, herbs (like mint or basil), slices of cucumber, crushed berries or lemon or a splash of fruit juice
  • Iced tea or coffee with ½ teaspoon of sugar or artificial sweetener
Whipped cream Nondairy whipped topping
Whole eggs Two egg whites or ¼ cup cholesterol-free egg substitute
Whole milk Fat free, 1% or 2% milk

Cooking Methods:

Instead of: Try this:
Pan frying in oil
  • Bake or roast food in a hot oven, or cook on the grill
  • Instead of cooking in oil, use aerosol cooking spray to coat the pan
  • If you choose to bake or roast food, spray the food lightly with non-stick cooking spray instead of tossing with oil before putting in the oven
Deep frying Dip food in flour, then low-fat or skim milk, then seasoned cornmeal or bread crumbs. Spray a cooking sheet with aerosol cooking spray and bake food in a hot oven. The coating will become crispy with much less fat than deep frying.
Adding oil to sauces Puree chiles or other sauce ingredients. Cook sauce in skillet with 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons of oil.

Useful tips at the table:

  • Consider allergies and religious food beliefs before serving
  • Create a peaceful environment while at the table
  • Practice good manners
  • Encourage tasting new foods, but never force eating
  • Encourage pleasant conversations to the table
  • Wipe tables with a disinfecting solution before and after eating
  • Wash hands before and after eating
  • Wear gloves when preparing or serving food
  • Use age appropriate plates and silverware
  • Keep a water pitcher and cups in each eating room at all times
  • Encourage brushing their teeth after eating