Are you laughing at me for giving cleaning advice?! Well quit it cause I know what I'm doin' when it comes to cleaning up recipes.
When I say I clean up recipes, I don’t necessarily mean that I turn them into “clean eating” recipes. A lot of dietitians don’t really use the term “clean” because it doesn’t really have a definition. For some people it simply means cutting down added sugar, and for others it means cutting out entire food groups like dairy or grain. Here I’m talking about healthifying our fave recipes to make them do a little more: adding fiber, protein, reducing sugar, ya dig?
Although I don't think of clean eating as a diet, I just want you to know that I have definitely fallen victim to the marketing of diets. I feel like I’m way more easily swayed by a good documentary or book than I should be because I know better, but I definitely understand the appeal. That all changed when I realized how much impact my food behaviors will have on my kids. In order to have a healthy relationship with food, kids have to witness a healthy relationship with food. Dieting and body shaming ourselves doesn’t mix with feeding kids. Did you see my Instagram post the other day? Ruthie said to me “I regret this decision” because the hilarious little human heard me say it. They pick up everyyyyything. It wouldn't take Ruthie very long to interpret “I try to eat clean, so no bread for me” into "bread is bad for me".
What does mix with feeding kids is finding ways to make delicious food that’s fun to eat and also good for growing babes, nursing moms, and hungry dads. Here a few tweaks I make to our everyday recipes.
1. Cut the sugar in half. In HALF I say! I have found that most baked good recipes such as muffins, banana bread, granola and granola bars, cookies, brownies, you name it - the sugar content can usually be cut in half and still taste amazing. Sometimes I cut it back even further, it takes a little trial and error but cutting back by half is usually a safe bet. The more you cook, the more comfortable you get with knowing how much sugar is enough for you.
2. Vary fats. A piece of advice I learned from the so-common-sense-she’s-genius dietitian Ellyn Satter is hedge your food choice bets to avoid feeling defeated every time a new study comes out telling us something we eat everyday is going to kill us. For example, canola oil was recommended for years to be healthier for the heart but it’s now not recommended by a lot of nutritionists because of the amount of processing it endures. I rotate butter, extra virgin olive oil, safflower oil, avocado oil, flax seed oil, and coconut oil so we have a different type on hand a lot of the time. Oils are almost always interchangeable with each other but not always with butter (oils are 100% fat while butter is 80%). I often combine coconut oil with butter in recipes like this one. Because of the level of concentration in oils, I always buy organic. That’s just one of my things, it doesn’t have to be your thing.
3. Try new flours. Coconut, almond, chickpea, oat...though different types of flour will definitely change the outcome of the recipe, I like to play around with them for added goodies like fiber and protein that wouldn’t ordinarily be there with white flour. The most commonly used flour in our house is oat flour (processed old fashioned oats into a fine powder and use cup for cup in the place of regular flour). I always have whole grain flour on hand for pitas, pizza crust, and cinnamon rolls (it can also be used cup for cup in the place of regular flour).
4. Add twice the veggies. Pasta con broccoli - 2 bags of frozen broccoli florets. Fried rice - literally every veggie in the fridge. Pizza - smothered with sautéed peppers, onion, zucchini, etc. Pad Thai - an entire bag of carrots. chilaquiles - roasted red peppers and sweet potatoes in addition to all of the tomatoes. Chili, potato soup, meatballs, spinach and artichoke dip, lasagna, mac and cheese, ev-er-y-thing I make gets loaded with veggies.
5. Find new protein sources: chickpeas, lentils, beans, plain yogurt, eggs, chia seeds, tempeh. I like using these guys regularly so we can avoid having meat every night of the week. There are a million fun recipes on Pinterest to try. A LOT of trial and error here for me. You have to really dress up a chickpea for me to like it but I found a few recipes that I love! (like this one).
6. Bake/Cook often. When I first started baking after college, I had to follow a recipe super carefully and have it right in front of me for it to turn out OK. Over the years, I've become much more comfortable with baking and know what I can tweak to make a recipe do a little more for me (AKA make it healthier). I also know what I can do to make it easier for example, I almost always make cookies/bars in one bowl of my mixer with great results (i friggin' hate dishes).