I love watching food shows. Who would have thought cooking would become a competitive sport? Certainly not my mom.
But is what you see being prepared on these shows actually good for you? I understand these might be recipes you are proud to serve at your next get-together, but what about the nutritional value?
A recently published article in the British Medical Journal indicates that most of those scrumptious recipes flunk the nutrition test. Good for the palate, bad for the body.
Researchers took 100 recipes randomly selected from celebrity chefs and compared them to nutritional guidelines for carbohydrates, protein, fat and fiber. Not one meal – not one – met World Health Organization standards for balanced eating. They had too many calories, or too much fat, or too much salt, or too much sugar. And they all lacked fiber.
If nutrition is your game, these recipes would not be your thing.
Researchers then looked at packaged meals, such as Lean Cuisine. They found that these were actually more nutritious than the celebrity chef dinners – and I must tell you I don’t find frozen-food entrees to be the epitome of nutritional cuisine.
What’s a person to do? I certainly don’t recommend you serve Healthy Choice or Hungry Man at your next family gathering. And I don’t expect you to stop cooking fun stuff you see on TV. But you can adapt what you see to make interesting, tasty foods you would be proud to serve.
Buying a software program to analyze the nutritional content of each meal is possible, but that takes time.
So here are some tricks I use when I’m crafting recipes.
• Start by using a nonstick skillet sprayed with nonstick spray. This allows you to saute with less oil, and less oil means fewer calories
• If a recipe calls for sour cream, substitute nonfat yogurt. If it calls for sugar, use half the amount and substitute honey for the rest.
• Leave out the salt. Studies have shown that if you use salt at the table, especially chunky sea salt or kosher salt, you’ll often consume half as much as if you mix it into the food.
• Spice up your dishes with the amazing variety of non-salt seasonings on the market. I recommend buying several so you can decide what you like. If you want great taste, consider Penzey’s. They have a dynamite variety of seasonings to please any palate (penzeys.com).
Everyone should learn how to cook, because it puts you in control. You can customize your meals, and it’s cheaper, too – always a bonus for me.
Improving nutrition is critical, especially when Centers for Disease Control estimates show that 70 percent of us will be overweight by 2020.
My spin: If your dish looks too good to be true, it probably is. Take those celebrity recipes and be creative in improving their nutritional value. Maybe you’ll become a celebrity yourself. Stay well.
Dr. Zorba Paster is a family physician, university professor, author and broadcast journalist. He also hosts a popular radio call-in program at 3 p.m. Saturdays on WNED.