Old recipes and dishes passed down for generations may be the safest foods, but many of the ingredients are not healthy. However, this does not mean that you should never make those memorable dishes. Just swapping out a few ingredients or changing cooking techniques can make those delicious dishes even better for you without sacrificing flavor. Below, you’ll find classic recipes that registered dietitian nutritionists love and how they turn them into a delicious and healthy treat.
Stewed Tuna Noodles (picture above) is the quintessential classic recipe made traditionally with canned cream of mushroom soup, egg noodles and melted cheese. Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD, owner, Nutrition for the bite explains that cream of mushroom soup adds fat and sodium, while egg noodles are low in fiber. Cheese can add more fat and calories to the mix. Andrews makes three key changes by using low-fat creamy mushroom soup, whole-wheat pasta for extra fiber, and adding chopped spinach for color, flavor, texture and nutrition. Includes vitamin C, potassium and folate.
Deep-fried mushrooms – or almost any food, for that matter – are my favorite at home Amanda Saoneda, RDN as she grew up. “Frying can produce trans fats that can have a negative impact on our cholesterol and, in turn, on our heart health,” Saoneda says. To reduce (and even eliminate) trans fats from these recipes, Saoneda recommends using dryer as an alternative to deep-fried foods. Air frying can cut down on the amount of oil you need, while preserving the crispiness you love from fried foods. She also recommends using avocado oil for frying because it’s a heart-healthy oil that works well at high temperatures.
Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD, clinical dietitian and author of The brain is nourished call out her favorite creamy pasta salad, made with lots of sugar, mayo, and typically white pasta at the elbow. This dish is high in calories and carbs, so it works against those who have diabetes or are trying to control weight. Mussatto suggests a few healthier swaps, including choosing whole-grain pasta and adding a variety of veggies like thinly sliced celery, small peas, diced pimientos, and chopped red onions. Using low-fat sour cream or plain Greek yogurt in place of some mayo also helps control calories and fat.
Anne Danahy MS RDN based in Scottsdale, owner of Craving for something healthy Make her mom’s three-bean salad as a summer treat. The original recipe includes peas, wax beans, and chickpeas along with 1 giant cup of sugar and lots of corn oil in the sauce. The healthier version of Danahy is actually a five-bean salad by adding black beans and navy. She also uses olive oil, a heart-healthy oil, instead of corn oil and chooses less oil. In the end, she cut the sugar down to 1/4 cup. If she wants even sweeter, she’ll add 1 to 2 tablespoons of erythritol or Monk fruit sweetener. Danahy says even her mom makes this version healthier now!
This dish is traditionally made with slow cooking green collard with ham, collarbone and bacon – sometimes, it’s all thrown together! Broccoli can be a great way to add a vegetable to your diet, but pork recipes are higher in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. “Too much of any of those three nutrients is not good for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, where all three conditions are very common in Black communities.” speak KeyVion Miller RDN, LDN, recipe developer, photographer and brand consultant.
Miller recommends replacing pork with turkey meat (such as turkey bacon) to help flavor the greens and using a low-sodium flavored broth like chicken or vegetable stock, which will remain added flavor without saturated fat and cholesterol. Finally, Miller uses smoked paprika to enhance the smoky flavor you normally get from smoked meats.
Christina Iaboni, RD grew up with Sloppy Joe’s made with ground beef, a seasoning packet, and loads of ketchup and brown sugar piled on a white burger. “This recipe is high in fat from ground beef and high in sugar from ketchup and brown sugar,” says Iaboni. Instead, Iaboni uses lean ground beef (at least 90% lean), ground turkey (93% lean or more), or lentils, add fiber. Iaboni recommends swapping out a pre-made condiment mix with ketchup and sugar for a homemade tomato puree or ketchup with condiments. For an extra fiber boost, swap out the white bun for a whole grain bun.
Rhyan Geiger, RDN, owner of Nutritionist Phoenix Vegan says her grandmother who lives in the Midwest makes the best potato soup, but the original recipe calls for nearly a stick of butter, cream, and quite a bit of salt. To make the recipe healthier, Geiger swapped out the butter for some olive oil. Instead of full-fat cream, she uses non-dairy milk like oat milk to reduce the fat content. She also uses herbs and spices to spice things up when cutting back on salt. Finally, she left the potato skins on for extra fiber.
We all have a family member who just needs to bake the best baked goods. Kathy Levin, RDN, CDCES, DipACLM, owner of Nutritionally simple says her wonderful aunt Bessie has a pumpkin bread recipe that the whole family loves. “Every year, she would make each loaf, meticulously wrap them in foil, and deliver them to everyone. When I took on the quest, I noticed that the fat and sugar content was off the charts,” Levin said. Over the years, Levin has modify the recipe gradually cut fat and sugar and increase fiber. The best part? No one is wiser. Her simple swaps include using apple sauce for a little oil, using egg whites and flaxseed eggs for whole eggs, and incorporating pastry flour instead of all-purpose flour.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independently registered dietitian.