Tasty Tips and Tricks from Marlene

Marlene Koch, RD

| Dec 31, 2009

According to Marlene, finding the perfect mix of ingredients is key when creating healthier versions of your favorite foods. From composing a healthier sandwich to perfecting pasta dishes and creating delightful desserts, Marlene reveals some of her tastiest ingredient tips:

Reduced-Fat Dairy

Diary products have come far from the days when they were limited to either full-fat or skim. These days, reduced fat dairy products are both healthy and delicious. One-percent milk is lower in fat and calories than whole milk, yet creamier than non-fat milk, while non-fat half-and-half lends recipes the silky smooth mouth feel of light cream without any of the fat. Both are staples in my fridge. You'll also find plenty of low-fat plain yogurt, light sour cream, and reduced fat cheeses. Extra tip: plain Greek-style yogurt is amazing. Drained for longer than regular yogurts, it's exceptionally thick and creamy.

Better-for-You Breads

My better-for-you sandwiches start with better-for-you breads. A simple swap from one large four-ounce bagel to two slices of light white or wheat bread saves over 300 calories and 50 grams of carbohydrate. Other great carb-conscious bread selections include Thomas's Light Multigrain English Muffins (with nine grams of fiber!) and high-fiber tortillas. Mission Carb Balance and La Tortilla Factory Smart and Delicious Wraps are two brands to look for. Last, the easiest switch of all - choose sourdough bread over regular white. The acid used to "sour" sourdough bread lowers its glycemic index (the rate at which it will raise blood sugar).

Perfectly Proportioned Pastas

The best trick for fitting pasta dishes into any healthy meal plan lies in the proportion of pasta to the other ingredients. My favorite method of reducing the calories and carbohydrates in pasta dishes while increasing the flavor and nutrients is to s-t-r-e-c-h the pasta by adding protein-packed lean meats and flavorful veggies.

For example, a two-cup portion of plain pasta equals six starch servings. In contrast, a two-cup serving of a pasta dish made with tender white chicken and steamed broccoli delivers three servings each of lean meat and starch and one serving of vegetable. In addition to being lower in carbohydrates, a combination pasta dish has a greater satiety value (it will fill you up quicker and keep you full longer) and more nutrients. Whole grain blend pastas (like Barilla Plus) offer a taste and texture close to traditional semolina pastas with slightly less carbohydrate and more protein and fiber.

Sweets with Less Sugar

When creating my sweet recipes, I reduce the sugar by swapping out sugar for the no-calorie sweetener sucralose (found in Splenda brand products). I like Splenda for its sugar-like taste, safety profile, and ability to withstand the heat required for cooking and baking.

The carb and calorie savings  provided by a sugar-free sweetener can really add up. A cup of sugar contains a whopping 768 calories and 192 grams of carbohydrate. In comparison, Splenda granulated sweetener contains 96 calories and 24 grams of carb. For beverages, other sugar-free packet options such as stevia-based sweeteners (like Truvia), aspartame (such as Equal), or saccharin (found in Sweet ‘n Low), also work fine.

It is important to note that baked goods will cook faster, rise less, and have batters with less volume when made with a sugar substitute such as Splenda granulated sweetener. For specific baking tips and tricks, go to www.marlenekoch.com or www.splenda.com.

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Posted by Anonymous on 2 January 2010

Many people seem to have reactions to aspartame and some even to splenda. I would stay away from saccharin as well. Anything produced in a lab is suspicious to me.

As far as Truvia, it is 9/10 of 1% Rebiana, a chemical derivative of the stevia leaf, not the natural Rebaudioside A in the leaf. it is 99.1% erythritol, which is a sugar extracted from corn with alcohol. Cargill admits that their corn (in Truvia) is 30% genetically modified organisms (GMOs). I've already read of people who seem to have had reactions to it also.

Other so-called stevia based products are also mostly sugars, like PureVia, Stevia in the Raw, and Sun Crystals.

SweetLeaf Stevia, on the other hand, is probably the purest brand on the market as it has no chemicals and no sugars in the product or in processing, so the natural benefits of the stevia leaf remain, including its 0 calorie, 0 carb, and 0 glycemic index properties.

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