Recipe Makeovers for All-American Food

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I love all the cuisines that make up our American food culture. Where else can you find almost every type of food under the sun, from Indian to Thai, Chinese and Japanese; Italian, Greek, French, Mexican, Cuban, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and more? Yet there are still foods that seem unmistakably American.

There are foods that may have been invented elsewhere, but have morphed into American phenomena, like French fries, fruit pies, cupcakes, popcorn, bagels, pizza, and the entire category of “salads.” There are foods we’ve put our own spin on, like pancakes and waffles, grilled cheese sandwiches, and muffins. And then there is truly American food, invented on U.S. ground by Americans, like Toll House cookies, corn dogs, cornbread, doughnuts, potato chips, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Another great American food contribution: almost all things ice cream, like ice cream sandwiches, hot fudge sundaes, and root beer floats.

All these all-American foods are fantastic and part of our culinary heritage. The problem is that most of them provide few nutrients and little fiber — but a load of calories. Some classic American foods are admittedly impossible to make over while retaining their desirable characteristics – doughnuts, for example. But many others can be “doctored” to be lower in calories and fat and still stay true to the yummy food Americans have come to know and love.

Here are 12 all-American foods that lend themselves to taking the calories down a notch, followed by some lightened-up American recipes.

American Food Makeover No. 1: Apple Pie

According to The Food Encyclopedia, apples were introduced to North America in the 17th century from Europe and West Asia. Apple dishes have been woven into American cuisine ever since, from apple crisp and caramel apples to apple pie.

Makeover Tips: Make a lighter apple pie by using a lower-fat, part whole-wheat piecrust, and by using less sugar in the filling. No butter needs to “dot” the filling or the top crust, either.

American Food Makeover No. 2: Chocolate Chip Cookies

By most standards, the saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 89 mg sodium (216 mg if the salt is added). Calories from fat: 14%.

Baked Seasoned Potato Chips

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as 1/2 cup “starchy foods and legumes with 1 tsp fat”

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 large russet potato (or 2 medium size), about 10 ounces

Canola cooking spray

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush canola oil over the bottom of a nonstick jellyroll pan.
  • Using a large, sharp, non-serrated knife, cut the potato into very thin slices (about 1/16 inch thick).
  • Immediately lay the potato slices flat onto the prepared pan (they should completely cover the bottom of the pan). Spray the tops with canola cooking spray and sprinkle with the seasoned salt.
  • Bake for about 22-25 minutes, watching carefully. Remove the chips that have browned and crisped and continue to cook the remaining chips until they become nice and crisp, too — about 5 minutes more.

Yield: 3 servings

Per serving: 137 calories, 3 g protein, 25 g carbohydrate, 3 g fat, 0.2 g , 0 mg cholesterol, 2.5 g fiber, 239 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 20%.

Mexican Cornbread

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as 1 small muffin OR 2 slices “bread, toast, whole grain bread”

This is one variation of cornbread — a savory, rather than sweet, cornbread.

1 cup yellow corn meal

1 cup unbleached white flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1 cup low-fat milk

1/4 cup fat-free sour cream

1 cup corn, fresh or frozen, thawed

1 tablespoon canola oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 or 2 jalapeno chilies, seeded then finely chopped

2 Roma tomatoes, chopped

1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine corn meal, flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl.
  • Add egg, milk, and sour cream to large mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until blended. Stir in corn.
  • In nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, add canola oil. When oil is hot, sauté onions, chilies, and tomato until onion is tender. Let cool a few minutes.
  • Add onion mixture and dry ingredients to mixing bowl with egg mixture and beat on low speed just until blended, scraping sides of bowl halfway. Stir in cheese, then pour mixture in an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan coated with canola cooking spray.
  • Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until cornbread is cooked throughout and lightly golden on top.

Yield: 9 servings

Per serving: 189 calories, 7.5 g protein, 31 g carbohydrate, 4 g fat, 1.2 g saturated fat, 28 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 500 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 20%.

Waldorf Salad

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as 1 portion light dessert OR 1 portion fresh fruit

1/4 cup light mayonnaise

1/4 cup light or regular plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream

2 teaspoons sugar

3/4 teaspoon lemon juice

3 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (about 3 cups)

1 cup thinly sliced celery

1/3 cup walnut pieces (or coarsely chopped walnuts)

1/3 cup dried fruit like raisins, cherries, or cranberries (optional)

  • Add mayonnaise, yogurt or sour cream, sugar and lemon juice to serving bowl and whisk well to blend.
  • Add apple pieces, celery, walnuts and dried fruit if desired and toss everything together. Cover and chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Yield: About 4 1/2 cups (9, 1/2-cup servings)

Per serving: 90 calories, 2 g protein, 11 g carbohydrate, 4.5 g fat, .6 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1.3 g fiber, 66 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 45%.