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Lighten up Your Plate With These Delicious Foodie Tips

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To make a favorite meal healthier, simply swap ingredients—like half-and-half instead of cream, spaghetti squash in place of pasta and lettuce as a bun or tortilla. Adobe Stock

Is adopting a healthier diet one of your resolutions this year? Here, a local chef and a blogger help you start off on the right ‘food.’

Ready to reset your metabolism after weeks of heavy holiday noshing (or maybe months of pandemic-induced binge-eating)? Local food blogger Lauren Vavala of Delicious Little Bites and Bianca Russano of About the Table Personal Chef Service offer their advice on how to shop and cook more healthily—without forgoing the flavor.

Answers were edited for clarity.

Delaware Today: What is eating “lighter?”

Lauren Vavala: I view eating lighter as reducing calorie intake if there is a goal to lose weight, and eating more whole foods like fruits and vegetables.

Bianca Russano: The most important things to consider are portion control and a balance of lean proteins and veggies.

DT: How we can lighten up our favorite recipes?

LV: One of the easiest ways is to swap out high-calorie ingredients for those with fewer calories. If a recipe calls for heavy cream, use half-and-half or even unsweetened almond milk instead. Use lettuce instead of buns or tortillas. Swap pasta with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles; you’ll not only reduce the total calories but you’ll also increase your vegetable intake. You can also lighten up your meals by having a salad before the main dish, reducing portions, baking rather than frying, and flavoring with herbs and spices instead of butter or salt.

BR: When using herbs, always add them at the end; sometimes adding fresh herbs in the beginning can make a dish taste quite bitter. If you like a lot of spice, add zip to lighter fare with chilies or ginger. Citrus zest and juices are a great way to add flavor to salad dressing without the calories.

DT: What ingredients do you keep on hand to whip up an easy, fast and healthy meal?

LV: Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders, salmon, whitefish, lean ground beef, chicken stock, plenty of herbs and spices, half-and-half or unsweetened almond milk to make sauces with, and fresh or frozen vegetables are some things I buy weekly. Squashes are a great option because they keep for much longer than other vegetables, and choose frozen over canned veggies if fresh isn’t an option.

BR: I like batch cooking, where you’re utilizing the freezer so you can pull stuff out easily on busy days—stuff like soups, stews and braises. And even something as simple as meatloaf—if you double a recipe of meatloaf and freeze half of it, that defrosts beautifully.