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15 Healthy Cooking Tips from the Food Pros

Texturize Your Meals

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"To make vegetables more exciting so you’ll want to eat more of them, combine different flavors and textures. For example toss greens with vinaigrette and add sliced avocado and slivered almonds. Sauté fresh zucchini and summer squash, and top with Parmesan cheese and crushed lightly salted pistachios. Slice tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil, and serve on toasted crostini." –Jenny Shea Rawn, M.P.H., R.D., nutrition communications expert

Split the Difference

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"Instead of following a recipe word-for-word, start by cutting unhealthy ingredients such as oil, butter, or sugar by half. Then adjust to taste. Chances are you'll be able to use far less than the recipe called for to create the same flavor." –Candice Kumai, chef and cookbook author

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Freeze Flavor

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"As soon as fresh herbs start to wilt, chop them up and put them in ice cube trays with extra-virgin olive oil. Once frozen, pop out the cubes and store in resealable plastic bags. You can use them to add flavor to just about everything. In addition to the typical ways you cook with oil, heat a few cubes to drizzle on top of air-popped popcorn or a bowl of soup, or dip bread into the herb oil." –Vanessa Seder, recipe developer, stylist, and cooking instructor

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Dress Chicly

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"For creamy salad dressing without unhealthy fats, puree an avocado with herbs and other flavorings, such as fresh mint and chilies." –Jenn Louis, chef-owner of Lincoln Restaurant, Sunshine Tavern, and Culinary Artistry

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Use the Cream of the Crop

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"Many classic comfort foods get their cozy satisfaction from butter, heavy creams, and cheese. You don’t have to give up dishes like creamed spinach and mashed potatoes; instead make them healthier: Use unsweetened almond milk and roasted garlic to make mashed potatoes rich and creamy, and for creamed spinach, mix tapioca flour instead of white flour with unsweetened almond milk to make the sauce." –Marti Wolfson, culinary nutrition educator

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Bring Out Food's Tender Side

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"The naturally occurring lactic acid present in Greek yogurt helps to break down protein to make lean meats, fish, and even veggies even more flavorful and tender. Combine nonfat plain Greek yogurt with fresh herbs and seasonings to create a tasty, oil-free marinade. You’ll save about 110 calories per tablespoon in the process." –Kara Lydon, R.D., health communications manager at Chobani

Perk Up BBQ

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"Dilute barbecue sauce with leftover brewed coffee (2 tablespoons of coffee per half cup of sauce) to cut back on salt and calories." –Jennifer Iserloh, The Skinny Chef and coauthor of 50 Shades of Kale

Add a Leaf to Beef

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"Mix steamed or boiled kale into meatloaf and meatballs to add moisture as well as beta-carotene and lutein to protect your eyes. Squeeze the kale dry, then finely chop and add 1/2 cup to 1 pound ground meat." –Dana Jacobi, award-winning bestselling cookbook author

Salt Your Sweets

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"A tiny pinch of really good quality salt such as Himalayan crystal salt really brings out the flavor in sweets or fruit smoothies. And the more flavorful and satisfying something is, the less of it you may feel you need to eat." –Sarma Melngailis, founder and CEO of One Lucky Duck in New York City

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Pick the Best Pan

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"Cook in a good-quality nonstick pan. This will enable you to use a lot less oil since the protein won't stick to the pan. Also try oiling the protein lightly before adding it to the pan rather than pouring oil into the skillet before cooking. At that point it's harder to control how much you're adding." –Curtis Stone, chef, author, and host of Top Chef Masters

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Turn Up the Heat on Veggies

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"To get the most flavor out of your vegetables, cut them, toss with oil and herbs of your choice, then spread into a single layer on a baking pan and roast at 425 degrees. This cooks them quickly, intensifying their flavor and helping them keep their texture with minimal added fat. Best of all, the high heat creates tasty, crunchy toasted edges." –James Briscione, director of culinary development at the Institute of Culinary Education

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Veganize Baked Goods

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"Vegan baking is a fun way to experiment and create treats with less saturated fat and fewer calories since no eggs, butter, or milk is used. For each egg, mix 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds in 3 tablespoons water and let sit 5 minutes to thicken. The flaxseeds have half the calories and almost no saturated fat. Another baking tip used by vegans and non-vegans alike is to let unsweetened applesauce stand in for up to 1/2 cup oil. Doing so eliminates 900 calories!" –Natalie Barbarese, personal chef and recipe tester

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Swap in a New Syrup

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"My go-to flavor enhancer is store-bought balsamic syrup. Not just balsamic vinegar, but the syrup, which is thick and sweet, and adds instant flavor to foods well beyond salads. You can use it as a dressing (and forgo adding oil to your salads to save calories), drizzle it on grilled chicken or salmon and skip the rich sauces, or toss with vegetables then roast for vegetables that taste like candy." –Robyn Webb, award-winning cookbook author, nutritionist, culinary instructor

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Curb Carbs

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"Lighten pasta dishes and grain salads and boost the nutritional content by loading them up with veggies. Replace half the noodles in hot pasta recipes with lightly sauteed julienne vegetables like peppers, snow peas, and mushrooms. For cold pasta, quinoa, and other salads, use a one-to-one ratio of grains to add-ins such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, feta, olives, and herbs." –Olga Berman creator and publisher of Mango & Tomato

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Even the Score

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"Make vinaigrettes with an oil-to-vinegar ratio of one-to-one rather than the traditional three-to-one ratio. For example an appetizer salad (about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of raw veggies) would likely use 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette. A vinaigrette using equal parts oil and vinegar would have about 120 calories, while the more traditional three-parts oil to one-part vinegar version would have about 180 calories." –Natalia Hancock, R.D., senior culinary nutritionist at SPE Certified

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