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No need to give up what you like to eat, just change your recipes. Cutting 300-500 calories per day without changing your exercise program could produce a weight loss of up to 1 pound per week.

To reduce the amount of calories in a recipe, it will take some cleaver maneuvering. The first approach is to change the cooking method. Sautéing in oil and deep fat frying adds an abundant amount of calories. 1 tablespoon of any oil has 14 grams of fat that adds up to about 120 calories. Consequently, taking out the oil in cooking will bring down the calories. Sautéing without oil requires gentle cooking, reduced heat and hydration with a liquid. Cooking with water especially adding 1 tablespoon of frozen apple juice concentrate will produce great browning of foods. Steaming, poaching and baking are other techniques to cook without oil. Another option is to use reduced fat alternative butters and oil substitutes.

Reducing the fat in dairy products is an easy method of taking out the calories in food. For cream sauces, use evaporated fat free milk in place of cream or half&half. Most eggs in a recipe can be changed using a fat free egg substitute (50 calories removed per egg) or if the recipe calls for two eggs, substitute two egg whites with one egg….45 calories taken away from just removing one egg yolk.

Sugar is another sources of calories. The first trick is to crank down your tastes for sweets. Be sure to read ingredient labels for hidden sugar….honey, molasses, fruit juice concentrates, corn syrup solids, raw sugar, dextrose, glucose, fructose and cane crystals. All of these are just sugar. Sugar substitutes include aspartame, saccharine, sucralose and stevia. Sugar can be reduced in most recipes, but watch out for the need of caramelizing. Sugar substitutes cannot be caramelized. Brown sugar is a classic example. Completely adding a sugar substitute for brown sugar in a chocolate chip cookie will create a disaster.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich Revisited

The PB&J is an American icon. Surprisingly, the usual peanut butter and jelly sandwich has approximately 375-450 calories.


However, there are a few variables including the type of bread and thickness, each slice averaging 70 to 120 calories. The peanut butter amount is usually 2 tablespoons. Purchasing reduced fat peanut butter or full fat does not make much difference in calories as the reduced fat has more added carbohydrates and salt. Two tablespoons contain as many as 200 calories.


The jam can vary from 50 to 75 calories per tablespoon depending upon manufacturer and whether it is a spread, jam or a jelly.


So how is it possible to take down the calories without losing taste?  Believe or not, the following changes will reduce calories by 40%.


Standard PB&J recipe for 2 sandwiches:

4 slices bread (most kids prefer white bread)

4T peanut butter

2T strawberry jam


Make over recipe for 2 sandwiches:

4 slices whole grain bread, thin sliced, crusts removed

1 ripened banana

3T PB2 (defatted peanut butter powder found in Whole Foods)

4 fresh strawberries stemmed & sliced

In a small food processor, combine the peeled banana with 3T of the PB2 powder. Blend until smooth. Place 2T on each of 2 slices of bread. Add the fresh strawberry slices. Cover with the other slices of bread. Trim away crusts. Slice in half. Enjoy.

The secret: Removing the crusts, trims away approximately 40% of “bread calories” by weight for each sandwich. Substituting the “banana-peanut butter” subtracts 14 grams of fat in each sandwich and taking out the jam by replacing with fresh strawberries, removes 40 calories.

Comparison of nutritional analysis for both sandwiches:

Standard PB&J per sandwich

Nutrition Facts: Calories: 380, Total Fat: 17 g, Saturated Fat: 3.5 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol, 0 mg, Sodium: 420 mg, Carbohydrate: 45 g, Fiber: 7 g, Sugar: 15 g, Protein: 14 g

Diabetic Exchanges: 2 Starch, 1 Fruit, 1 High Fat Protein, 1 Fat


Make over PB&J per sandwich

Nutrition Facts: Calories: 180, Total Fat: 2.5, Saturated Fat: 0 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 220 mg, Carbohydrate: 34 g, Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 11 g, Protein: 9 g

Diabetic Exchanges: 2 Starch, ½ Very Lean Protein

Here are a few good references for how to take down the calories in food: magazines such as Cooking Light and Clean Eating. Cooking techniques can be found in Cook’s Illustrated and The Food Network magazine. I would also recommend the Food Substitutions Bible by David Joachim, 2nd Edition.

The guide to calorie substitution requires careful thinking…look for options and watch portion size. Always try to cook fresh and seasonally. Shop for alternatives and avoid making too many changes in a recipe.