Guest Post: The Lazy Low Cal Lifestyle Way to Revamp Your Recipes

by Becky Clark

My kids put me on journeys I never imagined for myself, but probably not in the way you're thinking. I mean, all parents end up at the waterpark  the emergency room, and Disneyland eventually, but this is different.

When my older son was about 8, he and I went in search of some historical fiction for boys because, let's face it, reading his sister's American Girl books was not cutting the macho mustard for him. When we couldn't find any that he hadn't read, he threw the fiction gauntlet at my feet. Mom, why don't you just write one? Thus was born my first book.

As adults (if that's what we’re calling 18-year-old boys these days), both my sons joined the Navy, shoving this knows-nothing-about-the-military Mom straight into the arms of Uncle Sam. One of them is getting out soon, but the other is deploying again, at which time I'm thrust into the role of adoptive grandmother. Lucky for me it's just for his dog. But still.

Both of them were matter-of-fact about their requests: Mom, will you go talk to the recruiter with me? … Mom, will you take care of Nala for a while?

When my daughter was in her first apartment in college, her request was just a simple: Mom, will you send me the recipes you used to make when we were kids?  

Out loud, I said, “Of course, darling!” but in my head I was thinking, “Score! That will make a cute little Christmas present for Her Hard to Shop For-ness!

Little did I know the result of her simple request would be an entirely new business venture and writing genre for me. When I started compiling recipes for her, I was horrified at how unhealthy those family dinners had been. Yes, we had fun, but geez-o-pete … a jury of my peers just might convict me of trying to kill them with butter and cheese.

So I healthed 'em up. While I was revamping our recipes, hubs and I had lost some weight — not much, 10 pounds or so, but enough to notice. People started asking what I was doing differently and thus was born my Lazy Low Cal Lifestyle cookbooks and blog.

One of the things I get asked a lot — a LOT — is how I create recipes. It's not rocket surgery, but it can be a daunting task. Especially for those of us who have long ago embraced the lazy.

So, here are some tips to revamp your recipes, if you're so inclined. And if you're lazy — like me — and NOT so inclined, here’s the link to buy my cookbooks where I've done all the work for you. I have a sale going on all the digital versions, but the brand-spankin-new print version includes ALL my recipes. (And were you aware your bookshelf has confessed to having a little crush on my cookbook? Just thought you should know.)

The first thing I do with a recipe is look at the ingredient list. If I can't picture the location of each ingredient in my pantry or grocery store, I decide how necessary each one is. If they seem like integral parts of the recipe but I've never heard of them, I wad that recipe up and toss it. Life's too short to search for ingredients or special utensils. (I have made the exception for doughnut pans. I'm not a complete idiot.) If it seems like I can substitute ingredients (or better yet, leave them out), then I continue.

Next I look at what I know to be high calorie or unhealthy ingredients. Can I substitute half the oil for applesauce? Remove half — or all — of the meat? Use almond milk instead of heavy cream? Sauté with water or broth instead of oil? Even though Grandma would certainly answer with an emphatic no, can I get rid of the potato chips crumbled on top of the casserole?

Then I see what healthy ingredients I can use more of. Can I double the vegetables? Add more fish? Throw in a little flaxseed or wheat germ?

This not only ‘healths it up’ but it also increases the volume of food in the recipe, which does two important things. One, it lowers the overall calorie count by increasing the servings. Two, it means I'll have leftovers so I won't have to cook so often. Yes, I really am that lazy. I prefer to think of it as efficient, though.

So then I actually have to cook it. Most main dishes and sides only take one try, but baking is more science than art so changing ingredients causes more angst as well as a few more tries. But when there’s chocolate involved, I'll take one for the team! (Ironic side note here, when I'm in cookbook-mode and making lots of new low-calorie recipes, I actually gain weight. So not fair.)

And the last step is to measure the total number of appropriate-sized servings. You may need to change your thinking about serving sizes. I know I did. Now I cut my squares smaller, use muffin tins and other single-serving choices, eat half as much as I used to. If I'm truly still hungry 30 minutes later, I'll have some more. You know the drill.

And the LAST last step — should you choose to accept this mission — is to do the math and figure out the exact calories in the recipe. It requires precision and a calculator, but I have faith in you. Divide total calories in the recipe by the number of servings and you have calories per serving. If a main dish is over 400 calories per serving, I make the servings smaller, or I try it again with more substitutions or whatever. Or I'm forced to give up on it.

I can offer you a bit of help, however. When you join my mailing list at LazyLowCalLifestyle.com, you get some freebies, one of which is my Alphabetical List of Foods and Their Calories, a helpful resource I've compiled over the years. I use it all the time and I bet you will too.

So, that's my story and a bit of how and why I do what I do.

I hope you find success and joy on whatever journey you’re on, whether your kids nudged you to the path, whether someone dragged you kicking and screaming to it, whether you stumbled on it yourself, or whether you hacked your way through the brambles searching for it despite the dangers of dragons, evil witches, and fierce beasts. You're on it now … isn't the view lovely?

Happy cooking!

Becky Clark is the author, blogger, and cook behind LazyLowCalLifestyle.com. Enjoy more of her humor and low-calorie recipes in her cookbooks or on her website. If you have questions for Becky, please leave a comment and she will get back to you right here!

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