Try these tips to reduce the fat, calories and salt in your favorite recipes.

Can you call your grandmother’s beloved bread pudding a healthy recipe? Scrumptious as it may be, it probably isn’t what you’d call healthy. Don’t despair. With some simple changes, you can enjoy that bread pudding without guilt.

Try the following techniques for transforming unhealthy recipes into healthy ones — without losing out on taste. Once you’ve mastered these tips, get creative and experiment with other ways of creating healthy recipes.

1. Reduce the amount of fat, sugar and salt

You often can reduce the amount of fat, sugar and salt without sacrificing flavor in healthy recipes. Use these general guidelines:

2. Make a healthy substitution

Healthy substitutions not only reduce the amount of fat, calories and salt in your recipes but also can boost the nutritional content.

3. Eliminate or cut back on some ingredients

In some recipes, you can eliminate an ingredient altogether or scale back the amount you use.

4. Change cooking and prep techniques

Healthy cooking techniques can capture the flavor and nutrients of your food without adding excessive amounts of fat, oil or salt. Try these preparation techniques for healthy recipes.

5. Downsize portion size

No matter how much you reduce, switch or omit ingredients, some dishes may still be high in sugar, fat or salt. You can still enjoy them — in small amounts.

Putting it all together to create healthy recipes

Before plunging ahead with a recipe, look it over and think about what you can change to turn it into a healthy recipe. Make notes of any alterations so that you can refer to them the next time you prepare the recipe. You may have to make the recipe a few times before you get the results you want. But finding the right combination of ingredients — for the desired taste, consistency and nutrients — is well worth the trouble.

Take morning glory muffins from unhealthy to healthy

This muffin recipe shows a before-and-after ingredient list. As you can see, making a few small changes can make a big difference in the amount of fat, calories and salt in a serving.

By making the following changes to the recipe, you save about 120 calories, 9 grams of fat, 31 milligrams of cholesterol, 63 milligrams of sodium and 8 grams of added sugar in each muffin.

Recipe makeover: Morning glory muffins
Original ingredients Healthier options Comments
2 cups all-purpose flour 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole-wheat flour To increase fiber, replace half of the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat flour.
1 1/2 cups sugar 3/4 cup sugar To reduce calories and sugar, cut the sugar in half.
2 teaspoons baking soda 2 teaspoons baking soda Don’t reduce the baking soda or the muffins may be too flat or dense.
1 teaspoon cinnamon 2 teaspoons cinnamon To enhance perception of sweetness, double the cinnamon.
1/2 teaspoon salt Omit Salt isn’t needed. Baking soda contains sodium and provides leavening.
3 large eggs 3/4 cup egg substitute To reduce saturated fat and cholesterol, replace each egg with 1/4 cup egg substitute.
1 cup vegetable oil 1/2 cup vegetable oil and 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce To reduce fat, cut the oil in half and make up the difference with unsweetened applesauce to help retain moisture.
1/2 cup sweetened coconut Omit To reduce saturated fat, sugar and calories, leave out the coconut.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 teaspoons vanilla extract To enhance perception of sweetness, double the vanilla.
2 cups peeled and chopped apple 2 cups chopped apple (unpeeled) To increase fiber, leave the skin on the apple.
1/2 cup raisins 1/2 cup raisins Don’t increase the amount of raisins. Raisins have a lot of calories in just a small portion.
1/2 cup grated carrots 3/4 cup grated carrots To increase vitamin A and fiber, add another 1/4 cup of grated carrots. Also helps replace volume lost by omitting the coconut.
1/2 cup chopped pecans 2 tablespoons chopped pecans To reduce fat and calories, cut back on the pecans.
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  2. Kitchen nutrition: Cooking matters. In: Duyff RL. American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. 4th ed. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons; 2012.
  3. Preparing healthful meals. In: Encyclopedia of Foods: A Guide to Healthy Nutrition. San Diego, Calif.: Academic Press; 2002.
  4. Nelson JK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 30, 2016.
  5. Morning glory muffins. MayoClinic.com. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/recipes/morning-glory-muffins/rcp-20049683. Accessed June 30, 2016.
  6. Making meals easy. In: Hensrud DD, et al. The Mayo Clinic Diet. Boston, Mass.: Da Capo Lifelong Books; 2013.

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