What good is choosing healthy foods if the way you prepare them is unhealthy? Veggies lose all health benefits when battered and deep fried versus sauteed with olive oil and seasonings. Home cooking is great but if you’re frying or slathering your food with butter during preparation, you’re doing yourself and your diet a disservice.

Break the rules

Who says you have to follow a recipe to the tee? Rebel a little – change your recipes. Before you begin cooking, review the recipe to find ways to eliminate unnecessary calories. Find better substitutes for common culprits like excess cheese, butter, oils and sugar.

10 ways to tweak your recipes to fit your desired waistline

Saute the skinny way! Try using 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable broth (preferably low sodium) instead of oil or butter in your stir fry or as the basis for a sauce. You’ll get a nice flavor and save on some calories as well. You can still use olive oil as a base for your salad dressing in order to get a healthy dose of unsaturated fats.

Remove the skin. A serving size of chicken breast is 3 oz. Without the skin, that’s only 100 calories, but the skin adds 33% more – an extra 50 calories per serving. A great trick is to cook with the skin on to retain moisture but be sure to remove the skin before you enjoy your meal to save on calories.

Lemon and lime time. Adding a little citrus to any food is a simple, yet flavorful way to liven up your meal. Believe it or not, using lemon on fruit salad adds a nice touch to the natural flavors of the fruit. Experiment adding a squeeze of citrus to your other favorite foods. Wash a lemon, orange or lime, then use a grater to add the zest to dishes such as baked seafood, veggies or steak.

Cheese please. Yum… cheese – feels like you can’t get enough, right? Though cheese carries a lot of nutrients, it also comes with a lot of calories. Stay away from mild cheeses as they tend to be underwhelming. In order to add some flavor to your dish with just a little bit of cheese, try one that is decidedly strong. You’ll be able to use less of it and save on calories. A few good ones to try are reduced-sodium feta, sharp Cheddar or aged Parmesan. Light cheese wedges such as The Laughing Cow brand are useful when you’re watching fat and calories, too. Mix a soft cheese like that into your scrambled eggs and notice the difference in taste…while saving on calories.

Go Greek. Substitute the sour cream in your recipes with Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt works great in dips. You’ll save 45 calories for each 2-tablespoon serving.

Puree your veggies. Add substance to soups and sauces with pureed vegetables instead of heavy cream, evaporated milk, butter or cheese. This adds fiber and reduces calories. A puree of carrots will add texture to meatless spaghetti sauce. Also, mixing a blend of beans as a base for chili or soup will add flavor and thicken it; and it will save your calories too.

Get cozy with cottage cheese. When a recipe calls for a great amount of a crumbled cheese, such as feta or ricotta, substitute half the amount with reduced-fat cottage cheese. You’ll get all the taste, texture, protein and calcium while removing some of the fat and calories.

Load up on veggies! The great thing about cooking at home is that you can easily get your daily recommended servings of veggies. Veggies can compliment any dish you choose to make and add little in the way of calories. Try adding chopped asparagus and mushrooms to your next omelet, red peppers to baked dishes or spinach to your lasagna. The possibilities for adding veggies are endless for almost any dish!

Curb the cream. Even for cream-based soups, you can substitute fat-free half-and-half instead of heavy cream. It’s the same taste with half the fat and calories. This works great in pasta sauces as well.

Home-made marinade. Add tons of flavor to lean meats by making your own marinade. Try citrus and vinegar combinations. Just add a little bit of oil to it. Add your favorite spices and herbs. The marinade will still tenderize and flavor the meat, and a mix of herbs and spices will really jazz up the flavor! You’ll save calories and preservatives found in the store bought varieties. For the marinade to really work it’s magic, cut the meat in strips before marinading it.

As you can see, recipes are made to be altered. Get creative and experiment in the kitchen. You may just find that your additions are as good, or better than the suggested recipe.