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By Sharon Liao
Just because they can whip up a mean lobster mac and cheese doesn't mean top chefs drown everything in butter. We got the skinny on the surprising ingredients they use to make good-for-you food taste anything but.
Related: Pantry Raid! 11 Healthy Food Swaps
"Although it's low-fat, silken tofu has a rich texture. I blend it with Dijon mustard, lemon juice, capers, shallots, and Worcestershire sauce for a creamy salad dressing. Bonus: One cup of tofu contains 11 grams of protein and almost 20 percent of the calcium you need daily."
-- Cheryl Forberg, RD, the nutritionist for The Biggest Loser and author of Flavor First
"This whole grain has a hearty bite and six grams of protein per cup, so it works well as a vegetarian replacement for ground beef in chili, stew, and lasagna. And preparing it is so easy: Just add hot water, cover, and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes."
-- Mollie Katzen, the author of The New Moosewood Cookbook and The Heart of the Plate
"To add flavor -- and vitamin C -- but no fat or sodium, I mix OJ into butternut squash soup and whipped sweet potatoes. I also poach fish in the juice, then add a few garlic cloves and peppercorns and reduce the liquid to make a delicious sauce."
-- Claire Robinson, the host of the Food Network's 5 Ingredient Fix and Food Network Challenge
"I char a whole one directly over a high gas flame or in a grill pan, turning it every few minutes. Then I scrape out the flesh and combine it with an egg white and lean ground turkey to make moist, mama-approved meatballs."
-- Rocco DiSpirito, the author of Now Eat This! Italian, the host of Now Eat This! Italy and a FITNESS advisory board member
"Most chocolate sauces are made with cream or butter. For a fat-free version, I whisk five tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder with a half-cup of agave syrup. You can also mix this combination with nut butter to make a spread that tastes like Nutella but has about one-third the sugar and no palm oil, which is high in saturated fat."
-- Devin Alexander, the chef for The Biggest Loser and author of The Biggest Loser Dessert Cookbook
"I spread a thin layer of Dijon on seared lamb before I put it in the oven to roast. It infuses the meat with flavor and creates a perfectly crisp crust, no oil necessary. I also coat asparagus spears with Dijon before grilling them and add a dollop to sauteed greens and pan-seared brussels sprouts."
-- Marc Murphy, a judge on the Food Network's Chopped and the chef-owner of Benchmarc Restaurants and Events in New York City
"For fluffy whipped cream with half the calories, refrigerate a can of coconut milk, scrape the solids off the top, and beat them in a chilled bowl with one-third cup of powdered sugar. Use the leftover coconut water, which contains the electrolyte potassium, in smoothies."
-- Chloe Coscarelli, the author of Chloe's Vegan Desserts
"To lighten up vinaigrettes, I substitute half the oil with chicken or vegetable stock. One of my favorite combos: fresh basil, shallots, and vinegar pureed in a food processor with a half-and-half mixture of oil and stock. I freeze any leftover stock in an ice-cube tray and pop out a cube, which equals about two tablespoons, as needed."
-- Robin Miller, the author of The Robin Takes 5 Cookbook for Busy Families and host of the Food Network's Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller
"I drain and puree the oil-packed kind with low-fat ricotta cheese for a creamy dip that delivers a dose of lycopene, a heart-healthy antioxidant. Then I use the leftover oil to saute vegetables; it punches up the flavor and costs less than infused oils."
-- Robin Miller
Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
"For an easy, healthy take on danishes, cut the dough into squares and spoon fruit onto the center. Then brush the edges with light butter, sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar, and bake according to the package directions until golden brown."
-- Devin Alexander
Chopped Onions, Celery, and Carrots
"Pulse this classic veggie mixture, which you can often find already diced at the grocery store, in a food processor until it reaches the consistency of ground meat. Then mix it with an equal amount of lean ground turkey or beef to make burger patties. Because the veggies are made up mostly of water, your burgers will be extra juicy."
-- Anthony Stewart, the executive chef at the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Miami
"These are a great replacement for heavy cream in chowders and sauces. Just soak two cups of raw cashews in water in the fridge overnight. In the morning, drain and blend them with a little fresh water, then strain the protein-packed puree through a fine-mesh sieve."
-- Tal Ronnen, the chef-owner of Crossroads in Los Angeles and author of The Conscious Cook
"Try adding a few tablespoons of fiber-rich oats to your next smoothie for a thicker, creamier consistency. Or mix them with equal parts water and apple juice until just moist, spread on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake at 350° until crisp for a low-sugar, low-fat alternative to granola."
-- Anthony Stewart
"This whole grain cooks up into a polenta-like porridge you can chill, cube, and panfry, then serve as a side dish. You can pop it too: Simply stir the grains over medium heat in a large pot for two to three minutes, then use them as a salad topper. With seven grams of fiber and eight grams of protein per quarter cup, they're a lot healthier than croutons."
-- Sarah House, a recipe specialist for Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods
"Most hummus recipes call for two tablespoons of tahini, but I swap in a half cup of nonfat Greek yogurt for a rich-tasting dip with 16 fewer grams of fat. You can also make mac and cheese with it in place of flour, butter, and milk. Just remember to take the pasta off the burner before folding in the yogurt, because heat can cause it to separate."
-- Bobby Flay, the host of the Food Network's Bobby Flay Fit
"This sauce is packed with healthy fats, so I use it in pasta and potato salads in place of mayo. I also toss steamed or grilled veggies with pesto instead of butter. To make it, puree one-quarter cup of toasted pine nuts, one garlic clove, three cups of basil, one-quarter cup of grated Parmesan, one tablespoon of lemon juice, and one-quarter cup of olive oil in a food processor."
-- Ellie Krieger, RD, the author of Small Changes, Big Results and host of the Food Network's Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger
Puffed Brown Rice
"Instead of bread crumbs, I crush this cereal and use it in my meat loaf and burger patties. It has less than 30 calories per quarter-cup serving compared with more than 100 in the same amount of bread crumbs."
-- Rocco DiSpirito
"I sprinkle chopped cilantro, which has just one calorie per quarter cup, over stir-fries and mix it into plain brown rice with a little freshly squeezed lime juice. If you rinse it, wrap it in paper towels and pop it in a plastic bag as soon as you get home from the market, it can last up to 10 days in the fridge."
-- Katie Lee, the author of The Comfort Table