Shape Up With Mushroom "Swapability"
March is National Nutrition Month, the perfect time to "get your plate in shape" with mushrooms. Elizabeth Ward, registered dietitian, mother of three and author of MyPlate for Moms: How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better, uses a combination of mushrooms and meat in her recipes to bring another serving of vegetables to the plate, add volume to meals and extend portions.
"Replacing some of the ground beef or turkey, or other meat, with mushrooms is an easy technique that I use to reduce calories and fat without compromising on flavor," says Ward. This simple three-step "swapability" strategy – which is perfect for family favorites like lasagna, burgers, tacos or chili – plays on mushrooms' compatibility with meat in terms of taste and texture.
1. Chop up your favorite mushroom variety to match the consistency of the ground beef or turkey;
2. Cook and season mushrooms the same way you would meat;
3. Combine the cooked meat and mushrooms and use the mix to complete your recipe.
Mushrooms bring more to meals for less
Increasing the intake of lower calorie foods, specifically mushrooms, in place of those higher in calories, like ground beef, can be an effective method for reducing calories and fat while still feeling full and satisfied after a meal. Plus, a serving of mushrooms delivers vitamin D, potassium (8 percent), B vitamins, and important antioxidants like selenium and ergothionene. These antioxidants help maintain a healthy immune system.
The mushroom and meat "swapability" approach is an economical way to make family meals more nutritious. "I buy a couple packages of mushrooms at a time and use them in meals all week long," says Ward. "Saute a big batch of mushrooms ahead of time and add them to your go-to recipes day by day." This method may also help offset anticipated rises in meat prices, Ward says. Adding mushrooms to dishes increases recipe yield, as demonstrated in the Almost Lasagna recipe found below.
Try mushroom "swapability" yourself with Elizabeth Ward's five tips for five days' worth of healthy eating:
1. Go halfsies: Up the moisture, flavor and veggies in home-cooked burgers by building a patty that is 50 percent mushrooms and 50 percent meat.
2. Stealth health: Add diced mushrooms to family pasta night – they blend perfectly into sauces and lasagna – bringing a hidden serving of vegetables and more nutrients to the plate.
3. Top it off: Mushrooms add umami-rich flavor to the foods you love, like this meaty, mushroom pizza.
4. Stretch portions: Include equal parts mushrooms and meat, like in this hearty chocolate chili, to double the volume without adding significant calories, fat, cholesterol or sodium.
5. Celebrate Mushroom Monday: Kick off the week by adding more mushrooms to your plate.
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* 1 pound long fusilli pasta or linguine
* 8 ounces white button mushrooms
* 8 ounces cremini mushrooms
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 small carrot, diced
* 1 small sweet onion, diced
* 2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
* 8 ounces 93 percent lean ground beef
* 1 28-ounce can no-salt-added crushed tomatoes, drained
* 1 cup low-sodium beef broth
* 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
* 1/2 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
* 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, or 2 teaspoons dried parsley
* 2 tablespoons trans-fat free margarine
* freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the pasta, and cook according to package directions.
2. Chop mushrooms into 1/4-inch pieces. Reserve.
3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, carrot, onion, and garlic. Saute until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and reserve.
4. Place ground beef in pan and cook over medium-high heat, breaking meat into very small bits. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
5. Add the vegetable mixture to the beef in the skillet. Stir in the tomatoes, broth, and basil; simmer for five minutes.
6. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese and parsley. Toss hot pasta with the margarine and return to skillet. Mix with meat sauce. To serve, scoop equal amounts of the ricotta into shallow bowls, top with pasta/sauce mixture.
Options: Substitute firm tofu or 100 percent ground turkey breast meat for ground beef.