Photo of colorful fruits and vegetables

Fun Family Recipes & Tips

Food doesn’t have to be high in fat to be interesting and delicious. Get the whole family to help slice, dice, and learn how to put fat and calories on the kitchen chopping block. You’d be surprised how easy heart healthy cooking and snacking can be.

Scroll down this page to learn how you can make healthy snacks for children; to learn how to substitute lower-fat and lower-calorie foods; and for links to nutritious recipes for kids that can help make your meals healthy but still tasty.

Healthy Family Snacks

  • Put sliced apples, berries, or whole-grain cereal on top of low-fat plain yogurt
  • Put a slice of low-fat or fat-free cheese on whole-grain crackers
  • Make a whole-wheat pita pocket with hummus, lettuce, tomato, and cucumber
  • Pop some low-fat popcorn
  • Microwave or toast a soft tortilla with low-fat cheese, sliced peppers, and mushrooms to make a mini-burrito or quesadilla
  • Blend low-fat milk with a banana or strawberries and some ice for a smoothie

Heart Healthy Cooking Tips

  • Cook with low-fat methods such as baking, broiling, boiling, or microwaving rather than frying
  • Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products, salad dressings, mayonnaise, and other condiments
  • Serve fruit, instead of cookies or ice cream, for dessert
  • Add salsa to baked potatoes, instead of butter or sour cream
  • Eat fruits canned in their own juice instead of syrup
  • Remove skin from poultry and discard before cooking
  • Cool soups and gravies and skim off fat before reheating to serve
  • Use the microwave because it's fast and adds no fat or calories

Healthy Baking and Cooking Substitutions

Healthy Baking and Cooking Substitutions
Instead of: Substitute:
1 cup cream 1 cup evaporated fat-free milk
1 cup butter, margarine, or oil 1/2 cup apple butter or applesauce
1 egg 2 egg whites or 1/4 cup egg substitute
Pastry dough Graham cracker crumb crust
Butter, margarine, or vegetable oil for sautéing Cooking spray, chicken broth, or a small amount of olive oil
Bacon Lean turkey bacon
Ground beef Extra lean ground beef or ground turkey breast
Sour cream Fat-free sour cream
1 cup chocolate chips 1/4 - 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup sugar 3/4 cup sugar (this works with nearly everything except yeast breads)
1 cup mayonnaise 1 cup reduced-fat or fat-free mayonnaise
1 cup whole milk 1 cup fat-free milk
1 cup cream cheese 1/2 cup ricotta cheese pureed with 1/2 cup fat-free cream cheese
Oil and vinegar dressing with 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar 1 part olive oil + 1 part vinegar (preferably a flavored vinegar, such as balsamic) + 1 part orange juice
Unsweetened baking chocolate (1 ounce) 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder + 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or margarine

NOTE: Substitute the ingredients in YOUR own favorite recipes to lower the amounts of fat, added sugar, and calories.

Starter Recipe

To get you started, here’s a lasagna recipe to try. Enjoy this nutritious recipe at home with your family. Ask your kids to help!

Lasagna Recipe with Healthy Ingredient Substitutions
Ingredients: Substitutions:
1 box lasagna noodles None
1 pound ground beef 1 pound extra lean ground beef (93 percent lean) or lean ground turkey
1/2 cup chopped onion None
8 ounces mushrooms, optional None
1 jar (about 16 ounces) spaghetti sauce, your favorite 1 jar spaghetti sauce, low fat or no sugar added
1 teaspoon garlic powder None
1/2 teaspoon salt None
1 teaspoon dried leaf oregano, crumbled None
1/2 teaspoon dried leaf basil, crumbled None
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese 1 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese 2 cups reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 3/4 cup reduced-fat Parmesan cheese

Lasagna Cooking Instructions:

Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions; drain and set aside. In a large skillet, brown beef, onion, and mushrooms. Stir in spaghetti sauce, garlic powder, salt, oregano, and basil. In a 2-quart buttered baking dish (about 11x7x2 inches), layer 1/3 of the ricotta cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, and Parmesan cheeses. Repeat layers twice. Bake lasagna for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated and bubbly. Let stand for 8 to 10 minutes before cutting and serving. Serves 6 to 8.

Notes: Don't forget to drain the fat from the meat after you brown it. Use cooking spray instead of butter to grease the dish.

More Fun and Nutritious Recipes for Kids and Families

The NHLBI and the NIH offer many useful recipe collections, full of great ideas for you and your family. Links to several individual recipe books are provided below.


We’ve also offered some more sample recipes to get you started.  Happy cooking!

Main Dishes

Side Dishes


Last Updated: May 8, 2012

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