Former BBC Good Food magazine editor’s tasty dishes that are light on calories

Angela Nilsen. Picture: PA Photo/Handout.
Angela Nilsen. Picture: PA Photo/Handout.

Watching your weight, but don’t want to survive on rabbit food? Fear not - food writer Angela Nilsen has given classic recipes a low-calorie twist.

If you find sticking to a healthy eating regime too much of a struggle, because you simply can’t give up your favourite foods, Angela Nilsen’s new book could be just the ticket.

The former food editor of BBC Good Food magazine has taken traditionally calorie-packed meals and treats, including a full English breakfast, pasta dishes, curries, cakes and desserts, and recreated recipes for them with less sugar, fat and salt - but the same deliciousness, she promises.

Make It Lighter also features ‘slimmed down’ versions of fish, chips and mushy peas (classic version, 915 calories; lighter version, 649), Thai green curry (classic version, 817 calories; lighter version, 487) and even chocolate brownies - which Nilsen’s managed to make possible at a less-than-naughty 191 calories, compared to the typical 314 in a regular brownie.

“They are all classics, the kind of food you love to eat but might feel a bit guilty about,” she says, describing the recipes in the book.

“My challenge was to find ways of maintaining the desired taste while creating a much lighter version - recipes with less fat, sugar or salt, the very ingredients that make them so popular in the first place.”

Nilsen admits the task wasn’t always easy, as she refused to compromise on the irresistibly rich taste of well-loved treats, and wanted to avoid using low-fat alternative ingredients, as she felt the full-fat versions added to the taste.

But, she says: “Where I have occasionally used them, I’ve worked out lower fat ways of increasing richness and flavour.”

She insists these aren’t ‘diet’ recipes - just ways of enabling people to eat the food they enjoy, but in a lighter, healthier way.

“They are recipes you can enjoy with your family and friends without the guilt.”

Her personal favourites include the lemon tart and the chocolate brownies: “I like them for the surprise element, as the secret ingredient I used to keep fat down but gooeyness intact was mayonnaise, which fooled everyone.”

Nilsen also singles out her lighter hummus recipe, in which she uses a whole bulb of roasted garlic after it was recommended to her by a friend in Canada.

“I tried it and was amazed how well it worked,” she says. “The roasted garlic didn’t overpower and it gave the hummus its creamy texture, which didn’t require as much oil.

“It’s these kinds of struggles and unforeseen twists that have made all the recipes in the book an exciting journey to take.”

Each recipe comes with tips to help you cook more healthily, such as brushing vegetables with a little oil then roasting or cooking them on a griddle, instead of frying. Nilsen says her personal guidelines for eating healthily are simply to eat a balanced diet that includes a little of every food group, and to eat in moderation, rather than to excess.