Yum-O! 5 Tips to Make Any Rachael Ray Recipe Healthier

rachael-ray-cookbookI had a thing for Rachael Ray back in the day. When she first came on the Food Network she was fun, entertaining and very personable. She seemed, and still seems today, like someone you could sit down and have a fabulous meal with. Episode after episode, she’d show me how to make restaurant-quality “healthful” dishes in 30 minutes or less. After watching her cooking show for about a year, I purchased one of her cookbooks and made a few of the recipes. To quote dear Rach, they were “yum-o!”

Then I became curious. Exactly how many calories were in that seemingly healthy Rachael Ray recipe for Indian Tofu and Spinach over Almond Rice (Rachael Ray: 365: No Repeats, page 156) that I’d made five or six times? After doing the math, I calculated that there were, in fact, more than 1,000 calories in each serving.

Holy flippin’ tofu spinach! Betrayed, I closed my cookbook.

Until now. After some time away from RR (which has been pretty darn tricky with her magazine and talk show everywhere), I’ve decided to give her another go. And, I’ve found that you can easily adapt any recipe that Rach can throw at you—no matter how fried, EVOOed or cheesy it is.

5 Tips to Make Any Rachael Ray Recipe Healthy

1. Don’t follow the serving size. Most of RR’s recipes claim that they serve four, but the portions are beyond enormous, so feel free to cut the recipes in half or be prepared to feed an army. At one point, I made her salsa stoup (Rachael Ray: 365: No Repeats, page 22), and after four days of eating it for lunch and dinner, I still had some left. I still don’t want to eat that damn soup again.

2. Share the love. Invite over a few friends or your local Little League team after a tourney and give them some good old-fashioned 30-minute meal cooking. Erin and I have been known to split a healthy Rachael Ray recipe or two, so that we can actually enjoy it, not force it down on day five so that we don’t feel guilt about starving children in third-world countries.

3. Make the usual subs. This is a no-brainer. When you see full-fat anything, sub in the low-fat or non-fat version. Also switch out any red meat for lean ground turkey, chicken, fish or tofu when you can. Your fit bottom will thank you.

4. Half it your way. RR is very generous with the following ingredients: olive oil, cheese, nuts and bacon. In most instances you can reduce the amount of these goodies by at least one-third if not a full half.

5. Add the good stuff. Ms. Ray is pretty good about using fruits and veggies in her dishes, but you can never have too many. Get creative and add your favorite produce. Veggies=yum-o for real-o!

After implementing these tips, I was able to get my Indian Tofu and Spinach over Almond Rice down to 400 calories a dish. And, Mr. Fit Bottomed Girl didn’t even notice. Ha!

How have you made Rachael Ray’s recipes more health conscious? Tell us in the comments, yo! —Jenn


Originally published August 13, 2008.

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  1. carla says:

    Ooooh thanks for this.
    Never seen her show.
    Read her mag.
    Opened a book of hers.

    Now I just might….


  2. The Dieting Ninja says:

    Ha! awesome!

    My mom brought over a recipe from RR, and a magazine, and I was flipping through it, mentally thinking “Wow, this doesn’t really seem all that healthy…”

    Also, I’m totally with you on the portion sizes. I made the New Fangled Farm Fry from the 15-Minute-Low-Carb Cookbook. It said it made 2 servings. I got FIVE servings out of it. *shakes head*

  3. Irene says:

    I like her recipes, but I have always made my own, healthier versions.

    Same for Paula Deen. Sheesh, that doesn’t make anything that doesn’t include a pound of butter. Yikes!

  4. Jenn says:

    I’ve definitely watched RR and thought to myself, “Wow, that’s definitely an unnecessary amount of the EVOO, Rach.” I’ve never actually made one of her recipes, but I really appreciate the tips because some of them really do look delicious. I will just have to incorporate your ideas if I ever get around to it :o)

  5. tfh says:

    Although she has become an Empire, I do appreciate that RR is not scary and her cooking seems very do-able. However I find it easy to fall into the “toss in a little of this, a little of that, pour in a quart of olive oil” trap…lately I’ve been keeping my measuring spoons on the counter to remind me that I have big eyeballs when it comes to eyeballing oils!

  6. runjess says:

    I love her recipes, but yes, you need to DRASTICALLY reduce the EVOO if you want the dish to be anywhere near low-cal.

  7. Sagan says:

    Thanks for this- I’ve heard so much about her but never seen her on tv or read her books or anything. Seems worth checking out!

  8. Lori says:

    I really like RR. I admit she can offer a little too much perky-ness when I’m not in the mood, but I love her mag and watch her show sometimes.

    I’ve always altered her recipes. My favorite is her Ginger Chicken. Overall, pretty healthy with whole wheat pasta.

    Part of me really appreciates her love of food and not being so concerned with the calories. Unfortunately we can’t all live in that world, but if you watch the portions even her heaviest meals are okay.

  9. Jenn says:

    For the record, if anyone wants to “splurge” a bit or is looking to celebrate, her “You won’t be single for long” vodka cream sause is worth it — sans modifications besides listening to your hunger. 🙂

    And yes, RR does love her some EVOO. Watch out for those “glug, glugs” around the pan for sure!

  10. Christine says:

    What a good idea.

    I live in Ireland where RR hasn’t really hit the bigtime yet (and I don’t watch TV anyway), but when I was visiting my parents I saw a few of her 30 minute meal shows – and I couldn’t get over how fattening most of them seemed.

    It’s good to know that the recipes can be adapted successfully!

  11. Erica says:

    Yes! I <3 the rachel ray but I do always alter the Rachel Ray…..She is totally entertaining on tv and gets excited about everything! My mother in law and I always talk about just for once we want to see her try something and go ehhh not really how I thought it would turn out. I mean…who makes a perfect meal every time?

  12. Prunella says:

    But here’s the thing: Rachael Ray presents her food as “healthy” the way it’s written.. It clearly isn’t. I don’t see the point of getting a cookbook only to tweak ingredient in every recipe. I’ve only made 1 recipe of hers and it was pretty disappointing. There are many other cookbook authors who at least make delicious sounding food (I know, I know, different strokes and all…) that start off healthier without the authors trying to convince you otherwise.

  13. Jenn says:

    Don’t even get me started on Paula Deen…she’s charming, but, whew, the butter is verging on Emeril proportions.

    Rach is DEFINITELY enthusiastic. No doubt there. I’d love to see her say something was mediocre, too. On her Food Network show it always cracks me up that she has to take a bite at the end, even if it means talking with a mouth full at the end because time is running out. Oh, and I can NEVER make her meals in just 30 minutes. It’s usually in the 45-minute range for me cause I’m slow.

  14. Prunella says:

    Thanks for the word, Jenn. I’ve had Ellie Krieger’s book on hold at the library since June; looks like my turn is finally coming up.

    I also think a lot of the recipes on eatingwell.com look pretty interesting.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I love RR recipes but learned long ago that they need to be modified. I do the same things that are stated above and I get to enjoy a lot of her meals and never lose any of the flavor.

  16. Deby says:

    I, too, love RR recipes but learned some time ago that they need to be modified. I do the same things that are stated above and I get to enjoy a lot of her meals and never lose any of the flavor.

  17. Fitnessista says:

    i love rr and her recipes, but i found out very quickly that i would need to alter them a lot in order to keep them truly “figure-friendly” (as she claims). i always reduce the evoo and swap out fattening items as you suggest for non-fat or lowfat versions of the same thing. one recipe that i LOVE that i didn’t have to alter too much (i used whole wheat tortillas and reduced fat cheddar) is the mexican lasagna. insanely delicious 🙂

  18. EmilyG says:

    I usually take RR’s recipes as ‘inspiration’ and go out on my own from there.

    I’m with ya, Jenn, on the fact that I’m unable to make her recipes in 30 minutes either. AND, I dislike the fact that most every recipe has like 25 ingredients!

    Good tips…thanks! 😉

  19. Jenn says:

    I heart Eating Well! I used to be a subscriber, but I couldn’t give it the attention it deserves. However, I still make a lot of their recipes from online. I highly recommend!

    The Mexican lasgna does sound good…do you remember which book that’s from?

    Yes, Emily! RR does love her ingredients. On some of her recipes the list is so long I get intimidated. Most of the time it’s just spices, but still. It’s just more things to drag out and then have to put away. (By the way, the title of your blog is beyond hilarious.)

  20. Laura says:

    Saw the link back to this article from today’s post, and I was thrilled – I’m a big fan of Rachael Ray’s recipes, though I modify them a ton. However, I’ve found it’s really easy to do, and use pretty much the same tips you gave. I end up with most of her meals being 400-500 calories for one serving (meaning one serving that she actually lists – I cut the recipes in half and then freeze the second as leftovers).

  21. Stephanie says:

    Prunella said what I was thinking. I keep pretty tight tabs on my calorie intake, so I appreciate being given counts with my cookbooks. And if I’m just going to modify, that means I have to recalculate, and I am FAR too lazy!

    Funny enough, since getting more into vegetarian and vegan cooking, I’ve been stymied by this kind of thing. Not all meatless meals are healthy, as I’m sure this audience knows, and so I find myself having to seek out the sources (and thankfully there are many) who ALSO focus on the lighter side of the calorie spectrum. I don’t have time to re-create the wheel!

  22. Christine says:

    BEST all time tomato soup – RRs lazy-day tomato soup found on her website. I even converted my Mr. Fit Bottomed into a tomato soup lover with it. Its to die for and vitually all veggies so go nuts!

  23. Laura says:

    I’ve cooked over 300 of Rachael’s meals, always adapting them to be healthier, so I was pretty confident about weighing in. Then I started writing a comment to this but it got longer, and longer, and longer, until I turned it into a blog post of my own! Thanks for the inspiration 🙂