Here in the UK, we are often given the impression by import shops and the world food aisle in supermarkets that “American cuisine” consists of Lucky Charms, Twinkies, saltwater taffy, and a host of other fatty, sugary treats. The truth is that real American home-cooking doesn’t travel as well as a Tootsie Roll.
Lucky Charms may be available to buy across the US, but that doesn’t make them any kind of representative for the vast and diverse cuisines that America’s fifty states have to offer. Sweet, fatty and salty treats are great from time to time, but if you’re wondering how to lower cholesterol, or manage a healthy weight, they shouldn’t be first on the menu.
So if you have a real taste for the American pantry, read on for some simple ideas on eating healthier American cuisine in the UK.
Chunky (not fat) pancakes
Think of breakfast time in an American roadside diner, and what do you see? Pancakes. The humble pancake exists in a thousand permutations across the world, but it’s in America that we see them thick, hot, and fluffy.
Really indulgent pancakes are made with buttermilk, so the batter is as rich as can be. When you buy American pancake mix in UK wholesalers, they will tend to include saturated fats, which are not so great for your cholesterol levels. If you’re wondering how to lower cholesterol, here’s a great opportunity to reduce the saturated fat in your pancakes: try making them from scratch and swapping out milk or powdered milk for half a cup of water mixed with flax meal, or a few spoons of fat-free Greek yogurt. Don’t forget to throw in some fresh blueberries or banana for extra moisture!
Real American diner pancakes are cooked on an oiled hotplate, so when we recreate them at home, it’s tempting to use a lot of oil to recreate that crispy edge. Over-use of oil also happens to be one of the worst ways of butchering what could be a healthy and balanced dish. When it comes to frying your pancakes, remember – heat is key. With a hot enough pan, you won’t need a lot of oil.
Sweet (not sugary) slushies
The slushie is as ubiquitous in our imagined sunny road trips along Route 66 as it is in the Simpsons. The ice part is great – cooling hydration at its finest. But the vibrantly coloured sugar syrup? Not so good for you.
If you have a taste for slushies that can’t be quenched by the occasional treat, consider making them at home – you’ll have far more control over what goes into it. Specialised slushie machines can be bought, but you can just as easily grate or blend ice, then add whatever flavourings you dream up.
Try mixing apple juice with a spoonful of honey and a pinch of cinnamon, or a cooled shot of espresso with a sprinkle of chocolate powder – either of these DIY “syrups” can be made fresh to go, for an American taste that doesn’t come in an imported bottle of bright blue gloop.
Meaty (not greasy) burgers
The burger is truly a world food at this point, but when it comes to loading it up, nobody bulks out an original sandwich like an American grillmaster. Bacon, spray cheese, pickles, sweet sauces, even doughnuts – there’s nothing you can’t put in a burger in the US of A.
For regular meals at home, though, you might want to look into spicing up your burger with slightly healthier toppings. Consider trying an unusual cheese, like low-fat feta, mixed with some herbs and sliced olives. Swap out that bacon for turkey rashers to get a taste of crispy salt in there, and never underestimate the power of avocado mashed with cracked pepper.
If you’re confused about how to lower cholesterol and still enjoy the burgers you love, consider the meat of your burger as well. While meat tends to be higher in saturated fat, leaner patties, and meats with a little less saturated fat overall compared to beef (like chicken) are good options.
Low-sugar sauces taste best when they’re made at home. There’s nothing to making your own ketchup, and boy is it worth it. Simply simmer canned or fresh tomatoes until they’re thick enough to stick to a spoon, add a dash of sweetening with honey or maple syrup, then go wild with paprika, pepper, and a dash of cider vinegar. Delicious.