There’s a reason eggs are called incredible: Each tiny package delivers protein plus iron, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, all for 70 calories. The downside? Eggs are high in saturated fat and cholesterol and are often paired with other high-fat ingredients like cheese, butter, milk or cream. But it’s no longer sunny-side up for heavy, egg-based fare as many non-commercial operators are finding ways to offer customers lighter alternatives.
When it comes to making healthier egg dishes, swapping whole eggs for whites is the most obvious move. But that doesn’t mean that dishes have to be predictable—or worse, flavorless.
At the University of New Hampshire, in Durham, Executive Chef Chris Kaschak started offering egg whites in scrambles and omelets in response to student demand for lighter fare. Where the whites really shine is in Egg White Huevos Rancheros. The egg whites are punched up with beans, tomato salsa, a little cheese and cumin.
“The mixture is poured into a corn tortilla that’s wrapped in a baking cup, so it’s a grab-and-go item that’s really popular with students. They can top the cups with sour cream or hot sauce,” Kaschak says.
Other times, egg substitute is paired with other lower-fat ingredients to develop lighter versions of popular offerings, like the Blueberry French Toast at Ohio University, in Athens. The regular version of the baked casserole dish contains whole eggs and cream cheese, while the alternative is made with Egg Beaters, light cream cheese and skim milk. “The recipe works fine either way,” says Mary Jane Jones, associate director for the university’s Culinary Support Center. “We’ve had it for a long time, and guests always enjoy it for a breakfast buffet or brunch.”
Non-commercial operators who choose to stick with whole eggs are cutting back on fat and calories in other parts of their recipes to make dishes less dense overall. One of the most popular items at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, in New Brunswick, N.J., used to be a traditional broccoli quiche. But when Executive Chef Timothy Gee wanted to offer something lighter, he developed a Mediterranean Egg Souffle with fresh spinach and tomato salsa. Unlike the quiche, the soufflé doesn’t have a pastry crust and it also uses milk instead of cream and feta cheese instead of cheddar—feta has about 25 fewer calories and three fewer fat grams per ounce. “I wanted to offer something equally flavorful but was healthier and didn’t sacrifice quality,” Gee says.
It’s a somewhat similar story at Spring Independent School District, in Houston, where one of the most popular egg dishes is a Chef’s Salad. Made with shredded romaine lettuce, American cheese, baby carrot sticks, grape tomatoes and a hard-boiled egg, the dish includes all the protein and nutrients that eggs have to offer, while staying low in overall fat and calories by loading up on vegetables. “Our elementary school students especially love this salad,” says dietitian Chelsea Aitken, R.D.