Reader’s Request: Fitnessista-fying Meals

Hey guys! How’s your day been??

I was a wild child and left the house today 🙂 Sniffling and disheveled, I hit up the smoothie place

juice  (carrot, apple, beet, ginjah)

Target (where I had an impromptu conference call- with beeping price guns in the background and half a voice– klassy)

TJ Maxx

and Publix.

Two *get well soon* purchases:


Vick’s baby rub (it smells like Eucalyptus and mint, and makes me not quite so congested) and Cold tea 😀

For lunch, all I wanted was fresh fruit


(my first grapefruit EVER! I liked it :D  )

and a cherry bomb diggity.

cherry bomb

So since I’ve received a few questions on how to health-ify meals, I thought it would be a great topic for a reader’s request post. Today we’re focusing on dessert 🙂

A little note: When I Fitnessista-fy a recipe, it’s usually for an everyday kind of meal or treat. The idea is to create the meal according to what I like to eat, without sacrificing the integrity or flavor of the dish. If we have company over or it’s a once-in-a-while kinda thing, I’ll make the meal as it’s intended to be prepared, with minor changes (like using goat cheese instead of cow’s, whole grain starch instead of white and the like) or prepare a meal that is healthy and just happens to taste fabulous. Or I’ll make something that isn’t considered health food at all.. but needs to be eaten on an occasional basis.


When it comes to dessert and we’re having company over, my philosophy is "don’t mess with dessert.” It needs to taste amazing. Back in the day, I  once made Splenda apple crumble for company…and it was kind of a disaster 😉

For everyday, healthier treats I’ll mess with them as much as I like 🙂 The key here is to use a lot of flavor and really good ingredients.

Here’s an example:

Carrot Cake Cookies

caarrot cake cookies

The recipe I played with can be found *here*

So when it comes to dessert, I’ll look at three things:

1. Flour- the flour can almost always be swapped out. Spelt is usually my go-to flour

2. Fat- How can I reduce the fat in the recipe without drying it out?

3. Sugar– What would be a good option instead of white sugar?

For this particular recipe, they called for white flour. Easy peasy—spelt instead.


(I always weigh flour for baking- it helps ensure that there aren’t any snafus)

For the fat, this recipe called for a stick of butter (1/2 C). Instead of that, I used a single serving of pear sauce + 1 T canola oil

pear sauce

(Other great fat substitutes are apple sauce and plain nonfat yogurt- I usually like to add a little oil or butter, too, to make sure moisture isn’t lost)

Instead of using an egg –I thought it would be fun to make these vegan- I would usually use a flax egg (1 T flax mixed with 3 T water). Since there was already a high water content from the pear sauce, I rolled with 1 T flax dissolved in 2 T water

As far as sugar goes, I rolled with 1/3 C Sucanat (unrefined brown sugar- it has a lovely deep flavor) and 1 chopped medjool date (nature’s caramel, just to give a little extra sweetness and flavor)

51tfgcnYXOL._SL500_AA300_PIbundle-12,TopRight,0,0_AA300_SH20_ Source

Mix, mix, mix


+ flour

Baked for 10 min at 350 (on a greased cookie sheet)

caarrot cake cookies

I had two 😀


These came out much better than I expected. They’re not super sweet, but still have a fabulous deep flavor. I think this is due to the Sucanat, the fact that I used fresh-ground cinnamon (I grind it in the coffee grinder) and William’s Sonoma vanilla.

I didn’t have stuff on hand to make icing, but I think they taste wonderful without. If you’d like to do icing, I’d probably use Earth Balance + powdered sugar + a little nutritional yeast for a “cream cheese” style icing.

So, would this be considered my recipe??

I don’t think so. If I would have stumbled into the kitchen with an idea in my brain to make carrot cake cookies and gone on a whim, it would definitely be my recipe. Since I had my computer in the kitchen with me, I’d call that a no 🙂

carrot cake

A few bloggies have talked about this subject already (like Tina and Averie) but I’m interested to hear what you guys think… What makes a recipe *your own*? Does using the same proportions and ingredients but changing one thing make it your recipe??

Well I’m off to practice my Zumba dances and take a nap. I had to cancel my training appointments again- I miss my clients! Here’s hoping I fight this thing like a ninja and am on the mend tomorrow 🙂

Have a lovely night <3


Something *else* to talk about: What are some of your favorite dessert ingredient swap outs? Or do you prefer not to mess with a good thing?

Something to read:

Running FAQs for beginners

Is 9 Daily Servings of Veggies ok?

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  1. Heather (Heather's Dish) on August 5, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    i would say if you take the very general basics of a recipe (like a high-altitude recipe) and then change the ingredients completely then it’s your recipe. but if you just change a couple of random things and you directly use someone else’s, then you should give credit where credit is due. changing one ingredient and one word in the instructions does not an original recipe make!

    i usually only change things like yogurt or applesauce for oil in baking and that’s about it 🙂

  2. Jenn on August 5, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    could you post where you got the recipe from? i’d love to try it with a few of your tweaks for dessert tonight! thanks gina!

    • Jenn on August 5, 2010 at 4:46 pm


      i can read
      nevermind 😉

  3. Carrie on August 5, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    I’d say it’s your version of a recipe, so you could attribute it as “adapted from”. I find that sometimes changing one ingredient can have a huge effect on a recipe so it definitely counts as another dish. It’s subjective.

  4. Marilou @ Mostly Healthy on August 5, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    The line is definitely thin between being inspired and coopycatting (yes, that is a word) a recipe.

    I always try to link back to the recipe that inspired me, but some (like my oatmeal cookies) have been tweaked and modified so many times, that I now call this one mine.

  5. Maissa on August 5, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Well, legally you are allowed to re-post a recipe so long as you re-word the instructions. I always like the give credit, because I think it is rude not to, but ingredients and proportions are technically not under copyright, just the instructions.

    I do think that in order for a recipe to be your own you need to either make it up yourself, or considerable modify a pre-existing recipe, I’m talking swapping out the majority of the ingredients, playing with a few ratios, and maybe an add in or two.

    My favorite tricks, much like yours, are to swap flours, sub-apple sauce for some of the fat, and use maple syrup. It’s expensive, but I don’t bake that often (I have issues with eating the entire batch… no self control around home-made goods) so I figure it is ok.

  6. Holly @ couchpotatoathlete on August 5, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    I’m not sure what you have to do to make it your own — I think in your carrot cookie example this would not be your recipe, since you swapped ingredient for ingredient, you know? But you didn’t do anything to drastically change the recipe.

    I almost always swap the flour in recipes, but I’ve never used applesauce + oil instead of oil, and I’ve never used sucanat — could you have used maple syrup instead? Just trying to learn more about baking here…

    I agree that a good dessert shouldn’t be messed with. But cookies? They can be messed with.

  7. allison @ livingoneday on August 5, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    its so hard because EVERYONE has similar recipes. when i mess with a recipe, i always just say i was inspired by so-and-so. also, i read once that measurements of a recipe aren’t copywritten – just the text. i once search for sweet potato and black bean burritos on google and a BILLION popped up. so i took a quick look at a few, got some flavor ideas, and went to the grocery store without a list. is that my recipe? probably. but i dont credit myself for that haha

  8. Dynamics on August 5, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    I did a bit of research in the past and the consensus was you cannot copyright ingredients so just changing a few ingredients is not the issue here and will not make that your recipe. What I read was the “instructions” is actually the copyright part of a recipe. I look forward to reading the comments here to try and understand this complex issue. Nice topic Fitnessista!

  9. Megan @ Healthy Hoggin' on August 5, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    If you’re only making a few swaps in a recipe, I think you definitely need to give credit where credit is due! I only consider something *my own* recipe if I walk into the kitchen and start throwing ingredients together out of my own head, or if I DRASTICALLY change the ingredients and proportions of a recipe– even then, I like to give credit for the original idea, even if I did change it a bunch!

    I have vegan in-laws, so I’ll often substitute mashed bananas or flax for eggs, and I also sub healthier flour whenever possible!

  10. Dynamics on August 5, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Here is another question. I have old cookbooks. The recipes are not how we eat today. If I update the recipes to modern times and modern ingredients would that then be my recipe?

  11. Wendy on August 5, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Rock and roll!! LOVE this post, Gina! And once again, GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE. No more than half an hour ago I went thru a few recipes that I wanna healthify so this info helps a ton. Your blog is the bestest!
    When I healthify or tweak a recipe I don’t necessarily call them mine. I just write ’em down and keep them in a binder. 🙂

  12. Allie (Live Laugh Eat) on August 5, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Thanks for answering my reader’s request-request. I love the healthy carrot cake alternative!! PS You’ve never ever ever had grapefruit? No way!

  13. Rachael @ Mrs-Adventure on August 5, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Ok those cookies look so good I may just have to make them! I keep organic apple sauce on hand to swap out for oil in recipes :+)

  14. Kristin (Cook, Bake and Nibble) on August 5, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Even my chefs say, almost all recipes are “stolen” from other chefs’ recipes. Usually it is a recipe, a picture, or a flavor combination that sparks an idea and the recipe moves from there. If I am inspired by another recipe, by adding my own combination of ingredients, creating a new flavor profile or making it healthier, I consider it “my own”, and I believe this is fairly accurate in the food industry as well.


  15. Rachael @ Mrs-Adventure on August 5, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Oh yeah and to answer you question I think if you change 3 or more ingredients then you have changed it enough to call it yours, but I always make the comment “modified from this recipe” just to be fair!

  16. Lindsey @ Sound Eats on August 5, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    What makes a recipe my own is when I go into the kitchen and just create. For me, it’s ok if I got inspiration elsewhere (like if I remember seeing carrot cookies here that’s my inspiration) as long as I’m not following a recipe/ using it as a guideline while I’m actually creating the product.

    A big pet peeve of mine is when people take someone’s recipe and do something ridiculous like omit the salt and then write out the whole recipe on their blog and call it their own. I think the majority of people vastly underestimate how much time can truly go into creating a fantastic recipe from scratch. People work hard, so if you use their material, give them credit. 🙂

    • Fitnessista on August 5, 2010 at 5:11 pm

      that’s a HUGE pet peeve of mine too. if it’s on the blog, it came from my brain 🙂 or i just link and don’t post the actual recipe

  17. Kindra on August 5, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    I have a nutrition question! I notice often that you use goat cheese instead of cow’s. In the post above you said you make minor changes in recipes using goat cheese also…so my question is this: what makes goat cheese healthier than cow’s cheese? Thanks 🙂

    • Fitnessista on August 5, 2010 at 5:12 pm

      i prefer goat cheese because it’s easier to digest and doesn’t make me break out like cow’s dairy does. it’s a personal preference thang 🙂

  18. Laury @ thefitnesdish on August 5, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    What makes my recipes my own is when I just dream it up myself! It’s tough to do that with baking, which is my specialty…however, I have taken baking recipes, and changed them completely, substituting, and testing, and getting it perfect…that makes it my own. My cinnamon apple cake recipe, which is a family fav, its amazing, I adapted it from a book, but if you look at the original recipe, and mine, it’s completely changed….so, now, that’s MY recipe 🙂

    I wanted to tell you that Gypsy Cold care has been my savior many times…thats good stuff!!!

  19. Melissa (MelissaLikesToEat) on August 5, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    When I’m making desserts, I almost always make it as instructed. I don’t eat a ton of desserts so when I make something, it’s usually the real deal. Plus, I’m scared to mess with the ingredients….I’m not very creative and just know how to follow instructions. 😉

  20. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman on August 5, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    I never mess with recipes. I have a high rate of fails when I do that. I guess it’s just a practice-makes-perfect thing.

  21. erin m.@well-in-la on August 5, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    I love your idea of serving a recipe that can be easily adapted or made into something healthier. I think it’s *your own* if you can successfully swap out the measures for healthier things and achieve the desired taste and texture. You put the time and energy in to make it something you would eat and love… it’s your own.

    I’m trying to understand the flour-free. Is there a simple explanation for swapping it out? I already use whole wheat flours, which I thought were healthier.

  22. Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) on August 5, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    “”don’t mess with dessert.” It needs to taste amazing.”–AMEN GIRL! It’s dessert, it’s not supposed to be/doesn’t have to be “healthy”. It’s dessert!

    As for the question of calling things ones own…oh lord, we have talked about this 🙂 Thanks for the shout, too 🙂

    I think that major changes need to happen before one can call it their own. I see you (and me and many other bloggers) being copied without linking. Or as one commenter above me said, omitting the salt and then calling it their own…which is laughable. Or, the old re-printing the whole thing on their site rather than just LINKING BACK.

    The problem with writing it out on one’s site, in entirety rather than linking back, is that in this very blurry cyber age, the lines and “ownership” or of a recipe get very blurred when people reprint the whole thing. Then their readers think that they are getting it from Suzy Q. And then Katie Q thinks she got it from Suzy Q b/c she saw it on her blog. Whereas if there was just a link back to the original author, all of the confusion could be avoided. It’s not hard. It’s being respectful to the person who took the TIME AND EFFORT to come up with the recipe.

    When in doubt, link back. Never reprint. Never take something as your own that’s not. Those are the rules I try to live by 🙂 And if I have ever not done that or have somehow done something improper, it’s truly an oversight. We all make mistakes…but…I see some people making “mistakes” all the time. Ahem…”adapted from”. Ahem. “Inspired By.” LOL

    GREAT POST girl!!!!!


  23. Lauren @ BIOCHEMISTA on August 5, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    I almost always swap out oil/butter for apple sauce. I know you don’t eat cows dairy but I find adding Greek yogurt to desserts makes them so ooey-gooey and delish 🙂 I also use stevia instead of regular sugar when I can.

    I too tried the splenda swapping. Ick Ick Ick!!!

    Hope you’re feelin’ better soon. Load up on vitamin C and zinc 😉

  24. Ilana on August 5, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    wait, really, your first grapefruit EVERR???

    when it comes to recipes … honestly, like, i don’t believe recipes belong to ANYONE. so what, so and so published X recipe in a book. she was inspired by someone else who was inspired by someone else who was inspired by someone else … cooking has a veeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyy long history and nothing is original.

    • Fitnessista on August 5, 2010 at 7:34 pm

      yes, first grapefruit ever!

  25. Cassandra on August 5, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Can I get the juices you post on your blog at Whole Foods? I live in Colorado Springs, I am not sure where to go…

    • Fitnessista on August 5, 2010 at 7:33 pm

      yup- just go up to the juice bar and they’ll make it for ya

  26. Katie @ Healthy Heddleston on August 5, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    I follow the if you change 3 of the recipes ingredients, it’s your own recipe. At that point changing 3 of the ingredients make the recipe totally different. I would say that you are inspired by other recipes and then created one based on inspiration (and changing enough ingredients — such as 3!)

  27. stephanie@Avocado Nation on August 5, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    I have the same question. I think if you just sub out ingredients then it isn’t your recipe, but if if you fundamentally change things then it is.

  28. christina cadden on August 5, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    mmm, looks so good!

  29. Michelle @ Give Me the Almond Butter on August 5, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    I always make a few swaps, especially with the flour, but I try not to go overboard.

  30. fittingbackin on August 5, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    I usually make lots of swaps but always put who it was adapted from or inspired by. I think what makes it your own is by starting completely from scratch with your own measurements, ingredients, etc. And when I follow a recipe to a T with just minor changes (i.e. changing out cheeses or amount of oil) I credit the whole thing to the person!!

  31. kim on August 5, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    i know that the policy @ sunset mag is – you make 1 change to a recipe & it’s your own.

  32. Pure2raw twins on August 5, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    Congrats on eating and enjoying your first grapefruit! We have one everyday 😉

    Ok good question about copying recipes, etc.

    Our thoughts: If you follow someone else’s recipe or if they gave it to you than yes you need to give them credit unless they tell you you don’t (which is probably unlikely). Blog world can be tough because we have seen similar recipes to ours and no link backs, but does that mean that they saw my original recipe maybe or maybe not? It is hard to say.
    Do not get me wrong, it is extremely frustrating and we get very hurt when see no credit back. I do not know if omitting something makes a recipe you own, but if you change the amounts or steps then yes it is your own. Copyright can be tough…it is very scary sometimes. We always try to link back whether we used the person’s recipe or just inspired from it. I think some bloggers just get lazy or really do not care, which is sad. Because being a chef we spend hours making recipes…we feel we deserve credit!!!

  33. Erin on August 5, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Thanks for the healthy carrot cake recipe – carrot cake is my favorite and I can’t wait to try it. I hope you feel better soon! 🙂

  34. Jen on August 5, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    I think there’s a difference between ‘your recipe,’ which you come up with on your own, and ‘your version of a recipe,’ which is a different version of a recipe that someone else created and you used for a guide. Either way works!

  35. Kimberly on August 5, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Badger Balm has a great chest balm too, even my husband likes it! It was called Winter Wonder Balm, but is now Aromatic Chest Rub.

    I also like to change the flour in recipes and sometimes substitute Maple sugar (basically dried, ground up Maple Syrup) for white sugar.

  36. Anya @ Fitness & Sunshine on August 5, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Thanks a lot for those tips! 🙂 I usually sub whole grain flour in recipes, and try to cut back on sugar. I’m not TOO concerned about fat, but subbing apple/pear sauce is a good idea. I’ve heard about it before but never tried it. Will do next time!

  37. Jean @ NoMagicJeanie on August 5, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    My mom always says if you swap out just one ingredient it can be considered your own recipe. I think that is what make recipes so tricky. If you add a teaspoon more maple syrup to your baked beans than I do and someone prefers your batch to mine…they are going to ask for “Gina’s baked beans” not “Jean’s baked beans” at the next cookout.

    I am finding myself swapping 1/2 the white flour for wheat, applesauce or greek yogurt for oil. I agree some desserts shouldn’t be tampered with, but I love something sweet everyday. And those every day sweets I enjoy healthing them up. Banana soft serve, anyone? 🙂

  38. Maya on August 5, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Hmm. Interesting question. I would say that it is your version of the recipe INSPIRED by another recipe, and as such it’s important to mention where you got the inspiration from and link back if you can. I think messing with the sugars and fats, key components of the recipe, make it a la Fitnessista for sure, which does give you some creativity brownie points (carrot cake cookie points?) It’s a fine line, and an interesting question. If I decided to make my own carrot cake cookies, I’m sure I’d be looking around at other people’s recipe for an idea bout baking powder to flour ratio, rough idea of the fat content, etc. because it’s hard to come up with those important chemical components of baking on your own.

  39. Ellen@FirednFabulous on August 5, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Splenda apple crumb cake? Can’t believe YOU made that, ha! Hope you feel better! I haven’t been able to workout either and it sucks! I have a minor hamstring pull (I think.) I didn’t rest it initially because I didn’t think it was that bad, but now I’ve realized I have no choice unless I want it to be a chronic problem. I’ve been icing and elevating and just walking slowly for a little exercise. Does this sound OK? Anything else I need to do? Is swimming with a pull buoy ok? Sorry for all the questions, I just want it to heal!

  40. Jessica (Fit and Clean) on August 5, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    I think if the amounts are changed and the ingredients are changed then you made it into your own. All recipes are basically similar, it’s what you change it to that makes it yours. As with anything, there’s a fine line, though!

    The carrot cookies look scrumptious!! I like to use sucanat when I bake also…the processed stuff is SO BAD for you. I actually have a fear of getting cancer and now the experts are linking HFCS to cancer. Have you heard about that?? Scary stuff.

  41. Rachel on August 5, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    Ok what is that round dessert cheesecake-looking-thingy above the cookie recipe? Please to share? 🙂

  42. Laughter-Loving Stacy on August 5, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    Awwww grapefruit is DELICIOUS! I love it on salads with feta cheese as well 🙂 🙂

  43. Shanna @ Shanna Like Banana on August 5, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Somewhere I think I’ve seen the ‘rule’ that if you change three or more ingredients, the recipe is yours. I think that’s pretty fair!

  44. Dee on August 5, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    i hope you feel better soon!

    awesome post btw!

    ps. vicks vaporub is my saviour. i have one @ home,@ work,& in my bag… 😉

  45. Melissa on August 5, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    Please explain the no grapefruit before thing. 🙂

    • Fitnessista on August 6, 2010 at 9:38 am

      i’ve just never had one! yesterday was the day 🙂

  46. Allison @ Food For Healing on August 6, 2010 at 12:07 am

    Feel better soon!!

  47. Nola @ The Zetetic Gamin on August 6, 2010 at 12:12 am

    Your recipe reminds me of my grandmother…

    My mom got my g-ma’s recipe cards to put together a family cookbook. Being the smart woman that she is, she made up several of them first, just to check.

    They were _wrong_!!! Things didn’t come out right at all… Mom got on the phone with Gram, who said “Well, I never actually make it like that…” Can you see my totally exasperated Mom?

    The cards were the recipes Gram’s had gotten from her friends, copied from magazines, etc. Over the years she modified one thing or another, and by the time my mom got them, they’d warped. Sometimes it was only an ingredient or two she’d swapped, but it made a world of difference (especially when baking).

    I think if the _result_ is distinctly different, the recipe can be considered your own (most baked goods follow a ratio formula anyway). However, if you were directly inspired by someone else – you best give credit where credit is due, and don’t try to make any money off it.

    Thanks for the cue to remember that story – it made me giggle.

  48. Taylor on August 6, 2010 at 1:23 am

    Most of the time when baking desserts/breakfast I can swap out oil for natural applesauce. The taste does not differ (or the applesauce adds more flavah!), though every once in awhile a recipe sticks a bit to whatever it was cooked in. But to me it’s a small price to pay.

  49. Courtney on August 6, 2010 at 7:23 am

    Hey thanks for the workout song. You should download Priceless by Ish, it’s great.

  50. Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin on August 6, 2010 at 8:24 am

    I can’t believe that was your first grapefruit! Hopefully all that vitamin C helped with your cold. 🙂

    I usually sub in whole wheat flour in recipes, but I’ve stopped playing around with the sugar/fat because I’ve ruined way too many recipes that way!

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