The Low Fat Kitchen
A new year, a new you! Time to go into the kitchen and clean house.
This is also a good time to practice your label-reading skills. Check the food labels for fat concentration and take a look at the list of ingredients. Ingredients are listed in order of predominance, so pay special attention to the first two.
When choosing a spread for bread or vegetables, make sure it only has two grams or less of fat per serving. Tub or liquid margarine is usually lowest in saturated fat. Diet or whipped margarine or butter is low in both fat and calories but do not melt easily. Use the primarily for spreading.
Make sure your pantry is well stocked with pasta, rice and grain products, especially whole grains, which provide fiber. These foods are naturally low in fat and high in complex carbohydrates. Check the labels on cookies and crackers. Many contain tropical oils. Better choices for the low fat kitchen include pretzels, rice cakes and baked chips.
Keep your refrigerator supplied with a variety of fruits and vegetables. If you wash and cut them into serving pieces, they are more likely to be chosen for quick snacks and meals on the run. Every low fat kitchen should have a steady supply.
Meats should be lean and well trimmed. Heavily marbled meats will be tender, but loaded with fat. Buy more fish and poultry. Beware of processed lunch meats – they are often high in fat and sodium. Your best bets are lean sliced poultry and meats, like roast beef and ham. Look for meats that have less than three grams of fat per ounce.
Cooking with less fat and fewer calories is a snap once you learn the art of recipe modification. This simply means making substitutions.
Next are some tips to get your started on modifying some tried-and-true favorites. Try these tips and you may not even miss the original ingredients.
- Use a lettuce leaf, thin tomato slice or mustard on a sandwich and forget the butter, margarine or mayonnaise. If you like a little zip, add some mustard.
- Leave out the oil and margarine many packaged foods recommend in the preparation.
- Try skim milk in food preparation and cooking. There is virtually no taste difference when it is combined with other ingredients.
- Substitute two egg whites for one whole egg in most recipes. The egg white has no fat or cholesterol.
- Reduce the amount of oils and fats called for in most recipes by about one-half, with no change in the final product.
- In muffins and quick breads, substitute non-sweetened applesauce or other mashed fruit in place of up to three-quarters of the oils and fats called for in the recipe.
- Vinegar can add snap to lower-calorie, lower-fat whipped salad dressing.
- A shaker of butter flakes contains the flavor of butter without the fat. Mash them into potatoes or use them on hot, steamy foods, such as pasta, rice or vegetables, to take the place of butter, oils or higher-calorie spreads.
- Reduce the fat per serving in your favorite casserole by adding more vegetables. For example, put more tomatoes and peppers in your chili. More mushrooms and less meat in your spaghetti sauce. More celery and onion, and less mayonnaise in your tuna salad. Replace one of the meat or cheese layers in your lasagna with slices of zucchini squash. Salsa can stretch the calories and fat per serving in cheese dips, guacamole and potato toppings.
- Try buying lower-calorie ingredients. Replace the regular versions of salad dressings used to make pasta salads, spreads and dips with their lower-calorie counterparts. Purchase reduced-calorie soups to make reduced-calorie casseroles and noodle or rice mixtures.
- Always use non-stick pans and baking sheets. Use cooking spray rather than oil or shortening to grease your pans.
Three tips for healthier meal preparation:
- Bake, broil or grill foods on a rack to drain fat away. Try the “indirect heat” method of grilling by placing the food away from the heat source. Every low fat kitchen should have indirect heat grilling available. This results in better flavor and juiciness. It also keeps the meats tender and reduces the risk of forming carcinogens in an overly browned or charred top layer of the meat.
- Stir-Fry. This is a popular cooking method that belongs in every low fat kitchen. Foods cook quickly, preserving precious nutrients. Use cooking spray in a pan or wok. Sprinkle the food with broth, soy sauce or water if it begins to stick.
- Steam vegetables, leaner meats and delicate foods like fish. Steaming is an overlooked cooking method, which deserves some time in the spotlight! Place the food to be steamed with desired seasonings on a rack over boiling water, or use an Oriental steamer (available in many specialty shops). No fat is necessary and the foods will not dry out.