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Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Low Fat Cooking

by Sandra Garth

A Little Goes a Long Way

It is unwise and unhealthy to think of eliminating all fat from your diet. Eating would become a bland and boring pastime. Just as an engine needs oil to run, so do our bodies. The challenge is to keep the fat to a minimum and to obtain it from healthy sources. This recommendation is not only for those seeking to shed a few pounds but also for overall health and well-being. Studies suggest that keeping dietary fat to 30% or less daily, reduces the risk of heart disease, certain types of cancer and diabetes. As little as a tablespoon a day will keep your body operating efficiently.

Facts About Fat

Fat is king when it comes to calories. It weighs in at a whopping nine calories per gram. Carbohydrates and protein only carry four calories per gram. Since some dietary fat is necessary, it’s wise to know which ones are best. It’s no secret that there are good and bad fats. The easy way to figure which is which is by eyesight. If fat is solid at room temperature, it’s not good for you. Butter, lard, shortening, some red meats, ice cream and cheese, all saturated fats, fall into this category. The next two types of fat are liquid at room temperature. Monounsaturated fats include olive, canola, and peanut oils, with olive oil being the best. The other type of fat is polyunsaturated; which encompasses corn, soybean and safflower oils.

Fat and Flavor

Fat adds flavor to food and leaves a feel good sensation on your taste buds. To replace the flavor lost from fat it’s important to add it back in other ways. Learn to experiment with herbs and spices.

Tips and Techniques

When preparing low fat meals it is vital that you alter your cooking methods. Steam, stir-fry, broil, bake, or sauté meats to keep fat at bay. Thanks to George Foreman, grilling indoors has become easier and less time consuming, and is an excellent way to cook most any meat or fish.

It’s in the Bag

Cooking bags gives today’s health conscious cook an opportunity to serve moist, flavorful meat without artery clogging fat. There’s no basting and no clean up.

Lean on Poultry

The smaller the bird, the leaner it is. Always go for white meat, remove, and discard skin before cooking. Savory marinades offer a bevy of options to infuse what could otherwise be a bland meal with a riot of flavor. Turkey and chicken are the optimum choices. Duck and goose are naturally fat, save them for special occasions.

Meat is Back

Pork and beef as part of a low fat cooking plan? You bet! They’re excellent sources of protein and iron. Because they do contain some saturated fat, keep them to a minimum, no more than 6oz daily. Consider using them as an enhancement and not the star of the meal. Although marbling makes a cut of meat juicier, look for cuts with very little if any streaks of fat.

How to Cut Back

-Use nonstick cooking spray instead of oil or butter to coat pans before cooking.
-Trim all visible fat from meat and poultry. If this task seems a little daunting
have your store’s butcher do it for you. This is usually a free service.
-Drain fat from cooked meats.
-Try chicken or turkey sausage and bacon.
-Have at least one meatless meal a week.
-Up the ante on complex carbohydrates, eat more beans and whole grains.
-Substitute fat free dairy products for full fat ones.
-Oven fry potatoes instead of deep-frying.
-Use mashed pinto beans to moisten and extend ground meats for burgers and meatloaf.
-Use herbs, spices, chutneys and salsas to jazz up your meals.
-When baking replace some of the fat with applesauce, prunes, (Use small jars of baby food for this) or nonfat yogurt.
-Reduced fat or fat free cheese can be substituted for full fat ones, or use a very small amount of a more intensely flavored one like a sharp cheddar.

It’s not difficult to get used to different cooking methods. Once you begin to reap the health benefits, low-fat cooking will be easy. Your family will thank you for it.


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