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- Becoming More Healthful in the Kitchen
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Adopting healthy cooking techniques need not doom one to eternally bland and tasteless meals consisting of minuscule portions. Whether your goal is to lose weight or to learn how to eat better, understanding how to modify favorite meals is the key to long term weight control and enhanced health. As studies have shown, changing cooking style can move families toward a healthy food plan that may protect against heart disease, hypertension, and cancer. Low-fat cooking is not only helpful to one’s waistline, but to one’s lifeline. With just a little practice, it is possible to still enjoy all the pleasures of food without the negative consequences. Here are some tips on how to cultivate the fine art–and-science of adapting recipes to reduce calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium and/or sugar.
Cutting The Fat Calories
Fat has twice the calories of protein and carbohydrates, so the key is to reduce or eliminate butter, margarine, oil, mayonnaise, lard and other dressings that are high in fat. Here are some tips:
- Experiment with recipes by cutting fat requirements in half or by a third. For example, in a casserole calling for six tablespoons of margarine, try using only three or four tablespoons instead. Or if a cake recipe suggests one cup of oil, try ¾ of a cup instead. In mixes, such as preseasoned rice mixes, butter or margarine can be completely omitted.
- Foods that require sautéing in butter or oil can be substituted with a cooking spray such as Pam or by adding several tablespoons of water or broth.
- Making a sauce does not require starting a “roux” or paste of fat and flour or cornstarch. The goal is to separate starch granules from each other so they do not form lumps. This can be accomplished by slowly adding cold milk or fruit juice directly to the flour or cornstarch, passing the fat. Once smoothly blended, stir the starch-liquid mixture over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Then add herbs, spices, lemon juice, extracts or low-calorie sweeteners.
- Recipes that call for milk can be substituted with low fat or skim milk. If cream is called for, use evaporated skim milk.
- Fatty meats include bacon, sausage, many cold cuts and fat marbled cuts of beef, lamb and pork. Try substituting skinless poultry, veal, fish and lean meat cuts such as flank or round steak. Use meats sparingly by slicing thin and adding more vegetables when using in casseroles. The extra vegetables will add bulk to the meal without the added fat.
- Broiling or baking the meat on a rack can also diminish fat so that the fat drips off. Another method to reduce fat is to use no-stick pans and cooking sprays which allow for cooking eggs, pancakes and French toast without adding butter or oil to the pan.
- Chill down gravies, soups and casseroles after making them and let them set overnight if time permits. The fat will harden and can be easily removed before reheating.
- Low-fat or non-fat yogurt can be substituted for sour cream in vegetable dips or spreads. An excellent imitation sour cream can be made by whirling non-fat cottage cheese with several tablespoons of skim milk or non-fat yogurt in a blender until smooth. Fat free sour cream, mayonnaise, cream cheese and ricotta cheese are wonderful substitutes anytime the regular ingredients are required.
- When a recipe calls for cheese, non-fat cheese works well in casseroles and mixed dishes. Anytime cheese is to be placed on top of a dish, place the dish on the lower rack in the oven and cover with tin foil. This method will help melt the fat free cheese.
- If fat free cheese is not available, look for cheese made from part-skim. White cheese is typically lower in fat than yellow cheese.
Cutting The Sugar Calories
- Every ¼ cup of brown or white sugar adds 200 empty calories to a recipe. Reducing the required amount of sugar in half can easily eliminate calories. Add more cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, almond or other extracts to spark the flavor. Many naturally sweet fruits such as pears, bananas and certain types of apples sweeten some desserts all by themselves.
- Instead of using icing on a cake, replace with confectioners sugar which will decrease calories from sugar and fat.
- Sugar substitutes such as Equal and Sweet-n-Low are great replacements for sugar in beverages, fresh fruits, yogurt, whipped toppings, non-bake and frozen desserts. One packet of Equal is equivalent to two tablespoons of sugar but has only four calories. Artificial sweeteners lose their sweetness in prolonged heat, so it is best to not add these sugars until after the dish has been heated.
- Splenda is also a non calorie sweetener which is made from sucralose but is 600 times sweeter. Splenda is not metabolized by the body so it is safe for diabetics. It stays sweet during cooking and baking and can be added to any food or beverage. Splenda is sold in packets and granular form which makes it easy to use when baking.
- Stevia is 200-300 times sweeter than sucraclose and is almost calorie free. Legally it is labeled as a dietary supplement and can be found in most health food stores. Stevia has no effect on blood sugar levels.
- Unlike other sweeteners, Splenda and Stevia can be used to cook with. An exact substitution can be used when substituting Splenda for sugar. For example, 1cup of Splenda = 1 cup of sugar.
- When using Stevia as a substitution be careful because it is so sweet. If using the liquid form of Stevia, usually only a few drops are required.
De-Salting Your Recipes
- Salt, or sodium chloride, is found in table salt, soy and steak sauces, bouillon, monosodium glutamate, baking soda, catsup, as well as vegetable salts. Despite their minimal calories, prepared mustard, canned tomato juice and horseradish are also loaded with salt. Cutting back on these condiments and sauces when cooking will substantially reduce the sodium in one’s diet.
- Salt substitutes are usually made of potassium chloride, and they can be used in cooking. Check with a physician if any medical problems due to the potassium arise.
- When cutting back on salt, use more herbs and spices. Chives, parsley, tarragon, dill and basil compliment most vegetables. Try lemon juice and a sprinkling of grated nutmeg on broccoli, spinach and cauliflower. Add lemon juice after cooking vegetables to prevent them from becoming tough.
What is your favorite heart-healthy cooking tip?