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Low Fat,  Low Calories,  Low Sodium Recipe Conversion Tips


Try changing how you cook. Here are some simple ways to cook smarter.

Purchase a good set of non-stick pots, pans and baking pans. Mine are lifetime guaranteed with heavy-duty bottoms and glass lids. I've ordered some of the Lorente jelly-like substance baking pans to try. If they are anything like the sheets I use to line my cookie sheets, they will be wonderful. I no longer will have to grease anything. You can then sauté or bake without using fat.

Use vegetable spray or a couple of tablespoons of defatted broth, water, juice or wine when you sauté vegetables.

Try steaming, poaching, stir-frying, broiling, grilling, microwaving, baking and roasting rather than frying. For example, make your own breadcrumbs adding some interesting herbs. Dip chicken pieces or fish in egg substitute or buttermilk and then into breadcrumbs and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven. Want fries? Peel and cut russet potatoes into fries. Spray a cookie sheet with vegetable spray and put potatoes (dry them first with paper towels) on sheet. Spray gently again, sprinkle with some interesting herbs or just put them into a preheated 450-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Using a spatula, turn them halfway through baking time. Poached fish in court bouillon is excellent. If you wish, make a low calorie tartar sauce using non-fat sour cream, minced onions, relish and a bit of Worcestershire sauce.

Use fat-free or reduced-fat cheeses rather than their fattier counterparts. However, since the consistency is different in the cooking process, you may have to modify how you use them. Because they do not melt smoothly, when making sauces and soups, finely shred the cheese and mix it with a little flour or cornstarch. Then add slowly to sauces or soup. When making grilled sandwiches or topping casseroles, use reduced fat rather than fat-free cheese. When topping pizza, use mozzarella reduced fat.

By replacing 1/4 to 1/2 of the ground meat in a casserole or meat sauce with chopped beans or lentils, cooked brown rice, cous-cous, bulgur or barley you'll reduce fat and add fiber to your diet. You will also reduce your food bill.

Trim most fat from steaks, chops, roasts and other cuts of meat before cooking them.

Remove skin from poultry prior to cooking. However, when preparing roast turkey or chicken, leave skin on until after the poultry is roasted. Either season under the skin or sprinkle into the cavity because you will lose the flavors when you remove the skin. Also, it would dry out in the roasting process.

When making soups and stews, make a day ahead, cool down and refrigerate overnight. The next day, skim off congealed fat. Making these dishes a day ahead allows the flavors to marry and improves the taste.

Replace saturated fats such as butter or lard with healthier oils such as corn, olive, safflower, canola or others that are low in saturates. Try the extra flavors of a couple of drops of sesame, walnut, macadamia nut or extra-virgin olive oil to the recipe. Sometimes a small amount of real butter can really lend extra flavor to a recipe. Go ahead, use it.

Sometimes you need to keep a fatty ingredient to preserve the integrity of a recipe. If you are making brownies or cookies that call for nuts, chocolate or butterscotch chips, coconut or bacon, reduce the amount by 25 to 50 percent.

Toast nuts to enhance the flavor.

When making fruit sauces, beverages or other dishes that call for sugar, reduce the sugar amount by 25 percent. Be careful if trying this with cakes, cookies or other baked products because you might affect the texture or volume.

Sift powdered sugar over cakes and brownies rather than frosting them for a fat-free topping.

Use whole-wheat flour or whole-wheat pastry flour to replace half of the all-purpose white flour in dishes to increase the fiber content and nutritional value.

Substitute a high-calorie or high-fat ingredient with a low-fat version.

Use evaporated skim milk instead of whipping cream or half and half when making cream soups or sauces to reduce both fat and calories. Use an electric hand blender/chopper and skim milk to whip cream. It is amazing. You can't use milk with fat, but non-fat milk in a plastic glass will whip up just like whipping cream. Merely add a little powdered sugar and vanilla sugar and you have a non-fat dessert topping. There are also some commercial brands available at the supermarket. Use skim milk in place of whole or reduced fat milk.

Use fat-free unflavored yogurt or fat-free sour cream instead of the regular sour cream. The fat-free yogurt is better in recipes that are hot or need cooking, but when topping a baked potato, try the fat-free sour cream with just a few drops of rice vinegar, some salt and white pepper and it really zips up that potato. Eliminate the butter and add some sliced green onions. Another substitution is to puree a cup of fat-free cottage cheese and add a tablespoon lemon juice in place of the sour cream.

Use applesauce to replace butter, margarine or oil in making muffins, quick breads, cakes and cake mixes and save a ton of calories and fat. If oil is the only ingredient that is liquid, try using half applesauce and half buttermilk, because the latter is very low in fat but has more body than skim milk, water or juice. Try pureed prunes (or baby food prunes) to replace fat in brownies and chocolate cakes or anything with chocolate. It adds a chewy texture and a sweet flavor. Again you save a huge amount of calories and fat. To puree the prunes place 3/4 cup of dried, chopped pitted prunes in a blender and add 3 tablespoons of very hot water. Blend until prunes are smooth.

Try substituting marshmallow cream for the margarine or butter in your favorite frosting recipe. You still have calories but you've eliminated the fat.

Using reduced-calorie margarine or butter would seem like a logical substitution, but it has water whipped into it and will change the texture and consistency of your recipe, especially in baked goods. However, it may be used in items that are not cooked.

Use fruit juices such as lemon, orange, apple, white grape or pineapple juice in place of some or all of the oil in salad dressings. For a less sweet dressing, use part defatted chicken broth with the juice. Eliminating all of the oil makes a watery dressing so I suggest using a little oil. Experiment.

Substitute cocoa powder for the chocolate flavor of unsweetened chocolate squares, but no fat. Use 3 tablespoons cocoa powder and 2 teaspoons hot water to make a paste for each square of chocolate.

To cut the cholesterol from eggs in a recipe, use two egg whites for each whole egg. If the recipe calls for thickening of the ingredients, this won't work because the yolk is what causes the sauce to thicken. I also would not substitute all of the eggs in a recipe. For instance, if the recipe called for 3 eggs, use 4 egg whites and one whole egg. There is only a minimal savings of fat grams in this substitution.

When a recipe calls for canned cream soup such as cream of celery, mushroom or chicken, purchase the low sodium, 99% fat-free version. Another method is to make a paste of a small amount of bouillon granules or cubes and a table-spoon of-hot water. Mix in a tablespoon of flour or corn-starch and a cup of evaporated skim milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook one more minute.

When using canned chicken or beef broth, tomato juice, tomato sauce or paste or canned tomatoes, try purchasing the low-salt version to cut back on the sodium. You can always add salt, but you can't take it back out.

Pork sausage is a favorite of everyone, but the fat content is outrageous. Try making your own. Now while you can't totally eliminate fat, use a good pork shoulder and cut back on the amount of fat the recipe calls for. Then with your own seasonings, you have a healthier version of this grand breakfast treat. See my cookbook for a simple recipe.

Pie crust or pastry is a high-fat and high-calorie part of a pie. Try substituting a graham cracker crust made with a reduced-calorie butter or margarine or better yet, use part of a non-fat dry cereal like Rice Crispies or one of the bran cereals crushed instead of the graham crackers. You can sweeten it with a sugar substitute.

Another substitution for a pastry crust is to use phyllo dough. Try this: cut 3 sheets of phyllo dough in half crosswise and again in half vertically. Work quickly. Place one sheet in the pie plate and lightly spray with vegetable spray. Add the next sheet and repeat spraying until you have 6 sheets. Trim edges. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 5 minutes or until golden.

Reduce the amount of the fatty ingredient.

Some recipes call for ingredients that just cry for nuts, coconut or chocolate chips. Just cut the amount used by half or two thirds.

Try mixing fat-free cottage cheese or fat-free ricotta cheese with feta or goat cheese.

Use 95% lean ground beef and mix it with ground turkey, turkey breast, chicken, chicken breast or ground pork tenderloin. Actually, you could just use the entire recipe with the substitute, but some recipes really do taste better with at least some ground beef.

Use water packed tuna rather than oil packed.

Use turkey bacon rather than pork bacon.

Reduce the amount of sugar used by one quarter.

Cut in half the amount of sliced olives called for in a recipe.

Try to incorporate a few of these ideas into your cooking. Experiment with recipes to reduce the fat and calories. Some you will enjoy and some you will eliminate because you just can't handle the substitution. Some things just take getting used to. I found these ideas years ago in either a book or a magazine, typed them up and pasted them up in my pantry. I don't always use them, but many are part of my everyday food preparation.

There are many books available dealing with how to reduce fat, calories, sodium and cholesterol available.

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