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Low-Fat Cooking Tips


These helpful low-fat cooking tips will help you take and keep weight off.
These helpful low-fat cooking tips will help you take and keep weight off.
Sanja Gjenero

Taking off weight and keeping it off are difficult. The following low-fat cooking tips will help you maintain a healthy weight.

Getting Fit Through Food

A journey consists of many small steps. The process of getting fit and staying fit is no different, so we're offering some "small steps" that can add up to a big difference in how you manage your plans to eat right and stay fit:

Keep your pantry and refrigerator stocked with whatever wholesome foods you love -- you'll be less likely to snack on junk food.

Likewise, when you're considering an exercise or fitness program, pick something you love to do and you'll be more likely to stick with it.

Read nutrition labels. Whether you're on a low-carb diet, a low-fat plan, or just keeping track of calories, food labels can give you the information you need.

Forget about becoming president of the Clean Plate Club. Eat until you're satisfied. Period. If you're full but feel guilty about leaving food on your plate, take smaller portions.

We know it borders on cliché, but skip the fried foods. Not only does the fat make them high in calories, but frying makes fat even more dangerous to your arteries.

If you're taking the low-fat approach, try sautéing in liquids instead of oil: juice, liquids called for in the recipe, sherry, even water. Make sure the liquid is bubbling before adding food to the pan.

Similarly, instead of adding cream to soups, remove 1 or 2 cups of soup, purée it, and add it back to the soup pot. That will give you a smoother, "creamy" base without the fat.

Learn to substitute. Instead of slathering your baked potato with sour cream, try low-fat yogurt; instead of mayonnaise on your sandwich, use low-fat spreads such as ketchup, mustard, salsa, or relish. Experiment with unusual vinegars, hot sauces, and seasonings to keep your foods interesting.

Eat whole-grain foods, such as real oatmeal, whole wheat breads, and brown rice. Whole-grain foods contain more nutrients, and their fiber content keeps your insulin level steady, which helps suppress appetite.

Shopping advice: Do most of your grocery shopping along the perimeter of the supermarket. That's where you'll find the fruits and vegetables, whole-grain items, meats, dairy, and juices.

Steaming vegetables is easy to do, and it's the most nutritious cooking method. Vegetable steamers come in several varieties, from electric appliances that sit on your kitchen counter to multilevel bamboo steamers, or folding baskets that fit inside a saucepan.

Ditch the television. Research continues to indicate that families who reduce their time in front of the tube weigh less and have lower cholesterol levels.

Take a walk every day. Studies show that even a leisurely stroll a few times a week is beneficial. And don't sweat the technical stuff like measuring your heart rate -- just move.

Fill half your dinner plate with vegetables, and eat them before partaking of the main dish. You'll eat less of the higher-calorie foods, and guarantee yourself more nutrients and fiber.

Start small. Radical changes in diet are rarely incorporated into one's lifestyle. Begin with more balanced versions of family favorites. Spaghetti becomes a little less pasta, a little more vegetables, a little less olive oil and cheese.

Reward yourself for a job well done. Buy yourself a gift, or treat yourself to something special when you reach a weight or dietary goal. Be good to yourself.

Reduced-Sugar Baking

If you've ever tried to cut the sugar in your favorite recipes for pastry or baked goods, you probably found out that some times it isn't as simple as just arbitrarily using, say, half the sugar called for or substituting an artificial sweetener.

Baking is chemistry, and removing or significantly changing part of the formula means the results could be very different from what you expect.

In baking, sugar plays a role in everything -- it affects not only the flavor of the food, but also its physical texture and even its color. Sugar regulates the growth of yeast in bread dough: Too much and the yeast quickly balloons and falls flat; too little and the yeast doesn't grow enough -- but either way, the bread doesn't rise.

Sugar also affects texture through its reaction with gluten in flour, and it helps the baked good retain moisture; if you cut the sugar, you're also cutting the life of the product.

That said, many substitutes can be used effectively if used properly. Following are tips for baking with less sugar and with sugar substitutes.

  • Substitutes are often much sweeter than sugar and must be used in smaller amounts. Also, some sweeteners become bitter if baked at high temperatures, so read labels for any applicable disclaimers.
  • Sugar is involved in the processes that allow cookies to spread out during baking. When using sugar substitutes, pat cookie doughs flat before baking.
  • In recipes in which sugar provides volume (like cookies), reduce but don't eliminate sugar; use 1/2 sugar and 1/2 artificial sweetener.
  • Try turbinado and other raw sugars. They are less processed than regular sugar and lend a slight molasses flavor.
  • Increase ingredients like vanilla extract, almond flavoring, or even citrus zest to make up for reduced sweetness. Chop ingredients such as fruit and chocolate into small pieces that can be evenly distributed throughout batters and doughs.
  • Moist, flavorful ingredients like applesauce, ripe bananas, or puréed fruits also can be added to cakes and cookies to compensate for less sugar.
  • Sprinkle baked goods with extra spices like cinnamon or nutmeg just before putting them in the oven. Use coffee (room temperature) to enrich the flavor of low-sugar chocolate recipes.

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