Slash fat, not taste!

Five creative cooking tips for guilt-free meals

The term “low-fat” is everywhere these days. It’s no secret that a high-fat diet can lead to obesity, which increases the risk of heart disease, cancer and a host of other health problems. Health Canada recommends that you get no more than 30 per cent of your total daily calories from fat. But how do we cut fat while still enjoying what we eat? Alter the way you cook with these easy tips that let you keep all the flavour, but not the fat.

Deep six deep-frying

Love a good fry-up of fish ‘n’ chips? You don’t have to say no if you bake instead of fry. Coat skinless fish fillets with a dried-herb-and-breadcrumb crust, then place on a wire rack over a baking sheet so excess fat falls through while it bakes. The trick behind a crispy coating is a super-hot oven. Our version of baked french fries has only 0.2 grams of fat, while a serving of deep-fried chips can have 15 grams or more.

Lighten up with Oven “fried” fish and Chunky country fries

Steam power

Steaming keeps food moist and flavours bright without adding a lot of fat. Steaming is especially effective for delicately flavoured foods such as fish, seafood, chicken and vegetables. For delicious fish or chicken, dress it up with grated lemon, lime or orange peel and a splash of low-fat salad dressing before wrapping individual portions in foil. Then place on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 375F to 400F (190C to 200C) oven. I like to add a few condiments before popping them in the oven. Try a spoonful of capers or sliced sun-dried tomatoes. Dollops of mustard or salsa and spoonfuls of chutney add zing without a lot of fat.

Want to save time and eat well? Try steaming and grilling at the same time. Throw a package of foil-wrapped veggies on the grill while barbecuing chicken, such as in our Grilled chicken with sweet peppers recipe.

A simmering passion

Comfort foods such as soup and stew can be low in fat, too. Simmering meat, fish or vegetables in a small amount of liquid is called braising or stewing. Braising works wonders on tougher cuts of meat, such as chicken or turkey thighs or blade steak, which often require a long, slow cooking time to tenderize. Boost flavour with chopped fresh or dried herbs and spices. I like thyme and rosemary with beef or pork, tarragon and oregano for chicken, and hot chili flakes or store-bought blends such as cajun or lemon pepper for fish. Dijon mustard, minced garlic or grated fresh ginger are other great low-fat ingredients. Want to slash even more fat? Prepare soups or stews one or two days in advance and refrigerate. Most of the fat will rise to the top and solidify, making it easy to scoop out with a spoon before reheating.

Be saucy and healthy for only 4.5 grams of fat per serving. Try our Summery seafood ragout

Less is more

You can still use your favourite high-fat ingredients – just stretch them out to maximize flavour and minimize fat. Love a sandwich piled high with thick slices of cheese? Try sprinkling your sandwich with a layer of grated cheese instead. It will still look like a lot, but you’ll be using less cheese.

Want to indulge in a creamy dessert? Top a bowl of fresh fruit with yogurt instead of whipped cream. Or try making yogurt cheese. It has the same light silky texture of cream but is much healthier. All you need is a strainer and a little time. Line the strainer with paper towel and set it over a bowl. Stir yogurt (low-fat plain works well) with a little sugar, then pour into strainer. I also like to add a shot of vanilla extract and a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg or grated citrus peel. Cover and refrigerate a few hours or overnight. The yogurt thickens and looks like rich, fat-laden cream. Discard liquid in bottom of bowl. Spoon over berries or use as a topping for angel food cake. Try something new for dessert. Spoon our Creamy saffron yogurt over slices of ripe mango. A 1/2 cup (125 mL) serving has 5.5 grams of fat, compared to the 22 grams of fat found in the same amount of whipped cream.

Skinnier sauces & dressings

Replace gravy and heavy sauces with salsa. One tbsp (15 mL) of bottled salsa has virtually no fat. Use a tomato and sweet-pepper salsa to dress-up roast beef or chicken, and pair a fruit salsa with fish or pork. Want to make your own? Try our easy Freezer salsa with only 0.1 grams of fat per 2 tbsp (30 mL) serving.

Next time you’re making a dip or cold sauce, try replacing regular sour cream or mayonnaise with light sour cream. Two tbsp (30 mL) of 1 per cent sour cream has 0.4 grams fat. The same amount of regular sour cream contains 4 grams of fat and the same amount of regular mayonnaise contains 14 grams. Pair light sour cream with strong flavours such as horseradish or grainy Dijon mustard and chopped fresh herbs such as dill, rosemary or thyme. (Hint: try using sauces for dipping, rather than pouring them over your entire meal). Spice up tonight’s dinner with our low-cal Lime-ginger dipping sauce

Salad dressing is an instant flavour booster, but make sure you’re buying the right kind. Some dietitians recommend using low-fat or light dressings instead of fat-free ones. Our bodies absorb nutrients from greens better with a little fat, so choose dressings that contain about three to five grams of fat per serving.

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