ADD FLAVOUR, SUBTRACT FAT
By Nutrition Expert
Monday, September 5, 2011.
The two biggest sellers in any bookstore are the cookbooks and the diet books. The cookbooks tell you how to prepare the food, and the diet books tell you how not to eat any of it.
Let’s face it. Fat tastes good. It provides texture and richness to foods and provides what foodies call “mouth feel” - that silken, smooth sensation that glides over your palate and down your throat so easily. But because fat has more than double the calories as protein or carbohydrate, you need to be frugal with fat.
And like carbohydrates, all fats are not created equal. Some fats are health-promoting, like monounsaturated fat in olive oil and avocado, or omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish. Other fats are bad for your health and contribute to higher “bad” LDL cholesterol.
They include saturated fat in fatty meats, cream and butter and, of course, trans fats (hydrogenated fat), used in fast-food frying and many baked goods. Both raise LDL and lower “good” HDL cholesterol.
Until recently, it was accepted that “French people don’t get fat,” even considering their cuisine’s high-fat, creamy cheeses and buttery sauces. However, overweight and obesity in France has doubled since the 1980s. “Globesity” reflects the world’s dependence on computers and replacement of physical labour with sedentary occupations, not to mention the increased consumption of fast food.
So to enjoy your food without the fat, you need smart strategies. We’re lucky today, it’s easier than ever to have your cake and eat it too, so to speak.
Replacement fats and low-fat dairy substitutes have made cooking our favourite dishes easier, so you can enjoy eating lower-fat foods and dishes without sacrificing taste and texture.
To make your food taste better while removing fat and calories, try these easy strategies.
1. Just cut back. Before we start exploring strategies of taste, let’s talk about cooking. By just cutting back on the amount of fat called for, you improve the nutritional profile. If you’re stir-frying, and the recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of oil, cut back to 1 tablespoon or use a non-stick wok and cooking wine or stock for your liquid instead of oil.
2. Use flavourful oils and you can use less without missing it. Extra-virgin olive oil has its own mellow flavour. Add a few drops of walnut or sesame oil to canola oil for salad dressing.
3. Cut back on oil in salad dressing and increase vinegar, spices and lemon juice. The proportion of oil in traditional vinaigrette is 3-1, so start experimenting by making it 2-1, then 1-1. Invest in good-quality balsamic vinegar and high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil for more flavour, and reducing the amount will be painless.
4. Invest in a George Foreman grill or similar. It makes low-fat grilling a breeze. Spray the grill with some cooking oil and grill burgers, chicken, fish and shellfish - even firm tofu. Potatoes sliced and tossed in olive oil, then grilled on your “George” are much healthier and lower in fat than chips; you and your family will adore them.
5. For better burgers, use very lean beef and add ingredients that bring out the taste and contribute some moisture. Mix a tablespoon each of tomato sauce and low fat plain yoghurt into your lean beef or minced turkey breast, plus some crushed garlic and chives. Add a grated courgette and carrot and lower the saturated fat and cholesterol while adding fibre and nutrition.
6. Switch to low-fat dairy and substitutes. You’ll get to enjoy the flavour of your favourite puddings and desserts, and you won’t miss the fat. Use low fat yoghurt of reduced fat crème fraiche instead of full-fat sour cream in recipes.
7. To make a perfectly healthy pizza without sacrificing flavour, switch from whole-milk mozzarella to low-fat, which has less than 5 grams of fat per serving. Add flavour with three or four tablespoons of diced fresh coriander or basil and some capers. Low fat cheeses don’t melt well, so use a little less of the low-fat cheese.
8. Spice it up. Liberally spice your food with hot sauce, red and black pepper, and a little salt. Watching the sodium? Choose salt-free seasonings. Your supermarket has dozens of different varieties.
9. Don’t overcook. When reducing the fat, adjust your cooking methods to avoid drying out leaner meats. Don’t bother pressing down on your burger to get the fat out; instead, keep it as moist as possible by starting with hot grill sprayed with a little cooking oil and cooking just until done.
10. Savour salsas. Leaner cuts of meat and skinless poultry and fish do well with flavourful salsa. Try a mango-red onion, a black bean and peach, or a tomato-parsley-cucumber. Dice ingredients and mix with garlic, balsamic vinegar, and fresh lemon or lime juice. Experiment with ingredients; there are no rules for salsa.
11. Lose the mayo - discover yoghurt. A mixture of low fat yogurt and low fat crème fraiche with a dash of dry mustard is much better than full-fat mayo. Today’s low fat mayonnaise is an improvement over yesteryear's. Use also in salads and on sandwiches.
12. If you’re a chocoholic, don’t sacrifice chocolate entirely, even if you’re on a weight-loss programme. For a treat, grate 2 squares of the finest dark chocolate over the top of a low-fat dessert.
13. Go “ethnic” for flavour with herbs and spices. They liven up your menu and make your “same old” grilled chicken adventurous. Skinless chicken breast, while healthy, can be boring. For Asian, add fresh ginger, garlic and soy sauce. For French Provencal, add onions, tomatoes, capers, and fresh rosemary and thyme. To make Italian chicken, cook with garlic and onions, then add mushrooms, red peppers, oregano, marjoram and grated parmesan cheese.
14. Brighten up your flavours by throwing out any spice and herb that’s more than one year old. Always buy the smallest-sized containers possible. Here’s one case when buying the “large” size doesn’t save you money. Store inside your cabinet away from heat, not over the stove or next to the oven.