Sunday, February 17, 2013

Low-Fat Baking and Cooking Exchanges

Since having my gallbladder removed last summer, my body has all but stopped tolerating fats of any kind.  This has been wonderful for my diet, but truly torturous for my taste buds.  During the first 6 months, I lost almost 20 pounds and sulked around all day in a boring haze of potatoes, rice, plain veggies, and fruit- dodging almost all meats, baked goods, dairy, and anything else that makes life worth living.  But I finally got hungry enough to turn my home into a test kitchen, trying out my favorite recipes using low-fat exchanges that actually taste good. Who knew that my sick gallbladder would result in my entire family being healthier?  Trenton has lost weight, my kids have energy, and I can finally enjoy things like muffins, meatloaf, and salad dressing again!

This list is certainly not complete, but I figured I'd share some of the yummy tricks I've tried and loved. (This list is only geared toward lower fat content because that's what my body struggles to digest.  These exchanges are not necessarily lower in sugar, dairy, meat, sodium, or calories.) 
  • When baking, use applesauce instead of oil, butter, and eggs.  Depending on what I'm baking, I enjoy the flavored kinds.  You can use applesauce when baking savory foods, as well.  Just choose the kind with no additional sugar.  The exchange rate is equal- in other words, 1/3 cup applesauce for 1/3 oil.
  • I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray butter.  This stuff has saved me!  It's perfect for anything you might top with butter or margarine, such as steamed veggies, pasta, and toast.  It's fat-free as long as you stick with the 3 spray serving size.  But if 3 sprays contains zero-fat, I don't think a few more spritzes will do you in.  Spray butter does not bake well.
  • Non-stick cooking spray works beautifully in the place of olive and canola oil when roasting vegetables and pan frying meats and veggies.  It can be used when toasting bread for bruschetta or garlic bread, grilled-cheese sandwiches.
  • Baked chips are amazing.  For 3.5 or less grams of fat per serving, you can actually enjoy potato and tortilla chips!
  • Light mozzarella string cheese contains 2.5 grams of fat per sick.  (Be careful not to confuse Light with 2%, which has 4.5 grams of fat per serving, which is still not shabby!)
  • If you are baking a recipe that just absolutely requires stick butter or margarine (and we all have those recipes), use Blue Bonnet light sticks.  They have 5 grams vs. double the fat for regular margarine.  And the taste truly is identical.
  • Egg beaters are a wonderful invention.  1/4 cup provides 6 grams of protein with only 25 calories and zero fat.  Add a pinch of salt and a sprinkle of low-fat cheese and they are divine!
  • Pureed squashes and ripe bananas bake beautifully in breads, brownies, and cakes.  One of my favorite recipes for quick bread is 1 box spice cake mix, 1 can pumpkin puree, and 1/2 cup applesauce. Mix and bake for 30 minutes at 350.  The possibilities truly are endless.  You can change up the flavor of cake mix and applesauce and have a completely different treat!
  • Fat-free plain yogurt is a perfect substitute for any recipe that calls for sour cream or mayonaise.  And a serving adds 14 grams of protein punch to your salad, snack, or meal.  It is also runny enough to be a nice salad dressing.  Fat-free Greek yogurt is thicker, so it works well for dips and spreads.
  • I enjoy adding Hidden Valley Ranch powdered dressing packets to fat-free plain yogurt.  They have flavors such as Harvest Dill, Buttermilk Ranch, and Zesty Italian.  With only 5 calories and zero fat, you really can't go wrong.
  • 1/3 less fat cream cheese cuts none of the flavor when you're using it as a spread and dip.  Since the fat-free cream cheese is less flavorful, it should only be used in baked goods and frostings.
  • Angel Food Cake has zero fat.  'Nuff said.
  • When making sauces- use bullion, spices,  low-fat or fat-free soup bases, and skim milk instead of butter, cream, and the fattening jarred crap at the grocery store.  It is just so unnecessary!
  • Marinate meats in low-fat, or fat-free salad dressing over night.  Your meat will then be saturated in flavor and you'll be less likely to add fatty condiments. 
  • When a recipe calls for breadcrumbs, use crushed up Total cereal flakes, which contains a trace amount of fat, and 100% of your daily value of 11 vitamins and minerals.  You heard that right- just 3/4 cup provides 100% dv of Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin B 12, and Zinc.  Plus 3 grams of fiber.
  • Boil your pasta, potatoes, and rice in bullion broth.  Zero fat, lots of flavor, and less need for dressings and sauces. 
  • Whenever a recipe calls for ground beef or pork sausage, use 90% lean ground turkey breakfast sausage.  There is a huge difference between ground turkey (which still as 17 grams of fat per serving) and lean turkey breakfast sausage (which has between 4-6 grams of fat per serving.)  And bonus- the breakfast sausage has been blessed with extra seasoning.  I promise if you try this, you will never want to go back to 15-19 grams of fat that are found in hamburger meat.
I could go on and on and on with this list, and I'll probably add to it as I learn and try new things.  I have many recipes that I will post using the tricks I've mentioned.  It is important to keep in mind that the health benefits of eating a lower-fat diet must be part of an equation- keeping overall fat intake between 20% and 30% of daily calories, consuming unsaturated fats such as nuts, cold water fish, and avocados, and avoiding the trans fats found in red meats, full-fat dairy, processed foods and fast food, eating more fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, lessening refined carbohydrates, limiting sodium intake, practicing portion control, increasing physical activity, and staying hydrated.  I am obviously not a nutrition expert, and I am definitely not the picture of health, but I figured this information might be appreciated by others who also struggle, for one reason or another, with fats.  The biggest piece of advice I have for someone watching what they eat is to make it yourself.  Anything and everything you could ever crave could be tweaked into a more innocent version.

Skinnier Roll-Out Sugar Cookies (3 grams of fat per 2 cookies)

1 box white cake mix
1/3 cup applesauce
1/2 cup Blue Bonnet Light margarine
1 tsp vanilla
1tsp almond extract
1 egg

Bake at 375 for 5-7 minutes.

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