The Truth About Fat
While Americans often seem obsessed with eating, we pay surprisingly little attention to which foods we consume in terms of their effect on our bodies. In contemporary American life we too often choose the foods we eat based on convenience and taste rather than on their nutritional content. It becomes more and more apparent that this lack of nutritional focus is a dangerous choice. According to the Surgeon General of the United States, diet plays a role in the diseases that cause 70 percent of the deaths in this country.
Nowhere is our failure to acknowledge this potentially fatal connection between the food we eat and our health more full of risk than in the area of fat consumption.
The average American eats 135 pounds of fat a year. As a result we are often overfed but undernourished because so many of the food calories we consume are in the form of fats. This excess fat intake is our number one nutrition hazard.
In recent years studies have revealed that those societies around the world that consume diets high in fat have high rates of heart disease and cancer, while those that partake of low-fat diets have significantly lower rates of these diseases. For instance, in a long-term study the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine discovered that the average Chinese consumes 30 percent more calories but 60 percent less fat than the average American. The average Chinese weighs less and has a lower heart disease rate and lower cancer rate than the average American.
In addition to contributing to heart disease and cancer, high consumption of fats has also been linked to diabetes, stroke, and obesity as well as other health problems including acne, skin rashes, allergies, bloating, constipation, dizziness and vertigo,
indigestion, and hormonal imbalances leading to menstrual cramps and premenstrual distress. Eating excess fat can lead to impaired blood circulation, which leads to fatigue and can affect normal immune functions, creating increased vulnerability to illness.
In view of the growing evidence that our health is seriously compromised by the consumption of too much fat, it is important that we learn to control the amount of fat in our diets. In order to do this we have to become conscious of our current rate of fat consumption and learn the best techniques for reducing our fat intake.
Before launching into a program of fat control, it is helpful to understand exactly what fat is and how it functions in our bodies.
Fat is found in all living things. Fat, protein, carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals, and water are the nutritional building blocks of our food supply. Fat is our most concentrated form of food energy since each gram of fat provides us with 9 calories, while protein and carbohydrate provide only 4 calories per gram. A tablespoon of fat contains 120 calories. Most of the reserved energy in the human body is stored in the form of fat. In addition to providing energy, fat helps the body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Like other foods, fats can be broken down into basic chemical units. The main components of fat are called fatty acids. There are three types of fatty acids found in all fats: saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and monounsaturated fat . While all fats consist of varying amounts of these three types of fatty acids, a fat is named after the type of fatty acid that it contains in the largest quantity. Fats in which saturated fatty acid predominates are called saturated fats and are usually solid at room temperature (e.g., meat fat, butter, cheese). Fats in which polyunsaturated fatty acid predominates are called polyunsaturated fats and are usually liquid at room temperature (e.g., corn, safflower, and sesame oils). Fats in which monounsaturated fatty acid predominates are called monounsaturated fats and are usually semisolid at room temperature (e.g., olive oil, canola oil, and peanut oil). Any fat is still 100 percent fat regardless of its type.
As Americans have learned more in the past fifteen years about how different fatty acids can affect our overall body chemistry, we have begun cutting back on the cholesterol and saturated fat in our diets. As a result, many food manufacturers have switched from using saturated fats to partially hydrogenated vegetable oils made from soybean and corn oils.
However, a number of studies, including an Agriculture Department study released in October 1992, have revealed that these oils, which are found in margarine, vegetable shortening, and many manufactured food products, may also cause heart disease. The suggestion that there are dangers in consuming fats high in polyunsaturated fat as well as saturated fat has caused many consumers to shift to consuming more fats high in monounsaturates.
The next step is to think in terms of trimming as many sources of all types of fat and cholesterol from our diets as possible. In other words, the safest course of action related to fat is to eat less of it.
The first step in cutting back on fat is to determine how many of the calories we eat each day should be fat calories. In order to ascertain your own level of fat consumption, you first need to determine how many calories you eat in a normal day. Next you have to decide what percentage of your calories will come from fat.
While major health organizations such as the American Heart Association and the Government's Dietary Guidelines are currently suggesting that the average American's diet should include no more than 30 percent of total calories in the form of fat, many medical experts and nutritionists feel that this figure is still not low enough. Increasingly, they suggest that a diet including no more than 20 percent, 15 percent, or even 10 percent of total calories in the form of fat is preferable.
However, the 30 percent is a compromise. It was picked out of the hat. No one ever thought it was optimal. It was never based on comparative or experimental data. There is a fair amount of evidence that it should be less than 20 percent.
Most nutrition experts say that the optimal amount of fat in the daily diet should not exceed 10 percent. A diet with all added fat removed can actually help unclog blocked arteries as part of a total program of diet, exercise, and stress management without the intervention of drugs or invasive techniques.
Once you determine what percentage of your daily caloric intake will be in the form of fat, you can figure out how many grams of fat you can consume each day by doing a simple equation. Multiply the percentage of fat by the total number of calories you will consume and then divide the resulting number by 9 (the number of grams in each fat calorie). For example, if you are eating 1,500 calories a day and want to consume only 15 percent of those calories as fat calories, multiply 1,500 by .15. The resulting figure is 225 calories. Then divide 225 by 9 and the figure you get is 25. Therefore, you can eat 25 grams of fat a day if you want to hold your fat consumption level to 15 percent of total calories.
To give you an idea of how far this "fat budget" will take you in today's high-fat world, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil contains 14 grams of fat, 1 beef hot dog contains 17 grams, an 8-ounce bag of potato chips contains 88 grams of fat, and a hamburger, french fries, and a milk shake contain a total of 64 grams.
As you learn to control your fat intake, you will need to work on balancing high-fat meals with low-fat meals and high-fat recipes with low-fat recipes. You need to become thoroughly acquainted with the fat content of everything you eat. Even if you eat only the lowest-fat foods, you can use up half your daily fat limit by adding the wrong salad dressing to your spartan salad.
When you begin to slash the fat from your diet, it is natural to be concerned about the other end of the spectrum. Is it safe to eat only a minimal amount of added fat? The answer is yes. Most of us are currently consuming eight times as much fat as the 14 grams a day our bodies need. These 14 grams can supply the essential fatty acids required to synthesize a number of important substances.
All natural foods contain some fat; it is present in every whole food we eat. The body makes all the fat you need from these foods and also manufactures fat from excess proteins and carbohydrates. Consequently, your body will be receiving fat whether you supply it in the form of added fat calories or not. For example, a cup of pinto beans naturally contains 0.9 gram of fat, 1/2 cup of corn contains 1.1 grams of fat, 1 cup of oatmeal contains 2.4 grams of fat, and 1 cup of whole wheat flour contains 2 grams of fat.
The two essential forms of fatty acid that the body can't make are linoleic and linolenic acid. The latest research says you need 0.1 percent of total calories in the form of these acids, the amount you consume in a slice of whole wheat bread. Other good sources are corn, wheat flour, wheat bran, oatmeal, brown rice, and beans.
Calcium intake, which is also a major health concern, does not have to be adversely impacted by a fat-free diet. In fact, the presence of fat in the diet can interfere with calcium absorption. The amount of calcium present in fat-laden dairy products is still present in those that are nonfat. Calcium is also present in plant foods including broccoli, spinach, kale, collard greens, dried fruits, dried beans, and peas. Calcium intake is of particular concern to women at risk for osteoporosis, who should consume at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day.
If you give up meat as part of your fat-reduction diet, be aware of the need to replace iron and some B vitamins with food choices such as dark green leafy vegetables, dried beans, dried peas, whole-grain and enriched cereals, and dried fruits. People needing extra iron include women with excessive menstrual bleeding, and pregnant or lactating women.
The concern over fat in the diet is not limited to adults. Many of the medical problems caused by fat have their roots in childhood eating habits. Parents need to become more sensitive to the amount of fat their children are consuming.
Prior to age two, fat intake should not be restricted due to growth demands, but the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends that children over two should follow the same dietary guidelines related to fat as adults. Children should eat a diet consisting of a wide variety of foods and enough calories to support growth and development. Fat intake should be no more than 30 percent of total calories with saturated fat no more than 10 percent of total calories and cholesterol intake less than 300 milligrams a day. Check with your pediatrician for information about the right percentage of fat calories in your children's diets.
It takes practice
Eating a high-fat diet is learned behavior, and like all learned behaviors changing it requires a period of adjustment. While fat is not a flavor, it carries flavor elements and gives a creamy texture to foods. When deleting the added fat from recipes, it is important to pay added attention to highlighting the natural flavors of foods by using a variety of ingredients such as herbs and spices that enhance character and flavor. After a few months of reducing the amount of added fat in your diet, you will be amazed at how much more aware of subtle tastes you become and how unnecessary and unappealing the taste of fat can seem.
Your Total Diet Picture
In addition to considering your fat intake, you should also keep in mind the recommendations of the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Institute, and the United States Department of Agriculture that your daily food intake include 20 to 35 grams of fiber; five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables, particularly those high in antioxidants—vitamins C, E, and beta carotene (e.g., broccoli, carrots, strawberries, and cantaloupe); and no more than 2,400 to 3,000 milligrams of sodium. (In fact, many health experts are encouraging a lower sodium intake of about 1,800 milligrams a day.)
Be sure to couple your dietary program with a physically active life-style to reap the benefits that exercise can contribute to your overall health.
When shopping for the commercially prepared nonfat foods, be sure to read labels with great care. The Food and Drug Administration allows a product with less than half a gram of fat per serving to call itself fat-free. This figure might be listed as "O" or as "less than 1 gram." Also be wary of the actual size of the "serving."
Remember that fat is probably present in most unpackaged, unlabeled commercially prepared foods and that you will be unable to determine fat content on such items.
Nonfat foods are found in the special diet sections of some supermarkets, but are now most frequently being shelved with the higher-fat varieties in each product category.
The foods generally used as ingredients in most low-fat recipes can be readily found in supermarkets, but if they are not currently being stocked by the supermarkets in your area, check specialty foods shops such as health food outlets. You may have to shop in several supermarkets to find the fullest range of fat-free ingredients. Stores are adding fat-free products somewhat cautiously as they assess consumer interest. Consequently it is a good idea to tell your store manager that you are pleased with his or her stocking a particular nonfat product.
The number of commercially produced nonfat foods in all categories—from cheeses to dressings to snacks such as crackers, potato chips, pretzels, and corn chips—continues to grow rapidly. As you learn about them from advertisements and other sources, you can do a service for yourself and other fat-watching consumers by asking your supermarket manager to stock them. You should also consider writing to manufacturers or calling their toll-free numbers to applaud the creation of nonfat products and request items like fat-free soups that have been slower to appear on the market.
Often in packaging nonfat foods manufacturers tend to increase the sodium counts. If you are paying particular attention to your salt intake, be sure to check the sodium content on the label.
Many other liquids can be used to replace the fat in cooking. Water, defatted chicken stock, vegetable stock, wine, or sherry can be used to sauté ingredients. Nonfat dairy products such as nonfat yogurt, nonfat cottage cheese, and nonfat sour cream can be substituted for higher-fat products.
Fruit purées can be substituted for fat in baking.
Having the right nonstick cookware is important when you are not using fat in cooking. For pan-sautéing, a pan with a T-Fal finish is adequate. Wear-Ever's Silverstone and top-of-the-line Supra, which are heavy commercial-gauge aluminum pans, are good all-purpose nonstick choices. Buy these with nonstick interiors and removable handles so they can be popped into the oven or under the broiler. A Calphalon griddle made of heavy-gauge anodized aluminum works well for cooking pancakes. Before investing in an expensive set of nonstick cookware, buy the smallest, least expensive sauté pan or saucepan to test its nonstick qualities.
A plastic gravy strainer or fat separator cup with a long spout can be used to remove fat from soups, stocks, and sauces.
Steaming foods is one of the simplest ways to avoid cooking with fat.
To steam foods, you will need a heavy saucepan with a snugly fitting lid and a steamer insert. This insert is a folding stainless steel basket, which should be available wherever kitchenware is sold. There are now a number of saucepan-basket combinations on the market that are designed to be steamers.
When steaming foods, fill the saucepan with approximately an inch of water, add the prepared food in the steamer basket, cover with the lid, and steam on medium heat . Most vegetables that have been cut in serving-size pieces will steam in about five minutes. Denser foods such as small new potatoes, winter squash, and large green beans will take ten or fifteen minutes. When cooking these longer-steaming foods, be sure to check the saucepan to see if more water may be needed. Foods cooked lightly by steaming instead of boiling keep more of their water-soluble vitamin content intact.
When steaming, try using wine in place of water, or adding lemon juice or flavored vinegars to the water. Steaming liquids can be seasoned with garlic, onions, leeks, whole peppercorns, bay leaves, fresh and dried herbs such as rosemary, basil, oregano, thyme, and dill.
Microwaving is another way of preserving the vitamin content and flavor of foods while cutting down on the need for fat, since microwaves cook foods quickly, many in their own natural moisture content. For recipe ideas and cooking techniques, see For the Microwave, beginning on this page.
Pressure cookers cook with superheated steam under high pressure and can cut preparation time of many foods from 50 to 70 percent. The moist steam cuts down on fat needed in cooking, and vitamins and minerals are retained because pressure-cooked food cooks quickly and is insulated from oxygen. Unlike old-fashioned pressure cookers, the newest models have valves that are fully automatic, quiet, and self-regulating. The valve automatically releases excess air when pressure is too high.
You can sauté foods in spite of the fact that you are not using fat by using small amounts of other liquids such as nonfat, low-sodium chicken broth, vegetable broth, fruit or vegetable juice, vinegar, lemon juice, water, or wine. Use a nonstick pan with a treated finish.
To sauté, place a pan over a medium-high flame . Add liquid. Bring to a sizzle. Add food and stir quickly, making sure all the ingredients are cooked evenly.
To "brown" food, allow all the liquid to cook down until the food begins to brown . Deglaze the pan by adding a small amount of liquid after the food is sufficiently cooked.
When baking, you can cut fat calories by avoiding the need to oil baking pans. Either buy high-quality nonstick bakeware or line pans with baking pan liners. These may be in the form of reusable parchment paper, which is available in rolls and in precut round and square shapes of varying sizes at most kitchen supply stores. Another good choice is the Magic Baking Sheet made by Von Snedaker. This sturdy, reusable product wipes clean and is truly "nonstick." It is available in a variety of sizes and shapes and can be found in cooking supply stores. It is microwave safe. When using muffin tins, use paper liners. If you find that you must oil a baking pan, use a nonstick vegetable cooking spray and spray surface as lightly as possible. You could also fill an inexpensive plastic spray bottle with either olive oil or canola oil to use for this purpose.
While baked goods prepared without fat will never duplicate the taste and texture of those prepared with fat, fat-free baking can produce an array of treats to satisfy your sweet tooth. You can replace the fat or shortening used in baking with banana purée, applesauce, or prune purée. This adds the nutrients and fiber in the fruit as well as reducing fat . Remember to wrap baked goods made without fat in plastic wrap and refrigerate them since they will tend to become stale more quickly.
Be sure to test baked foods for doneness as they are cooking rather than relying entirely on suggested baking times since your oven temperature may not be identical to those in which the recipes were tested.
When grilling foods, try using commercial fat-free Italian dressing, lemon juice, or one of the dressings as a marinade to avoid fat calories.
Here's a guide to shopping for the ingredients used in low-fat / no-fat Recipes:
Angel Food Cake Mix: Angel food cakes, which are free of fat and cholesterol, are a dessert staple on a fat-free diet. If you don't have time to make Angel Food Cake from scratch from the recipe on this page, there are a number of angel food cake mixes on the market to choose from.
Apple Juice Concentrate: Apple juice concentrate can be used to sweeten some dishes. It can be found frozen in the freezer section of your supermarket or packaged in a box in the canned and bottled juice section.
Applesauce: Buy natural applesauce without added sugar. Applesauce can be substituted for butter and margarine in many recipes to reduce fat, calories, and cholesterol. Applesauce provides moisture and stability when used as a fat alternative in baked goods. It performs best when it is used in recipes containing other wet ingredients such as skim milk or fresh fruit. Replace ½ cup butter with ½ cup natural applesauce.
Arrowroot: Arrowroot is a delicate thickener for sauces. It has a neutral flavor and does not mask or alter natural flavors. It reaches its maximum thickening power before boiling and results in very clear sauces. Two teaspoons arrowroot can replace 1 tablespoon cornstarch or 1½ teaspoons can replace 1 tablespoon flour. Combine arrowroot with 2 tablespoons cold water before adding to sauce. Then add gradually to thicken. Arrowroot can be found on the spice rack in most supermarkets.
Artichoke Hearts: Canned artichoke hearts are baby artichokes with tender leaves and a bottom in which the bristly choke is undeveloped and therefore edible. Buy only artichoke hearts packed in water. They can be stored unopened on a cool, dry pantry shelf for a year. Drain the water before using. Once opened, store canned artichokes in the refrigerator for up to four days.
Bagels: Look for "water" bagels and avoid those made with egg. Check labels on packaged bagels for fat content.
Baking Powder: Baking powder is a combination of an acid, an alkali, and a starch that keeps the other ingredients stable and dry. The powder reacts with liquid by foaming and the resulting bubbles can aerate and raise dough. Buy double-acting baking powder. Don't expose baking powder to steam, humid air, wet spoons, or moisture. Store it in a tightly sealed container for no more than six months.
To test the strength of baking powder, place 1 teaspoon powder into ⅓ cup hot water. If the mixture fails to fizz and bubble, the baking powder is no longer potent.
Baking Soda: This plain white powder is an alkali, one of the ingredients in baking powder. It is also called bicarbonate of soda. When kept dry and well covered, it can be stored for as long as three months.
Bamboo Shoots: Bamboo shoots are the edible portion of young bamboo plants. Once you have opened canned bamboo shoots, cover them with water and refrigerate. If you drain the shoots regularly and re-cover them with water, they will keep for one month.
Barley: This is a hearty grain with a chewy texture and nutty taste. It looks like rice and puffs up when cooked. The soluble fiber in barley is believed to be just as effective as oats in lowering cholesterol. Barley is commercially hulled to shorten the cooking time. Pearled barley is the most common variety.
Beans: Beans are a vital part of a fat-free diet because they are high in fiber and low in fat. They are rich in protein and vitamins and contain no cholesterol. Some studies have shown that beans can lower cholesterol levels. When eaten in the same day as any whole-grain food, they also provide a high-quality form of protein, which is very important for anyone not eating meat, fish, or poultry. Beans are an inexpensive food and as consumer demand for them increases, companies are selling higher-quality canned beans and dried beans that require less soaking.
Keep the following beans and legumes on hand in dried and/or canned form: kidney, black, pinto, Great Northern, cannelini, lima, and navy beans, and lentils, split peas, and black-eyed peas.
Since beans and other high-fiber foods can cause intestinal gas, products are now appearing on the market such as Beano (made by AkPharma Inc. in Pleasantville, NJ). A few drops of Beano added to a dish of beans can help break down the sugars that cause excess gas. Changing the water frequently while soaking dried beans can also make them easier to digest.
You can store cooked beans in the refrigerator for one week. They can be frozen in individual serving containers and quickly microwaved as needed. Slightly undercook beans you are planning to freeze.
Dried Beans: When cooking with dried beans, 1 cup (8 ounces) is equal to 2 to 2½ cups cooked beans.
To cook beans using the conventional stovetop method, first wash and pick over beans, discarding cracked or shriveled ones.
To cut down on cooking time, presoak them for 2 hours or overnight in a large bowl and cover with several inches of water. (The beans will expand to about twice their size.) A quicker presoak method is to bring the beans to a boil, cover tightly, remove from heat, and let sit for 1 hour. If you can't presoak, add 30 minutes to the cooking time. Lentils, black-eyed peas, and split peas do not need to be soaked before cooking.
To cook, discard the soaking water. Place 3 parts fresh water and 1 part beans in a large, heavy pan. You can add garlic cloves, as well as onion, celery, and carrot chunks or a chile pepper or bay leaf. (Remove bay leaf before serving.) Partially cover the pan. Cook black beans, limas, and small white beans for 1½ hours; black-eyed peas, lentils, and split peas for 1 hour; and Great Northern, kidney, and pinto beans for 2 hours. Test for doneness by tasting. Beans should be cooked until they are soft. Avoid adding tomatoes or salt until the end of the cooking process because these ingredients can prevent your beans from softening.
Microwave Method: The microwave makes cooking dried beans more convenient. Microwaved beans retain their taste and texture after cooking. They can be prepared in one simple step without presoaking. Combine the washed and picked-over beans with water (1¼ cups dried beans to 2 to 3 quarts water) in a large bowl. Seal airtight with a double layer of unvented plastic wrap and microwave for 1¾ hours on HIGH. (Some very dry beans can take 2 hours).
Pressure-Cooker Method: Except for lentils and split peas, which can block the pressure valve, beans cook nicely in a pressure cooker. Presoaking is unnecessary. Bring the washed beans to boil in three times their volume of water. Only fill cooker half full. Cover and bring to 15 pounds of pressure. Cook beans for 15 to 30 minutes; cool immediately. Smaller beans take less time; larger beans will need to cook for the longer period.
Canned Beans: Read labels on canned beans carefully. Most beans contain some natural fat, which will be indicated on the label. However, avoid those that have meats like bacon or pork added. Look for low-sodium products and/or drain them and rinse well before adding to a recipe. Rinsing can reduce the sodium in canned beans by half. When buying canned vegetarian baked beans in tomato sauce, look for those that are packed in low-sodium sauce.
Bean Sprouts: Sprouts are the infant plants that grow out of beans in a moist, warm environment. Look for moist and crisp-looking sprouts with a fresh scent. The shorter the tendrils, the younger and tenderer the sprout. Fresh sprouts will keep for seven to ten days in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. They should be kept moist but don't allow a lot of free water to build up on the inside of the bag. Canned bean sprouts are also available.
Beer: Beer and/or nonalcoholic beer are used as flavorings in some recipes.
Bread: Buy French, Italian, whole wheat, and rye breads that are made without fat. Major bread manufacturers are now producing fat-free breads.
Buckwheat: Actually the pyramid-shaped seed of a fruit, buckwheat has a rich and earthy flavor. It can be used in cereals, pilafs, or salads and also ground into flour for use in pancakes and baked goods.
Bulgur: Bulgur is made from whole wheat kernels. The wheat kernels are parboiled, dried, and partially debranned, then cracked into coarse fragments to make bulgur.
Butter Substitutes: Natural nonfat, low-calorie, low-sodium, instant butter-flavored granule substitutes contain no cholesterol. They can be turned into a liquid by adding water or may be sprinkled in dry form directly on hot, moist foods. In liquid form, they can be used with baked potatoes and pancakes and in sauces and soups. They are available in ¼-ounce packets and in jars. One-half teaspoon of these granules equals the taste of 2 teaspoons butter; 8 teaspoons mixed with ½ cup hot water equals ½ cup or 8 tablespoons liquid butter.
Catsup: Shop for low-sodium catsup.
Cheeses: There are many fat-free cheese products on the market. Be sure to check the labels for their cholesterol content as well as fat content since some of these products are also cholesterol free. Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese, American cheese, cream cheese, ricotta cheese, and cottage cheese are all available in fat-free form. Most of these cheeses are made from skim milk. Both fat-free cheese slices and grated products can also be found.
Chicken: While poultry is not used often in the recipes, chicken breasts and other chicken parts are used to produce broth, which is then defatted. The skin and fat should be removed before using chicken parts to prepare broth.
Chicken Broth: Look for fat-free, low-sodium canned chicken broth. If you cannot find fat-free chicken broth, remove lid and refrigerate in a glass or plastic container overnight (or place in freezer for 30 minutes) until fat congeals and rises to the top. Skim fat off before using. A recipe for making nonfat chicken broth can be found on this page. Make a large quantity of chicken broth and freeze in cubes for easy access. Homemade broth will have the maximum flavor and quality if it is reduced by one third.
Cocoa: Cocoa is dry, powdered, unsweetened chocolate from which cocoa butter (i.e., fat) has been removed. Cocoa can replace unsweetened chocolate in many recipes. Look for cocoa with 1 gram or less of fat per serving.
Cookies: Commercially made fat-free cookies can be used for crumb crusts. More and more varieties of fat-free cookies are appearing on supermarket shelves. You can choose among fudge cookies, oatmeal cookies, or fruit-flavored cookies such as apple, date, apricot, and raspberry. Select a cookie for your crumb crusts that will best complement the filling you are using.
Corn Chips: You can either create your own fat-free corn chips by cutting fat-free corn tortillas into smaller sections and baking them or by buying commercially prepared fat-free, baked corn chips.
Cornmeal: Cornmeal is ground yellow or white corn kernels. Yellow cornmeal has more vitamin A. Cornmeal can be used to make polenta, an Italian pudding or mush that can be eaten hot or cold with cheese, sauce, and other ingredients sprinkled over it. It can be served in place of potatoes or as a main dish with a salad.
Cornstarch: This silky white powder is a thickener for sauces, puddings, and pie fillings. Look for an expiration date on the box.
Couscous: A precooked cracked wheat product that is an alternative to rice, couscous is made from white durum wheat from which the bran and germ has been removed. Once cooked it has a very light, airy quality and a silky texture. Couscous can be found with other grains such as rice or in the imported food aisle.
Crackers: A variety of nonfat crackers can be found in most supermarkets.
Cranberry Juice Concentrate: Cranberry juice concentrate can be used to sweeten some dishes. It can be found frozen in the freezer section of your supermarket or packaged in a box or bottled in the canned and bottled juice section.
Cream of Tartar: When the sediment that collects in wine casks is refined, it turns into the tiny white crystals called cream of tartar. Cream of tartar helps to produce a creamy texture in sugary recipes. Cream of tartar comes in a can or jar with a snug lid. It can be kept on a cool, dry shelf for up to a year.
Curry Powder: Curry powder is a blend of different herbs and spices that vary according to the country of origin. Varieties can differ in intensity of flavor, so use carefully.
Curry flavor becomes stronger in a dish that is refrigerated and then reheated.
Dijon Mustard: Dijon is a strong French mustard that is easy to find in supermarkets. Avoid varieties with added oil or eggs. Store in the refrigerator.
Dressings: There are now many fat-free commercially made salad dressings on the market. In addition to being used on salads, these dressings can be used as marinades for grilling and on garlic bread. Some fat-free dressings are packaged in dried form to be mixed as needed at home.
Flours: Unbleached All-Purpose Flour: Unbleached flour has no chemicals added to whiten or to age the flour artificially. Unbleached flour has a creamy off-white color. All-purpose flour is a mixture of hard, high-gluten wheat and soft wheat suitable for both bread and dessert making.
Cake Flour: Cake flour is made from soft wheat. Since it is a lower-protein flour, it can help your baked goods turn out light and fine textured.
Whole Wheat Flour: Whole wheat flour contains all the parts of the kernel:the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. Whole wheat flour should have a sharp, fresh scent.
Eggs and Egg Substitute: Egg whites contain all the protein in an egg and no fat or cholesterol. You can substitute 2 egg whites for 1 whole egg. When buying commercial egg substitutes, be sure to check the labels for fat content. Buy brands with 1 gram fat or less per serving. Eight ounces (1 cup) of a commercial egg substitute replaces 4 whole eggs and 8 egg whites. Two ounces (¼ cup) egg substitute is equivalent to 1 medium egg. You can also combine 1 egg white with ¼ cup egg substitute if you are making scrambled eggs.
English Muffins: Check package labels to be sure you are buying nonfat English muffins.
Extracts: Extracts have an intense flavor that is produced by dissolving the essential oils of foods in alcohol. There are also imitation extracts made from chemicals that taste similar to their natural counterparts. Shop for natural extracts including vanilla, almond, maple, chocolate, and rum. Amaretto (almond-flavored) liqueur is occasionally used in the recipes.
Fresh Fruit: Fresh fruits used in the recipes include apples, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries, cranberries, red and green grapes, grapefruits, honeydew melons, kiwis, mangoes, navel oranges, nectarines, papayas, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums, raspberries, strawberries, and tangerines.
Canned Fruit: Buy fruit packed in juice or water. Canned fruits used in the recipes include pineapples (crushed and chunk), mandarin oranges, pears, peaches, and apricots.
Dried Fruit: Keep raisins, dried apricots, peaches, pears, dates, pineapple slices, and prunes on hand. Dried fruit can be plumped in your microwave by combining ½ cup mixed, dried fruit with 2 tablespoons orange juice and microwaving for 2 minutes on HIGH until juice is absorbed. Let stand 5 minutes.
Frozen Fruit: Use frozen fruit when fresh fruit is not in season. Frozen fruits used in the recipes include blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, peaches, and strawberries. Frozen fruit should be packed with no sugar added.
Fruit Juice: Shop for natural juices without added sugar or syrup. Juices used in the recipes include grapefruit, orange, cranberry, apple, pineapple, white grape, and red grape as well as pear and apricot nectar.
Garlic: Buy fresh garlic, chopped garlic packed without oil, and minced dried garlic. When buying fresh garlic, look for bulbs with large cloves. Store garlic in a cool, dry place. Roast fresh garlic in its skin to bring the flavor out before adding to a dish instead of sautéing. Before adding minced garlic to a dish, try microwaving it with a bit of lemon juice for 30 seconds.
To microwave a whole head of garlic, trim the top of the head and place in a 1-cup measure with 3 tablespoons nonfat chicken broth. Cover with vented plastic wrap. Microwave on HIGH for 10 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Use as a spread on nonfat French bread.
Gelatin: Gelatin is a dry, powdered protein made from animal byproducts. Buy unflavored gelatin.
Gingerroot: Fresh gingerroot, which adds a distinctive, spicy flavor to many dishes, can be found in the produce department of many supermarkets.
To use, peel the tan skin and thinly slice the root. You can freeze leftover gingerroot wrapped in plastic freezer wrap until ready to use.
Graham Crackers: Graham crackers, reduced to crumbs in your blender, can be used as pie shells. Look for fat-free varieties.
Herbs: While fresh herbs are always preferable to dried herbs in terms of flavor, they are not always easy to obtain. Therefore, with the exception of parsley, which is widely available, you have suggested using dried herbs in the recipes. However, any time you have access to fresh herbs, you should certainly use them. Use three parts fresh herbs for one part dried. Keep dried herbs tightly covered in an airtight container. Don't expose them to extremely high heat or intense light. They are best if used within six months to a year, so it is wise to date containers at the time you purchase or store them.
To maximize the flavor of dried herbs, soak them for several minutes in a liquid you will be using in the recipe, such as stock, lemon juice, or vinegar. Crush dried herbs before using by rubbing them between your fingers. Use for basil leaves, rosemary leaves, thyme leaves, dill leaves, tarragon leaves, bay leaves, chives, cilantro, mint, marjoram, oregano, paprika, sage, and tarragon.
Herb Teas: Herb teas in a wide variety of flavors can be found on supermarket shelves in the coffee and tea aisle.
Honey: Honey is sweeter than granulated sugar and easier to digest. Its flavor and sweetness vary, depending on what kind of nectar bees were eating when they made the honey. You can store liquid honey in its jar for up to a year in a cool, dry, dark place. Be sure the cap is tightly closed. Thin honey that starts to crystallize by placing it in a pan of hot water.
Horseradish: Prepared horseradish is mixed with vinegar and packed in jars. You can store it in the refrigerator for three to four months, but it will lose pungency as it ages. Fresh horseradish is a woody-looking root with a fiery flavor. It can be stored in the refrigerator for three weeks.
Jams and Jellies: Buy all-fruit jams, jellies, and marmalades that are sugar-free and made with fruit and fruit juices.
Lemon Juice and Lime Juice: Lemon and lime juices are most flavorful when they are freshly squeezed. Store fresh lemons and limes in the refrigerator, or if using within a few days, at room temperature.
Lemon Peel: Either grate the peel of fresh lemons or buy grated lemon peel in the spice section of your supermarket.
Maple Syrup: Pure maple syrup is more expensive than pancake syrups made by mixing artificial maple flavoring with corn syrup. However, the taste of pure maple syrup is well worth the difference in price. Once opened, the syrup should be refrigerated. It will last a year in the refrigerator. Cold pure maple syrup does not pour easily, so you should leave it at room temperature for an hour before serving.
Mayonnaise Dressings: A number of fat-free mayonnaise products are available in which the fat has been replaced with starch and emulsifiers. While these dressings may not have the flavor of regular mayonnaise when tasted plain, they work well when combined with seasonings and other ingredients. Be aware of the rather high sodium content of these products.
Meringue Powder: Dried meringues can be prepared according to package directions and used in place of egg whites. Meringue powder is available wherever baking supplies are sold.
Milk: Buy fresh skim milk, nonfat buttermilk, and instant nonfat dry milk.
Evaporated Skim Milk: Evaporated skim milk is a product that can add the richness of cream to soups, sauces, and desserts with almost none of the fat. This is heat-sterilized, concentrated skim milk with half the water removed. As a result, the consistency of evaporated skimmed milk more resembles whole milk. Evaporated skimmed milk can be whipped to a consistency similar to that of whipped cream. It contains twice the calories of regular skim milk, but has 738 milligrams of calcium per cup. Once a can of evaporated skim milk has been opened, the contents should be refrigerated, tightly sealed, and used within five days.
Molasses: Molasses consists of the plant juices pressed from sugar cane that are then purified and concentrated by boiling. After opening, you can store molasses for another twelve months on the shelf.
Mushrooms: Buy young, pale, button mushrooms. Brush them and wipe them with a damp cloth. If you need to wash them, be sure to dry them thoroughly. When serving them raw, sprinkle with lemon juice or white wine to keep them light in color.
Shiitake Mushrooms: Also called dry forest mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms can be found in the produce departments of many supermarkets. They are parasol shaped, colored brownish-black, and have a light garlic aroma. They contain B vitamins and minerals.
To reconstitute the dry mushrooms, soak them in enough water to cover for about 30 minutes, or until they are soft. Drain. Squeeze out excess water. Remove and discard stems.
Oats: Shop for old-fashioned rolled oats or quick oats. Avoid instant oat products.
Orange Juice Concentrate: Orange juice concentrate can be used to sweeten some dishes. It can be found in the freezer section of your supermarket.
Orange Peel: Either grate the peel of fresh oranges or buy grated orange peel in the spice section of your supermarket.
Orzo: Orzo is a tiny pasta that resembles elongated rice or barley.
Parsley: While other fresh herbs can be hard to find, parsley is widely available and should always be used in its fresh form if possible. It will chop finely if it is thoroughly dried with a dish towel before chopping.
Pasta: A cup of cooked macaroni or spaghetti (about 2 ounces dry) has barely a trace of fat or cholesterol. Most of the 210 calories in a cup of cooked pasta comes from complex carbohydrates. Stored in a cool, dry place, dried pasta keeps indefinitely. Be sure to store fresh pasta in the refrigerator until ready to cook. It should be used within two or three days of purchase or according to the date on the package. It can also be stored in the freezer and thawed before cooking. Dried and fresh pasta are both made from flour and water or flour and eggs. If you are watching your cholesterol, you want to avoid pasta made with whole eggs. However, there are now a number of fresh and dried pastas made with flour and egg whites. Durum wheat, the hardest, or semolina, the coarsest grind of durum, makes the most flavorful and resilient pasta. Pasta made from softer flours tends to turn soggy quickly. For main dish recipes allow 2 ounces of pasta per person.
Dried whole-grain and/or white pasta in the form of spaghetti, eggless noodles, macaroni, lasagne, spirals, angel hair, bowties, cavatelli, conchiglie, fettucine, fusilli, linguine, penne, rigatoni, rotelle, vermicelli, and ziti are used in the recipes.
Pasta Cooking Tips:
Pasta taste and texture can be improved by cooking only until it becomes "al dente" or firm, but edible. Since you will be cooking the pasta without adding fat to the water, you should prevent it from sticking to the pot by cooking it in a large volume of rapidly boiling water. You should use at least 4 quarts per pound of dry pasta. Leave the pot uncovered. When placing longer pasta in the pot to cook, hold it at one end and dip the other end into the water, curling it around the pan and into the water as it softens.
To avoid excess sodium, the water in pasta recipes is not salted. Fresh pasta cooks much more quickly than dried pasta. Test fresh pasta as soon as the water returns to a boil by cutting a piece in half. If it's not done, you will see a thin line of white in the center. Turn cooked pasta into a large colander and shake several times to get the water out. Don't rinse unless you need to cool the pasta off quickly.
Bell Peppers: Sweet, thick-fleshed bell peppers come in several colors. The flavor of red peppers is slightly sweeter than the familiar green-pepper taste. Yellow peppers are even sweeter and more mellow.
Fresh Chile Peppers: Jalapeño peppers, frequently used in these recipes, are usually found green, but are sometimes red when ripe. They are small and blunt tipped and range from hot to fiery. They will contribute less heat to a recipe if the seeds are removed. Be sure to wear protective gloves when handling pepper seeds or be careful to wash your hands immediately after handling them. Roasting the peppers will also lessen the heat and concentrate the flavors.
Canned Chile Peppers: Canned green chiles are used in the recipes. They can found in the international foods section of your supermarket with other ingredients used in Mexican cooking.
Dried Chile Peppers: Whole jalapeños and other varieties of chile peppers can also be found in dried form. Store the peppers by hanging them up or tossing them in a basket. If kept cool and dry, they can be stored for a year.
Pepper Sauce: Tobasco-type sauces are very hot purées of red chiles, vinegar, and numerous seasonings. They are bright red when fresh. They will last up to a year at room temperature. When a pepper sauce turns brown, throw it out.
Pickles: Although pickles are high in sodium, small quantities of dill pickles and pickle relish are used in the recipes to add flavor.
Pita Bread: Buy whole wheat nonfat pita breads (also called pocket breads). Store in the refrigerator wrapped in tightly closed plastic bags.
Popcorn: Buy popcorn and pop it yourself in the microwave or in an air popper to avoid added salt and fat. Sprinkle with herbs, spices, or nonfat Parmesan cheese.
Potato Chips: Nonfat baked potato chips both with and without salt in regular and barbecue flavors are now on the market.
Pretzels: A number of nonfat, baked pretzels and pretzel chips are now on the market both with and without salt.
Prunes: Prunes have become an important part of fat-free eating due to the discovery that they can replace fat in baking. Prunes are very high in pectin, which forms a protective coating around the air in baked goods giving the foods the volume and lift usually provided by fat. Pectin can also enhance and trap flavor. Prunes are high in sorbitol, a humectant that attracts and binds moisture. Butter and shortening keep food moist because they cannot evaporate. So prune purée in baking serves the same purpose as shortening, keeping baked goods moist. For prune purée, you can either make your own from whole prunes, buy commercially prepared baby-food puréed prunes, or buy prune butter, which is located in either the jam and jelly or baking section of your supermarket.
To make your own purée from whole prunes, place 1 cup prunes and ¼ cup water in a food processor or blender and purée.
Pudding Mix: Most pudding mixes are fat-free. Check the labels to be sure, and always make them with skim milk.
Pumpkin purée: Pumpkin purée is available in cans. If you want to purée your own pumpkin, you can either steam, boil, or microwave fresh pumpkin cut in 1½-inch cubes and purée cooked cubes in a blender.
To steam fresh pumpkin, boil ¾ to 1 inch water in a steamer and place pumpkin cubes in a steamer basket or colander and cover. Steam for 15 minutes or until tender.
To boil, add pumpkin cubes to a large pot full of rapidly boiling water. Pumpkin should cook in 8–12 minutes.
To microwave, place pumpkin cubes in a covered dish and microwave on HIGH for 8 minutes.
Quinoa: A nutty, light-brown grain originally from Peru, quinoa is high in protein and fiber and has a more sturdy texture and flavor than rice. It makes an excellent substitute for rice.
Arborio Rice: This is a short-grained Italian rice.
Basmati Rice: The word basmati means "queen of fragrance," and this Indian rice has a nutlike aroma.
Brown Rice: Brown rice is processed to remove the tough outer hull but not the bran. It is sometimes parboiled, a process that hardens the grains, ensuring that they remain separated when cooked. It is available in both long-grained and short-grained varieties. The long-grained kind tends to result in a less gummy cooked rice. Brown rice has a superior nutritional profile when compared to white rice because it is still covered with bran. However, it has a higher natural fat content than white rice. One cup uncooked brown rice equals 4 cups cooked.
To cook brown rice, use a saucepan with a snug lid. The proportion of liquid to rice is two to one. Bring liquid to a boil. Rinse rice. Add to boiling liquid. Stir once, cover, and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Leave cover on the pan for another 15 minutes to allow rice to steam.
White Rice: Regular white rice has been milled to remove the hull, germ, and most of the bran. It is available in both long and short grain. One cup uncooked white rice equals 3 cups cooked.
To cook white rice, rinse under cold water and drain. Bring to boil twice as much water as grain you are using. Stir in the rice and return the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer, cover tightly, and cook until all the liquid is absorbed and the grain is tender. Don't uncover or stir until time is up.
Wild Rice: Actually the seed of aquatic grass that grows in marshes, wild rice takes longer to cook than cultivated rice. It is dark greenish-brown in color and has a distinctive, nutty flavor. It is rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
To make wild rice, bring 2 cups nonfat chicken broth or water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour or until rice is tender and kernels are slightly open. Drain rice. Cooked wild rice can also be frozen.
Rice Bran: This is a bran product similar to oat bran in its cholesterol-lowering properties. If not available at your grocery store, rice bran can be found at health food stores. Like oat bran, it can be eaten as a hot cereal, and also used in baking.
Salsa: Salsas, which are relishes made from chopped vegetables, can be found in the condiments aisle or with the international foods in your supermarket. Some fresh-vegetable salsas are also kept in the refrigerator case alongside fresh tortillas.
Sour Cream: Shop for nonfat sour cream.
Soy Sauce: Light soy sauce contains from 33 to 46 percent less sodium than regular soy sauce, with little or no difference in flavor resulting from the sodium reduction.
Sparkling Water: Sparkling mineral water can be found in all supermarkets.
Spices: Keep dried spices tightly covered in an airtight container. Don't expose them to extremely high heat or intense light. Dried spices are best if used within six months to a year, so it is wise to date containers at the time you purchase or store them. During the summer months, store ground cayenne pepper, paprika, chili powder, and crushed red pepper in the refrigerator. Spices used in fat free / low fat recipes include black and white pepper, chili powder, cloves, ground cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, allspice, caraway seeds, celery seeds, dry mustard, mustard seeds, poppy seeds, ground and stick cinnamon, ground coriander, ground cumin, ground ginger, nutmeg, paprika, saffron, and turmeric.
Sugar: Table sugar is sucrose, a highly refined product made from sugar beets or sugar cane. It is so refined that it is nearly 100 percent pure and almost indestructible. Powdered or confectioners' sugar (in a range of textures from coarse to superfine) and brown sugar are variations on granulated sugar and share its very long shelf life. Brown sugar contains granulated sugar coated with refined, colored, molasses-flavored syrup. Light brown sugar has less molasses flavor and dark brown sugar has more. Store granulated sugar in an airtight container at room temperature. Confectioners' sugar and brown sugar should be stored in an airtight plastic bag inside a glass jar.
Sugar Substitutes: If you choose to buy sugar substitutes, be aware of their particular chemical compositions and any resulting health implications.
Tomato Products: When buying canned tomatoes, tomato purée, and tomato paste, look for low-sodium products. Italian plum tomatoes are the best substitute for fresh tomatoes. Do not keep unopened canned tomato products for more than six months. Store them on a cool, dry shelf. After opening, canned tomato products should be stored in clean, covered glass containers. They tend to take on a metallic flavor if left in their cans. You can keep them in the refrigerator for a week. Leftover tomato paste and tomato sauce can be frozen for up to two months in airtight containers. Drop leftover tomato paste by the tablespoon on a sheet of wax paper and freeze. When frozen, place in a plastic freezer bag and store in freezer until needed.
Sun-Dried Tomatoes: Buy dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes if possible. If you can only find them packed in oil, rinse them in boiling water before using.
Tortillas: Tortillas are available made from flour or corn. Corn tortillas usually do not contain oil or shortening. Tortillas can be warmed in the microwave by wrapping them in a damp paper towel and microwaving for 1 minute on HIGH. You will find a recipe for nonfat flour tortillas on this page.
Fresh Vegetables: Fresh vegetables used in the recipes include asparagus, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage (white and green), carrot, cauliflower, celery, corn, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, lettuce (romaine, red leaf, green leaf), lima beans, mushrooms, okra, onion (white onion, yellow onion, red onion, scallions, leeks), parsnips, potatoes (new potatoes, red-skinned potatoes, Idaho potatoes, white potatoes), pumpkin, radish, green peas, snow peas, spinach, summer squash (yellow summer squash, zucchini, pattypan), sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, tomatoes, turnip, winter squash (acorn, Hubbard, butternut), watercress, and wax beans.
Canned Vegetables: Buy canned vegetables with no added salt. Canned vegetables used frequently in the recipes include beets, corn, pumpkin, and tomatoes.
Frozen Vegetables: Use frozen vegetables when vegetables needed for the recipes are not in season. Look for frozen vegetables with no added salt or fat. Frozen vegetables used frequently in the recipes include corn, green peas, lima beans, and spinach.
Vegetable Broth: Commercially packaged nonfat vegetable broth is very difficult to find. Check canned and dried products for fat contents. Recipes for making vegetable broth are included in the Soup chapter. Make it in large quantities and freeze in cubes for easy access.
Vegetable Juices: Mixed vegetable juice and tomato juice are used in the recipes. Look for low-sodium juices.
Vegetable Spray: Buy nonstick vegetable spray with the lowest fat count possible in case you need it to spray baking pans or other utensil surfaces while cooking. You can also buy an inexpensive plastic spray bottle and fill it with olive oil or canola oil.
Vinegars are very sour liquids fermented from a distilled alcohol, often wine or apple cider. Vinegar tightly capped keeps up to one year at room temperature, or until sediment appears at the bottom of the bottle.
Wine Vinegar: Buy red and white wine vinegars.
Balsamic Vinegar: Balsamic vinegar adds an elegant, complex sweet and sour taste to food. It is aged in Italy in wooden casks for about four years with the skins from grapes used to make red wine, which gives it a winelike sweetness. The longer it is aged, the more mellow it becomes. When replacing regular vinegar with balsamic, you can use a lot less because the balsamic is so flavorful.
Other Vinegars: Buy apple cider vinegar, rice wine vinegar, as well as herb- and fruit-flavored vinegars to add diversity to dressings and other recipes.
Water Chestnuts: The canned variety of water chestnut, which is round and woody and about the size of a cherry tomato, can be refrigerated, covered in liquid, for one week after opening.
Wine: Dry white wine, red wine, and sherry are used as flavoring in some of the recipes. Nonalcoholic wines or grape juice can be substituted if desired.
Wonton Wrappers: Wonton wrappers can be used not only for wontons and dumplings but are a quick and easy way to prepare dishes often made with fresh pasta dough like ravioli and tortellini. They can also be baked and used as a substitute for crackers. Some are made with fat, so watch the package labels. They can be found in the produce or frozen food sections of supermarkets and in oriental groceries.
Yeast: Dry yeast is granulated and comes in small foil envelopes or jars. If packed in foil envelopes, it keeps for months at room temperature up to the expiration date. If in a jar, close the cap tightly after opening and store in the refrigerator until the expiration date. Some recipes call for fast-acting dry yeast, which is also packed in foil envelopes or jars and marked "fast-acting." Fast-acting yeast reduces rising time.
Yogurt is one of the most healthful foods you can eat. Eight ounces will provide you with 25 percent of the RDA for protein and 300 to 400 milligrams of calcium. It's a good source of riboflavin, phosphorus, and potassium. But only nonfat plain yogurt, which has substantially fewer calories per ounce than regular or low-fat yogurt and less than 1 gram of fat per serving.
Yogurt Cheese: Yogurt cheese is made by draining the liquid from nonfat yogurt.
Frozen Yogurt: Buy nonfat frozen yogurt.
Since cooking without fat has an impact on the flavor of food, it is important to become aware of seasonings as an alternative. As a bonus, herbs and spices are nutritious. For example, paprika is high in vitamin A and parsley is high in vitamin C.
It's a good idea to create some herb and spice mixtures of your own. The following mixes can be used to accent vegetable dishes, soups, and salads.
To prepare them, combine in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin, or place in a blender. Spoon into a small tightly covered jar or shaker. Store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.
- Combine 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg, 1 tablespoon ground ginger, 1 tablespoon ground cloves, and 2 teaspoons ground white pepper.
- Combine 2 tablespoons dried parsley, 1 tablespoon dried tarragon, 1 teaspoon dried chives, 1 teaspoon dried basil, and 3 tablespoons dried chervil.
- Combine ¼ teaspoon celery seed, ½ teaspoon ground white pepper, 1¼ teaspoons thyme leaves, 2½ teaspoons dry mustard, 2½ teaspoons paprika, 2½ teaspoons garlic powder, 5 teaspoons onion powder.
- Combine 1 tablespoon dill weed, 1 tablespoon basil, ¼ teaspoon dried grated lemon peel, 1 teaspoon celery seed, 2 tablespoons onion powder, pinch of black pepper, 1 teaspoon oregano leaves.
- Combine 4 teaspoons ground savory, 1 tablespoon dry mustard, 2½ teaspoons onion powder, 1¾ teaspoons curry powder, 1¼ teaspoons ground white pepper, 1¼ teaspoons ground cumin, ½ teaspoon garlic powder.
- Combine 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1½ teaspoons dried sage leaves, ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 2 tablespoons dried oregano, 2 tablespoons mild curry powder, 1 tablespoon ground ginger, 5 crushed whole cloves, and ¼ teaspoon chili powder.
- To make your own curry powder , combine ½ tablespoon ground cardamom, pinch of cayenne, ½ tablespoon cloves, 6 tablespoons coriander, 1½ tablespoons cumin seed, and 1½ teaspoons turmeric.
Here are some herb and spice combinations to try on vegetable dishes:
Asparagus: ginger, basil, minced onion, mustard seed, tarragon
Beets: allspice, bay leaves, caraway seeds, cloves, dill, ginger, mustard seed, savory, tarragon
Broccoli: nutmeg, minced onion, marjoram, basil
Brussels Sprouts: basil, savory, minced onion, caraway, dill, mustard seed, nutmeg, tarragon
Cabbage: nutmeg, minced onion, caraway, allspice, clove
Carrots: ginger, nutmeg, minced onion, dill, allspice, bay leaves, fennel, ginger, mace, marjoram, mint, thyme
Cauliflower: dry mustard, basil, paprika, minced onion, caraway seed, dill, mace, tarragon
Corn: dry mustard, minced onion, basil, thyme, nutmeg
Cucumber: basil, dill, mint, tarragon
Eggplant: marjoram, oregano
Green Beans: dill, savory, curry powder, minced onion, oregano, sage, basil, marjoram, tarragon, thyme, mint, mustard seed
Lima Beans: marjoram, oregano, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme
Mushrooms: oregano, basil, thyme, curry powder
Onions: caraway seed, mustard seed, nutmeg, oregano, sage, thyme
Peas: basil, dill, marjoram, mint, oregano, allspice, poppy seed, rosemary, sage
Potatoes: caraway, nutmeg, dry mustard, minced onion
Spinach: minced onion, minced garlic, nutmeg, savory, thyme, basil, mace, marjoram, oregano
Sweet Potatoes: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom
Tomatoes: dill, minced onion, basil, bay leaves, celery seed, oregano, sage, tarragon, thyme
Winter Squash: cinnamon, nutmeg, basil, tarragon
Zucchini: oregano, minced garlic, tarragon, basil, dill
To flavor soup and stock, try making these small herb bouquets: Place 8 sprigs fresh parsley flat on a 5-inch square of doubled, clean, dry cheesecloth. Place bay leaf on top, and spoon thyme over it. Fold up sides and tie securely with white cotton thread. These bundles can be frozen. No defrosting is needed before using.
When you want to suggest a meaty flavor in foods, try adding sage, thyme, fennel, rosemary, garlic, onions, or vinegar.
When you want a "salty" flavor, try celery seed, sesame seed, garlic, parsley, light soy sauce, fresh lemon juice, and hot spices such as chili powder and cayenne pepper.
When you want to sweeten foods, try vanilla extract, almond extract, allspice, cardamom, nutmeg, mace, mint, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon.
Experiment with new seasonings to vary the taste of the fat-free dishes you serve. Here's a quick inventory of some you might want to explore.
Mexican: chili powder, cumin, cilantro, oregano
Oriental: ginger, rice vinegar, fennel, curry powder, cilantro, hot mustard powder, horseradish, garlic, cayenne
Indian: curry powder, cumin, coriander, turmeric, garlic, saffron, mint, cinnamon
Scandinavian: caraway, cardamom, lemon, garlic, dill, paprika, black pepper, vinegar
French: tarragon, nutmeg, chervil, wine
French Country: garlic, basil, rosemary, sage, thyme, white pepper, vinegar
Italian: oregano, basil, fennel, rosemary, onion, garlic, parsley, red pepper flakes, wine, wine vinegar
Among the best nonfat snacks are air-popped popcorn, fresh fruit, pretzels (check the label to be sure they are made without fat), rice cakes (in many flavors including caramel corn!), baked corn chips, baked potato chips, fat-free cereals, fat-free bagels, fat-free bread sticks, fat-free fig and apple bars, and fat-free animal crackers. Keep a watchful eye on the cracker and cookie area of your supermarket for new fat-free snack products.
Other fat-free snacks include fruit sherbets, frozen fruit bars, fat-free and cholesterol-free frozen yogurt, nonfat yogurt, skim milk, honey, all-fruit jelly and jam, angel food cake, cocoa made with skim milk and nonfat chocolate syrup or powder, dried fruits, fruit juice, instant puddings made with skim milk, hard candy, jelly beans, licorice, gumdrops, and fruit-flavored gelatin.
Experiment with making milk shakes using skim milk and nonfat frozen dessert products. There are some milk-shake machines on the market that use skim milk to create a nonfat drink with the richness of whole milk.
When indulging in commercially prepared fat-free baked goods and snacks, remember that they may have high sugar, sodium, and calorie counts in spite of lack of fat. Be particularly aware of the serving size when checking labels on these products.
Preparing Frozen Meals
Don't fall into the trap of trading nutrition for convenience. Consider making your own frozen dinners in advance instead of relying on commercially prepared frozen meals. A small amount of effort invested in advance will save a lot of time later on without sacrificing good nutrition. Get in the habit of freezing seasonal treats and you'll have a treasure trove of great seasonings, side dishes, and extras to last all year long. Double recipes when making sauces, soups, stews, and baked pasta dishes so that you can package and freeze the extra batch.
To get ready to freeze, you will need some freezer bags, heavy foil, freezer paper, and plastic wrap designed for freezer use , wire twisters, plastic freezer containers, strong tape, labels, and a marking pencil to label your meals with information about foods, portion size, and date frozen. Your frozen dishes will take the same time to cook in the oven or microwave as those that are commercially prepared.
Cool hot food before freezing it. Package food airtight to avoid freezer burn and protect taste, extracting as much air as possible before sealing.
Controlling your fat intake is simple if you eat at home. But most of us are not able to cook and eat at home all the time. Our life-style, which often includes two-income families, commuting, and extra hours at work, leaves an inadequate amount of time for planning, cooking, and eating all meals at home. Unfortunately, one of the hardest aspects of cutting down on fat consumption is the difficulty involved in eating out on a reduced-fat diet. Although the manufacturers of prepared foods have heard the consumer's voice demanding new fat-free products, the American restaurant industry has responded with astounding slowness to this issue.
Planning ahead is essential if you expect to find fat-free restaurant foods. Call or visit the restaurant where you are planning to dine ahead of time and ask if they can accommodate your special diet requests. If you are choosing a particular restaurant in the interest of being able to join friends who do not have your diet concerns, make sure that there are some foods on the menu that you will be able to order. Often this involves ordering a group of side dishes such as plain baked potatoes and applesauce or appetizers rather than entrées.
Good choices for fat-free dieters are Chinese restaurants, since their kitchen staffs seem uniquely willing to adjust to a request for a fat-free meal. Since most Chinese meals are made to order, you can often design a dish to suit your needs even if it does not appear on the menu. For instance, if there is a listing for sautéed string beans with pork in garlic sauce, you could ask that the string beans be steamed instead of sautéed, that the pork be eliminated, and that the garlic sauce be prepared without oil. Another possibility is to ask for the string beans to be sautéed in water, chicken broth, juice, or wine instead of oil. There are often steamed dishes on the menu ranging from steamed vegetable dumplings to an entrée of steamed mixed vegetables. You can request that the chef mix you a small quantity of oil-free sauce to be served on the side. We have gotten in the habit of carrying along a small plastic container of light soy sauce, minced garlic, rice vinegar, and minced ginger mixed at home in case the kitchen can't supply the oil-free sauce. In that case, you can order a steamed dish, sauce it yourself, and be sure that you are eating fat-free.
Other ethnic restaurants can be good choices, but you need to communicate with the kitchen in advance and not make assumptions. For example, Italian restaurants should be able to provide a salad and spaghetti or linguine with steamed vegetables, but sauce may be a problem if sauces have been prepared in advance since most sauces are made with olive oil. You could ask that your pasta and vegetables be tossed with fresh tomatoes or you could bring your own sauce along. You might also want to bring a small container of fat-free Parmesan cheese. You could order a salad dressed with lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, and have fresh fruit for dessert. A Mexican restaurant may be able to provide steamed corn tortillas, a fat-free bean dish, salsa, and toppings such as chopped lettuce and tomato.
Other carry-along possibilities include small plastic containers of fat-free salad dressings, fat-free mayonnaise, and butter substitutes.
Inquire whether appetizer and salad selections that happen to be fat-free can be ordered as entrées as well.
When ordering dishes in restaurants that involve dressings or sauces, even if you are assured they are fat-free, be sure to ask for them on the side. That way in case there has been a misunderstanding and the sauce or dressing does appear to contain some oil, you won't have ruined your whole meal.
When you have to eat breakfast out, you can order dry cold cereals such as Grape-Nuts or Nutri-Grain that are fat-free. Learn which varieties of commercially prepared cereals fit that description and ask for them by name since your server will probably not know. Ask for skim milk with your cereal. If skim milk is not available, you can moisten your cereal with fruit juice instead. Fresh fruit can be ordered with your cereal or separately. Bagels, toasted English muffins, and whole-grain toast are fairly safe choices. Remember to ask for them unbuttered and ask for jam or jelly to spread on them. Even if the restaurant has egg-substitute or egg-white omelets, they may be cooked in fat. You can ask for hard-boiled eggs and only eat the whites if you are avoiding cholesterol. Pancakes and waffles are probably made with eggs, so it's best to avoid them.
The safest source of lunch in the outside world is a salad bar. You can choose greens, beans, plain pasta and rice, chopped egg whites, beets, sprouts, mushrooms, raw broccoli, onions, carrot, celery, cauliflower, raw zucchini and summer squash, as well as any other available raw vegetable choices. Avoid croutons and marinated selections on the salad bar. Take along fat-free dressing in case it's not one of the dressing choices. Look for a restaurant that serves a pita pocket overstuffed with raw vegetable salad. Be wary of soups since most of them are made with fat at some point in the cooking process . Mexican, Chinese, and vegetarian restaurants should offer fat-free possibilities.
Remember that you have the right to ask your waiter or waitress questions about how food is prepared and to place your order in a way that solves your dietary needs. You also have the right to return food if it is not served as requested.
When traveling on airlines, ask for the food options when you make your reservations. While specific options vary from airline to airline, you can inquire about which option comes closest to meeting your fat-free diet. Possibilities include fruit plates and strict vegetarian plates. Airlines also vary as to when an order for a special meal has to be placed. Be sure to call again to confirm your order and inform the flight attendant that you have ordered a special meal when you board the plane. Since it is unlikely that you will find an entire meal that meets your needs, you may want to take some fat-free snacks on board with you.
When traveling by plane, train, bus, or car, you may want to carry along special supplies including fresh fruit, all-fruit jams, dried fruit, apple butter, fresh cut-up vegetables, tomato or vegetable juice, mineral water, seasonings, and fat-free dressings. For long car trips you might also want to take dry cereal and instant nonfat dry milk, whole-grain pita, mustard, canned beans, and fat-free soups as well as an electric nonstick pot in case you end up needing to prepare your own food in an area where you can't find anything fat-free.
When traveling in a foreign country, learn the necessary phrases to express your needs. For instance, you can say "All your food must be fat-free" around the world in one of the following languages:
Spanish: Es necessario que mi comida no tenga grasa.
German : Mein Essen darf kein Fett enthalten.
French : Tout doit être préparé sans gras.
Italian : Niente douvebbe essere fritto.
When you're invited to dine at a friend's home or have to attend a family holiday celebration, make your dietary needs clear in advance. Help your host or hostess understand what they can do to accommodate you in this regard. If you fail to mention a fat-free diet in advance, you may find few things you can eat on the table. Once you reach a gathering, feel secure about politely turning down food that is not on your diet and don't feel that you need to offer excuses or apologies. If you suspect that you may be getting into a situation that will offer you few fat-free choices, eat at home before attending the event.