Cheat Sheet

Lowfat Cooking For Dummies

If you're making the switch to a lowfat diet, then cooking is your first step to lowering the fat in your favorite foods. Know some simple cooking conversions, pay attention to food labels, and try some tips to reduce the fat in meals and you'll be on your way to feeling great about eating the lowfat way.

Common Cooking Conversions

Preparing lowfat dishes is easier when you know some basic cooking conversions. If you're math-challenged, don't worry. This list of common cooking conversions will help, especially if you don't have whole sets of measuring tools for cooking or if you need to know metric measures.

Note: Some metric equivalents are approximate.

  • Temperature:

    • Celsius = (°F – 32) ÷ 5/9

    • Fahrenheit = (°C × 9/5) + 32

  • Volume:

    • 1 ounce = 28.35 grams

    • 1 pound = 453.59 grams

    • 1/2 tablespoon = 1-1/2 teaspoons = 7.5 milliliters

    • 1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons = 15 milliliters

    • 2 tablespoons = 1 fluid ounce = 30 milliliters

    • 4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup = 60 milliliters

    • 5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon = 1/3 cup = 75 milliliters

    • 8 tablespoons = 1/2 cup = 120 milliliters

    • 12 tablespoons = 3/4 cup = 180 milliliters

    • 16 tablespoons = 1 cup = 8 fluid ounces = 240 milliliters

    • 2 cups = 1 pint = 16 fluid ounces = 480 milliliters

    • 2 pints = 1 quart = 32 fluid ounces = 1 liter

    • 4 quarts = 1 gallon = 4 liters

Feeling Good about Eating Lowfat

Whatever your reasons or motivation for changing your diet and cooking habits to lowfat, remember, all of the beneficial things that lowfat cooking and eating will do for you. To help you stay committed to eating the lowfat way, here are nine great results you can attain:

  • You know that you're doing what's best for you in the one area you have complete control over: what you put in your mouth.

  • You gain better health overall and an improved quality of life.

  • You keep your heart and arteries healthier.

  • You lessen your risk of cancer or may help keep diabetes under control.

  • Eating lowfat can help you maintain or lose weight.

  • You gain more energy and vitality.

  • You gain a better self-image through an improved appearance.

  • You feel good about heeding your doctor's/spouse's/kids'/parents'/coworker's/friend's advice.

  • You move better, or do better at tennis, golf, swimming, inline skating, skiing, jogging, cycling, dancing, and fishing (well, maybe not fishing).

Making Sense of Food Labels

Food labels can be pretty confusing if you don't know how to read them. If you're trying to cut down on fat in your diet, label reading is essential because the label lists the exact amount of fat and other nutrients in a product. But, how do you make sense of it all? Make sure you know these label terms to help with your lowfat eating plan:

  • Extra lean: Can be used to describe the fat content of meat, game meat, poultry, and seafood. Less than 5 grams fat, less than 2 grams saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams cholesterol per RACC (Reference Amount Customarily Consumed) and per 100 grams.

  • Lean: Can be used to describe the fat content of meat, game meat, poultry, and seafood. Less than 10 grams fat, less than 4.5 grams saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams cholesterol per RACC and per 100 grams.

  • Fresh: Can be used only on raw food that has never been frozen or heated and has no preservatives.

  • Low: May be used on foods that can be eaten frequently without exceeding dietary guidelines. Per labeled serving and per RACC, these amounts are defined as:

    • Low calorie: 40 calories or less

    • Low cholesterol: Less than 20 milligrams of cholesterol (cholesterol claims are only allowed when saturated fat is 2 grams or less)

    • Lowfat: 3 grams or less of fat

    • Low saturated fat: 1 gram or less of saturated fat and 15 percent or less of calories from saturated fat

    • Low sodium: Less than 140 milligrams of sodium

How to Change Dishes to Lowfat

Eating a lowfat diet doesn't mean giving up your favorite foods. In fact, there are easy ways to reduce the fat in many dishes without sacrificing flavor. Try these tips for lowering fat in foods:

  • Bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich (plus a dozen other sandwiches): Trim the bacon of all visible fat, use extra veggies, and substitute fat-free mayo for the regular high-fat kind.

  • Caesar salad dressing: Use substitute eggs in place of whole eggs and fat-free Parmesan cheese topping instead of regular Parmesan cheese.

  • Casseroles: Use smaller amounts of lean meat trimmed of all visible fat, drastically reduce the amounts of cream and cheese, use lowfat or fat-free dairy products, and add plenty of veggies, rice, pasta, beans, and other grains.

  • Cheesecake: Use a mixture of fat-free and reduced-fat cream cheese and fat-free or lowfat ricotta, and exchange substitute eggs and egg whites for the whole eggs.

  • Omelets: Use substitute eggs and egg whites in place of whole eggs, and use as little butter as possible.

  • Pasta dishes: Instead of smothering pasta in a high-fat cream, meat, or cheese sauce, prepare pasta primavera or pasta marinara. If you must have cream sauce, make it with skim milk, fat-free sour cream, pureed fat-free cottage cheese, and fat-free Parmesan cheese topping.

  • Pizza: Top with lots of veggies, small amounts of lowfat or fat-free meats, and one-fourth the normal amount of cheese. Use a thick crust to increase the bulk.

  • Soups and stews: Defat the meat stock or soup base and then add lots of vegetables, small portions of lean meat trimmed of all visible fat, and rice, pasta, beans, or lentils.

  • Tacos and fajitas: Choose fat-free tortillas and use ground lean top round or lean flank steak (and substitute beans for some of the meat). Sauté the beef in a nonstick skillet coated with no-stick vegetable oil spray rather than in a lot of oil. Add lots of colored peppers and onions, too.

How to Lower the Fat when Cooking

The first way to lower fat in your favorite meals is in the preparation. Try these simple substitutions and methods for lowering the fat from meals when you're cooking:

  • Instead of sautéing in a lot of oil, use good nonstick cookware and no-stick vegetable or olive oil spray.

  • Use a defatting cup to defat stocks, soup bases, and drippings for gravy.

  • Avoid any recipe that asks you to use a deep fat fryer. Toss the fryer or use it as a planter.

  • Use cornstarch or flour alone instead of fat and flour to thicken soups and sauces.

  • Double the veggies, pasta, rice, and beans and halve the meat.

  • Substitute fat-free and lowfat dairy products for all high-fat dairy products, including whole milk and cream.

  • If you don't have time to cook dinner, choose lowfat frozen dinners or recipes that freeze well and make extra. That way, you have lowfat dishes ready to heat and eat, and you won't be tempted to stop at a fast-food place on your way home. Brown-bag lunch, too, so that you can control the fat in sandwiches, yogurt, and so on.

  • Learn how to flavor foods with spices and herbs.

  • Learn to make ten quick appetizers and ten fruit desserts that are lowfat.

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