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Reducing the fat

When making baked goods such as cakes or quick breads, applesauce and other fruit purees can be used in place of some of the fat to trim the fat and calories. Fat helps to hold in moisture, tenderize the product, and cause browning in baked goods, and the fiber and natural sugars in fruit purees perform some of these same functions.

Begin by substituting applesauce, mashed banana, commercially prepared fruit-based fat replacers, or prune or pumpkin puree for half of the oil, butter, margarine or shortening in a recipe. For example, if your recipe calls for one cup of oil, use half a cup of oil and half a cup of applesauce. Mix the batter, and if it seems too dry, add a little more applesauce. If your first experiment yields a tasty product, try replacing even more fat the next time you make it. Continue reducing the fat until you’ve found the lowest amount that will still give you the desired results.

Cookies can be more challenging. They rely on the fat in butter, margarine or shortening, as well as on sugar, for their appealing texture and taste. However, it’s usually possible to reduce the sugar and fat called for in a cookie recipe by 25% and, with no other changes, still get good results.

Another way to reduce the fat when baking is to substitute two egg whites or 1/4 cup of egg substitute for each whole egg. This also reduces cholesterol. Egg whites or egg substitute can also be used in place of whole eggs when coating foods with crumbs. Egg substitute can be used for part or all of the eggs in main dishes like quiche or spaghetti carbonara.

When choosing and preparing meats and poultry, lower the fat, saturated fat and cholesterol in your dish by choosing lean cuts of meat, taking the skin off poultry, and reducing the amount of meat in your recipe. For example, make slightly smaller hamburgers, or use 3/4 of a pound of ground turkey breast meat in your chili instead of a full pound.

Changing your cooking methods can also reduce the fat in your meals. If your recipe calls for frying ingredients in oil or butter, try using a nonstick pan or spraying your pan with nonstick cooking spray instead. For example, use nonstick cooking spray in place of fat when you’re cooking pancakes or frying eggs. Depending on what you’re making, you may also be able to use a lower-fat cooking method such as baking, broiling, grilling, steaming or poaching. All of these methods can enhance the flavor of the food without adding the extra fat that frying adds. (A good basic cookbook like The Joy of Cooking can tell you how to use these methods for various types of foods.)

Originally Published February 28, 2011

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