8 Tasty Ways to Cut the Fat

Simple ways to cut out the fat in home-cooked meals, without losing the flavor.

Looking for ways to skim the fat -- but not the flavor -- from your diet? Not to worry! There are simple ways to reduce fat so you can reach your goal weight.

Consuming fats in moderation should be part of a healthy eating plan. In fact, foods that contain fats help satisfy your hunger with fewer calories, and they just simply taste good, says Wendy Kalen, senior food editor for BHG.com.

But what's an ice cream lover or cheese aficionado to do? A little creativity can go a long way toward trimming the fat -- and bringing down the numbers on the scale. Here's the skinny on making healthier food choices for you and your family.

  1. Opt for nonstick pans. That way, you can reduce the amount of oil needed for cooking. What's more, Kalen suggests using a spray (like Pam) in place of oil and butter, or making your own oil spritz bottle to reduce the amount of oil you use. A little goes a long way, says Kalen. In fact, "if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fat, you can usually knock it down to 2 teaspoons," she says. (One tablespoon equals 3 teaspoons.)
  2. Bake with apple butter. Next time you're whipping up your favorite sweet treat, substitute apple butter (available in most supermarkets) for one-third of the fat the recipe calls for. "This is a nice way of replacing saturated fat with something healthier," says Kalen. Essentially applesauce that has been cooked down, apple butter has a weak flavor, so it won't overpower your baked goods.
  3. Reach for reduced-fat products. "Although I love full-fat foods, I just don't buy them," says Kalen. Instead, she opts for reduced-fat varieties that still satisfy her taste buds (she finds fat-free items often fall flat on the flavor scale). Try reduced-fat varieties of sausage (look for chicken apple sausage or soy sausage), Neufchatel instead of full-fat cream cheese, and reduced-fat mayo and sour cream (combined, the two make a great dip base).
  4. Count your eggs. Reducing the number of yolks in cooking and baking by 25 to 30 percent will trim the fat in your meals but will still afford you plenty of flavor. For instance, if you're scrambling three eggs, remove one of the yolks. You'll still have a great-tasting breakfast, says Kalen.
  5. Vary your veggies (and fruits). Adding healthy, fiber-rich produce to your diet can fill you up -- without filling you up on fat. Introduce your family to new fruits and veggies (think passion fruit, Asian pears, and bok choy). For new ideas, peruse your local market to see what's freshest. And get your kids involved: Teach them how to pick out fruits and veggies and plant a garden with them.
  6. Spice up your meals. Herbs can add zip to your dinner table, sans the fat and calories. Some inventive ideas: sprinkle fresh lemon, lime, or orange zest over veggie or rice dishes, or toss herbs like tarragon or dill on your salad. (When you're cooking with herbs, be sure to add them at the end to preserve their flavor.)
  7. Select shrimp. In minutes, you can saute or boil these shellfish for a healthy and delicious dinner. Cooking time will vary depending on the shrimps' size, but generally, when they are pink, they are done. For a simple meal, saute shrimp with oil, salt, pepper, and some garlic, and serve with rice.
  8. Lighten up after-school snacks. Strawberries dipped in a mixture of reduced-fat sour cream and brown sugar will please kids and moms alike. Giving the dessert a kid-friendly name will make it even more appealing to the younger set, says Kalen.

Originally published on BHG.com, April 2005.