Doctoring fatty recipes takes wisdom, light touch


October 25, 1994|By Colleen Pierre | Colleen Pierre,Special to The Sun

Altering a recipe to reduce fat can be pretty risky business. Often what you get just doesn't taste very good. Consequently, it's not satisfying, nobody likes it, and folks throw in the towel on healthy eating.

Or manufacturers create low-fat products that taste OK because they've kicked up the sugar and salt, boosting calories until they match the original. And, let's face it, calories DO count.

The American Institute of Wine and Food launched a project several years ago to tackle this problem. Called "Resetting the American Table," its goal is to marry good taste and good health. Chefs and dietitians share skills to develop tasty meals within good nutrition guidelines.

I picked up some clever tips at the "Taste Meets Health" workshop offered during the American Dietetic Association's Annual Meeting in Orlando, Fla.

One mistake "defatters" make is to remove all the fat from a recipe. Fat carries the flavor in food. If you use just a little, in just the right place, you'll get all the flavor at a very low fat/calorie cost. Try these glazed carrots, for instance.

Glazed Carrots

Serves 4

3 large carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick

3/4 cup chicken broth (low sodium)

1 tbsp brown sugar

1/2 tsp dried dill

1/8 tsp white pepper

1/2 tsp lemon juice

Place carrots in skillet. Mix broth, sugar, dill and white pepper; pour over carrots. Bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, until liquid has evaporated and carrots are tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Per serving: 44 calories; 2 gm protein; 0.36 gm fat; 9 gm carbohydrate; 167 mg sodium; 0.3 mg cholesterol.

Those are really delicious carrots, but if you want them to be sensational, stir in one-half teaspoon of butter just before serving. The flavor goes wild, and you add only 9 calories and one-half gram of fat per serving.

You'll get the same fat-reducing yet palate-pleasing effect by substituting low-fat or evaporated skim milk for cream or half and half in cream-based soups. Just top each serving with a small dollop of unsweetened whipped cream or real sour cream before serving, and voila, a flavor miracle happens!

It's also important to recognize that some recipes shouldn't be tampered with. When it's time for peanut butter cookies, for instance, you have to stick with the real thing. Peanut butter imparts the characteristic flavor, and you just can't do without it. They'll cost you about 83 calories and 5 grams of fat each. The trick is to learn to eat just one or two and really savor the flavor.

Macaroni and cheese is another do-not-touch, all-American favorite. Substituting fat-free cheese doesn't work because the cheese doesn't melt. A small serving of the real thing made with butter and Cheddar cheese contains about 400 calories and 25 grams of fat. That sounds like a lot, but it can fit easily in a well-balanced meal that contains other good-tasting, but low-fat foods.

The average American woman maintaining her weight could healthfully include 50 to 70 grams of fat each day (20 percent to 30 percent of calories from fat). A man can have between 60 and 90 grams per day.

Serve that macaroni and cheese with Broiled Chicken Breast Moutarde and a dark green salad tossed with fat-free dressing and you've got a healthy meal that really tempts your taste buds, yet fits within your fat and calorie limits for the day.

Chicken Breast Moutarde

Serves 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 pounds)

1/3 cup Dijon-style or honey flavored mustard

2 red bell peppers, cut into strips

Spread each side of chicken breast with mustard; place on broiler rack. Surround with bell pepper strips. Broil 4 inches from heat, approximately 3 minutes per side until juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a fork. To serve, top each chicken breast with some of the bell pepper strips. Per serving: 223 calories; 36 gm protein; 5 gm fat; 4 gm carbohydrate; 344 mg sodium; 96 mg cholesterol.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.

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