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Tips for Lightening Up Favorite Recipes

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You can moderate favorite recipes with a few easy substitutions and tips that'll help you cook and eat more moderately without sacrificing flavor:

Canned soups are a great beginning for sauces and casseroles. If we choose lighter or reduced-fat or reduced-sodium versions, we can sure save calories and cut down on fat and sodium.

Select oils such as canola or safflower for frying; they're lower in saturated fat than other types.

When frying, make sure you heat your oil until hot but not smoking. Simply using the right-temperature oil will help reduce the fat that's absorbed into food when it cooks. Frying oil should stay outside your food!

Drain all fried foods on clean paper towels to remove as much excess oil as possible.

When a recipe calls for peanuts, pecans or other nuts, don't be afraid to cut down the amount. Usually we can cut the amount in half and still get great flavor and texture.

In may cases, we can replace whole eggs with egg whites (two egg whites equal one whole egg) and in most recipes, you can go ahead and replace eggs altogether with egg substitutes. However, I don't recommend using egg substitute when coating foods for breading. Breading doesn't stick to it very well.

Choose lean cuts of meat and trim away any visible fat before preparing. Serve moderate-sized portions, like 3 to 4 ounces of cooked meat (about 4 to 6 ounces raw) per adult (that's about the size of a deck of playing cards). And with ground meats, select leaner blends, preferabley ones that have a 90/10 meat-to-fat ratio (traditional ground beef and pork usually have a 70/30 ratio).

Choose cooking methods (like roasting, broiling, grilling and baking on a rack) that allow fat to drip away during cooking.

In most recipes, you can replace ground beef or pork with turkey. Keep in mind, though, that ground turkey needs more seasoning than beef and pork.

If browning ground beef, pork or turkey before adding it to a recipe, after browning, place it in a strainer, rinse it with warm water, then drain and continue as directed. This should remove most of the excess fat.

In most recipes you can replace whole chicken or parts with boneless and skinless chicken breasts. Remember that boneless breasts are generally thinner, so they'll cook more quickly than bone-in parts; adjust your cooking time accordingly.

Remove the layer of fat that rises to the top of soups, stews and pan juices of roasts. Chilling makes this a breeze, so it's even easier to do with dishes that are made ahead and chilled before being reheated. Or, a timesaving tip for removing fat from soups and stews is simply to add a few ice cubes to a warm cooked dish. As soon as the fat sticks to the cubes, remove them, and the fat will come out right along with them!

Look in your supermarket dairy case for some reduced-fat, low-fat, or fat-free alternatives. For instance, there's low-fat milk for our soups and sauces, instead of heavy cream (evaporated skim milk will work, too). The same goes for our cheese choices. Experiment with those, or maybe just use a little less of the regular full-fat versions.

When it comes to mayonnaise, there are lighter varities available too. And when using it in a salad, mix it in just before serving... You can usually get by with using less that way. Or you can use a combination of half mayonnaise and half low-fat yogurt. It does the trick, too!

Many desserts call for whipped cream or whipped topping. To watch calories and fat with those, we've got great choices available with reduced-fat and nonfat whipped toppings. You may need to increase the flavoring or sugar a bit, though, depending on the recipe.

If you're trying to cut down your fat, calorie, cholesterol, sodium or sugar intakes, the best advice is still to eat less overall.

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