Articles Diabetic Cooking Tips

Lower Fat Holiday Cooking

It’s important that we as diabetics control our fat intake to 30% or less of our daily calories. This is particularly hard to do during the holidays when we’re wanting to feed our families traditional dishes of the season-most from times when fat was not considered to be that important. Why is it so today? For one thing, we’ve of a generation that gets less exercise than our forefathers who had to work the fields from before dawn to after dusk. And we now know the role that fat plays in the health of the heart and other body organs, possibly leading to severe complications which when added to diabetes can literally kill us. Past are the days of eating unlimited fat in the form of fudge, butter cookies, fruit cake, and other foods loaded with butter, but that doesn’t mean that you’re left with nothing but dull, flavorless food.

Food is only food and yes, foods high in fat can taste good going down, but is it worth it in the long run? We don’t think so. Instead, we cook lower fat all year long and especially during the holidays. Here are some tips. You’ll not only save considerable calories, but lots of fat grams (especially saturated fat grams) and cholesterol.

Obviously in low-fat holiday cooking and baking, heavy cream is a no-no. One-half cup of heavy (whipping) cream, which contains 36 to 40% butterfat, obtains 95% of its calories from fat), and contains 420 calories, 44 grams of fat (27.5 grams of which are saturated fat), and 163 milligrams of cholesterol. As a substitute for heavy cream in a sauce, you could use low-fat ricotta cheese or low-fat cottage cheese, whipped in a blender, then stirred into low-fat plain yogurt.

Sour cream is fermented heavy cream. Fortunately there are several excellent brands of low-fat or fat-free sour cream available for cooking or baking. Choose brands made from skim milk (you’ll need to read the label). Do not use imitation or nondairy sour cream as they are frequently made from tropical oils or are made with hydrogenated fat. We use yogurt cheese a lot during the holidays for dips and sauces. Look on for the recipe.

Eggs are an essential part of holiday cooking and baking. They aid in leavening, add richness, and contribute to the texture, structure, color, and flavor of baked goods. A large whole egg contains 75 calories (62% of which come from fat). The yolk contains all of the egg’s fat (5.5 grams of which 1.6 grams are saturated). The yolk also contains all of the egg’s cholesterol, 21.3 milligrams. The egg white is friendly to the low-fat baker as it contains zero fat and zero cholesterol. If you’re trying to reduce fat in your cooking and cholesterol isn’t a factor, you’ll get more flavor and better texture by using some egg yolk, for example one whole egg plus two egg whites for every two eggs.

Egg substitutes can also be used not only in egg dishes, but also in breads, muffins, cakes, cookies, casseroles, sauces, and puddings. Don’t use egg substitutes in creampuffs or popovers as the creampuffs or popovers won’t puff or pop. Try different brands of liquid egg substitute-they don’t all taste the same. Settle on the brand that you think gives a flavor closest to the “real thing.” One-fourth cup (60 ml) liquid egg substitute equals one large fresh egg. For recipes calling for egg yolks, use three tablespoons (45 ml) egg substitute per yolk.

Cream cheese is a rich, soft cheese made from fresh milk and cream. The most popular brand in the United States is Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese. It gets 43% of its calories from fat. A Kraft’s low-fat variety, Philadelphia Light Cream Cheese has a similar taste and texture to regular cream cheese, at half the fat, and is excellent in cooking and baking. Fat-free cream cheese is greasier, doesn’t have the same flavor, and should never be cooked. As another substitute for regular cream cheese; instead, use yogurt cheese. You can also substitute non-fat or low-fat cottage cheese that has been drained and pressed dry in a strainer, then whipped smooth in a food processor or blender.

Cheese, frequently used in holiday cooking, is also a source of fat. Reduced fat cheese has about half the calories and fat of regular cheese. We’ve found excellent brands of low-fat mozzarella, cheddar, Swiss, goat cheese, and feta cheese. Again all brands are not the same-experiment until you find one that you like. Low-fat cheese melts in the same way as mild regular cheese, but will toughen with high or direct heat. Use low heat, and if adding to a sauce, stir in only one direction, adding a smidgen of flour or cornstarch to the shredded cheese before adding it to the sauce. Fat-free cheese will not melt smoothly. We serve it cold or add it to cooked dishes knowing that we’ll get a change in texture and loss of flavor. You can also mix low-fat and fat-free cheeses when cooking to reduce calories but still retain some of the melting capability and taste.

Chocolate seems to be synonymous with the holidays. To reduce fat, and particularly saturated fat, in your holiday baking, use as little solid chocolate as possible. To give the illusion of chocolate, we suggest grating a little on top of a dessert, or use cocoa powder as a substitute for chocolate in the actual dessert. Since it’s used for flavoring, use the best brand of cocoa that you can afford. To substitute cocoa powder for solid unsweetened chocolate, use 3 level tablespoons (24 g) of cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of canola oil per each ounce of chocolate.

Another good way to cut back the fat in holiday cooking and baking is to cut out or cut back on the nuts that you use. Although they impart a unique flavor and texture to cooking and baking, nuts are high in fat-64% calories from fat in walnuts and 65% in pecans. If you use nuts at all, stick to almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, and walnuts. Absolutely do not use Brazil nuts, cashews, and macadamia nuts. Keep coconut to a minimum, if used at all. Sometimes to give the illusion of nut flavor, you can substitute a nut oil for part of the oil in a recipe-we keep almond, hazelnut, peanut, and walnut in our pantry for such uses.

To maintain the desired texture in baked goods, you can use fruit purées in place of some of the fat-applesauce, prune purée, and mashed bananas. To make up for the tenderness contributed by fat that you replace in an original baked goods recipe, sometimes using cake flour in place of unbleached all-purpose flour will help, but cake flour absorbs less moisture than all-purpose flour so the amount of liquid used will need adjusting. To substitute cake flour for all-purpose flour, use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (140 g) of cake flour for each cup (140 g) all-purpose. When adjusting the liquid, that will take some experimental.

When selecting meat, buy only the leanest cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and veal. Ask your butcher to help with your selections. Trim all visible fat from the meat before cooking. Roast meats on a rack to allow fat to drip away. Don’t eat the skin of poultry.

Make stocks and soups ahead of time. You’ll get a layer of fat that can be skimmed off after refrigeration. For a quick chill, use the freezer. Baste meats and poultry with fat-free stock or wine, instead of butter, margarine, or oil.

Use your microwave for fat-free cooking of vegetables and fruits.