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Low-fat sour cream can be a substitute for heavy cream or whipping cream used to flavor and thicken creamy soups.
Removing the skin from chicken reduces fat content by approximately 50%. Wow, that's a lot of fat!
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Week of May 25, 2008

Healthy Cooking Oils

Relative to other oils, canola (made from the seeds of a yellow-flowered plant) and olive oils are rich in monounsaturated fats—the kind that help reduce "unhealthy" LDL cholesterol and boost "healthy" HDL cholesterol.

But new research suggests that virgin (and extra-virgin) olive oils—those produced purely by mechanically pressing the oil from olives, with no chemical processing—have an edge: antioxidants called polyphenols. Naturally found in olives (in red wine and green tea too), polyphenols mop up free radicals before they can oxidize LDL (oxidation makes LDL even more damaging to arteries).

In a three-week study of 200 men published recently in Annals of Internal Medicine, those who consumed just under two tablespoons a day of high-polyphenol virgin olive oil in place of other dietary fats registered larger increases in "good" HDL cholesterol and fewer markers of oxidative stress than men who consumed the same amount of "ordinary" olive oil, which had a very low polyphenol content. Chemical refining processes remove some polyphenols from "ordinary" olive oils (often labeled as "pure" in the U.S.) and other cooking oils, says Maria-Isabel Covas, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a researcher at the Municipal Institute for Medical Research in Barcelona, Spain.

Bottom line: Virgin olive oil doesn't just taste better than plain old "olive oil," it's better for you too. (Great justification for splurging on a pricier product, no?) That said, any olive or canola oil is a heart-healthy choice — assuming you use it as a substitute for (not a complement to) saturated fats in your diet. If cost is a concern, go ahead and use refined olive oil or canola in cooking and save the virgin oil for cases that call for a high-impact fruity flavor (dipping bread, dressing salads, accenting soups).

Week of May 18, 2008

Quick Fruit Tips

Here are a few fruit tidbits that will make your life easier.

  • Frozen strawberries, seedless grapes and peeled banana make great frozen snacks. Freeze on trays, place in plastic bags for quick treats.
  • When you need both citrus (lemon, lime, orange...) juice and grated peel, grate before squeezing the juice. Both jobs will be easier.
  • Scalding tomatoes, peaches or pears in boiling water before peeling makes it easier on you and the fruit, skins slip right off.
  • To keep fruit from browning dip into the juice from grapefruit, oranges, lemon, or pineapples.
  • Put dates and other sticky fruits in the freezer for about an hour before cutting up. It will make it easier.
  • Ripen green fruits by placing them in a perforated plastic bag - the holes allow air movement, yet retain the odorless gas the fruits produce to promote ripening.
  • For fresh off the vine, tree, bush, etc. flavor, microwave fruit until barely warm for wonderful flavor.
  • Spread pineapple jam or mixed-fruit jellies on squash halves, before baking.
  • Pick mangoes that are orange-yellow to red in color and which give slightly with pressure. Green mangoes are hard, and have to ripen before you can eat them.
  • For a sweet twist, stir in 1/4 cup of apricot, peaches or pineapple preserves before serving cooked vegetables like carrots or sweet potatoes.
  • To peel an orange or grapefruit to use the sections in a salad, immerse the whole fruit in a pot of boiling-hot water and let stand 4 minutes. Remove fruit from the water and cool until it's easy to handle. When you peel away the skin, the pith should come with it. Any remnants can be pulled off with a grapefruit knife.
  • Before eating or juicing citrus fruit, microwave it for 15-45 seconds until slightly warm to the touch and it will be much juicier.
  • Dip your peeled bananas in lemon juice - it will keep them from turning dark and also adds great flavor.
  • When choosing a cantaloupe its skin should be rough. The rougher, the sweeter. For ripeness, the bottom end (not the stem) should be soft.
  • To test whether a pineapple is ripe, see if you can pull out a leaf from the crown. If you can pull it out, it is ripe.
  • Before juicing citrus fruits, firmly roll on a table or counter for a few second to help break the cell walls.
  • The easiest and tastiest way to frost grapes is first to wash and dry them. Then dip them first into lemon juice and then into granulated sugar.

May 11, 2008

Fat Fighting Foods

By Howard M. Shapiro, DO, Prevention
Weight loss starts with shopping. Taking control of what you eat begins with taking control of what you buy.

Every time you toss a low-calorie food into the cart, you're taking responsibility for losing weight—even before you sit down to a meal.

There's a very simple formula for low-calorie eating: Stock up on low-calorie staples. These are the basic packaged, canned, and frozen ingredients that you'll reach for to create tasty, healthful, low-calorie meals anytime.

The Picture Perfect Anytime List is a menu of the lowest-calorie produce, soups, sauces, condiments, marinades, dressings, dips, candies, desserts, and beverages available. Stuff your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer with them, and reach for them anytime. Feel free to go to the foods on the Anytime List when you want a snack or are planning a meal. Eat any amount of them for any reason. When the Anytime List becomes the core of your eating—in other words, the main dish around which you build your meals—you'll have no trouble staying thin for life.

The Anytime List
Fruits and vegetables
All fruits and vegetables—raw, cooked, fresh, frozen, canned—belong on the Picture Perfect Anytime List. Avoid any packaged fruits that have added sugar. Otherwise, the more fruits and vegetables you eat, the better.

Soups
You've heard of value for your money. Soups give you very good value for the calories. They are filling; a bowl of soup can be an entire meal. They are satisfying. For many people, they are more satisfying than raw vegetables, while many give you all the benefits of veggies (if you choose the soups chock full of vegetables). They are inexpensive, convenient, easy, and quick to make. Soups don't make you feel like you're on a diet. Above all, soups are versatile. They can serve as a snack, as part of a meal, or as a cooking ingredient.

Sauces, Condiments, and Marinades
Put the following items at the very top of your shopping list. They're invaluable for adding flavor, moisture, texture, and versatility to every food and every meal.

Salad dressings: oil-free or low-calorie (light or lite)

Mayonnaise: fat-free or light

Sour cream and yogurt: fat-free, plain, or with NutraSweet (or low-fat nondairy substitutes)

Mustards: Dijon, Pommery, and others

Tomato puree, tomato paste, and tomato sauce

Clam juice, tomato juice, V8 juice, and lemon or lime juice

Butter Buds or Molly McButter

Cooking sprays (such as Pam) in butter, olive oil, garlic, or lemon flavors

Vinegars: balsamic, cider, wine, tarragon, and others

Horseradish: red and white

Sauces: salsa, cocktail sauce, tamari, soy sauce, A1, Worcestershire sauce, barbecue sauce, ketchup, duck sauce, chutney, relish, and others

Onion: fresh, juice, flakes, and powder

Garlic: fresh, juice, flakes, and powder

Herbs: any and all, including basil, oregano, tarragon, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, dill, chives, sage, and bay leaves

Spices: any and all, including cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cumin, nutmeg, coriander, curry, paprika, and allspice

Extracts: vanilla, almond, peppermint, maple, coconut, cocoa powder, and others

Dressings and Dips
I recommend fat-free or light dressings and dips. The light category—low-fat, reduced-fat, and low-calorie—is midway between totally fat-free and regular, and it's often more pleasing to the palate than fat-free.

Dressings can be used as all-purpose condiments, dips, toppings, even cooking liquids. They already contain a mixture of ingredients, so just slather them on vegetables, seafood, and pretty much anything else. Or cook with them to make up for the lack of butter or oil.

I recommend keeping several varieties of dressings and dips on hand, including at least one creamy version. Try brushing a light creamy dressing on seafood, then broiling; the dressing adds moisture and flavor.

Candy
Yup, candy. The real thing—not the dietetic variety—is best when your sweet tooth starts aching. Dietetic candies have almost as many calories as regular candies, often lack flavor, and are an incentive to eat more. Stick to the real thing.

Chewing gum or gum balls: any and all

Hard candy: any and all, including sour balls, candy canes, lollipops such as Tootsie Pops or Blow Pops, Jolly Ranchers, Werther's Original, and TasteTations

Frozen Desserts
Any fat-free frozen yogurt, frozen nondairy substitute, or sorbet is a fine addition to the freezer. Try the lower-calorie choices. Here are some examples:

Soft serve: up to 25 calories per ounce, including Skimpy Treat; TCBY, Colombo nonfat frozen yogurt, and Tofutti

Hard pack: up to 115 calories per 1/2-cup serving, including Sharon's Sorbet, Low-Fat Tofutti, all Italian ices, and Sweet Nothings

Frozen bars: Creamsicles, Fudgsicles, and Popsicles; any others containing up to 45 calories per bar, including Welch's Fruit Juice Bars, Weight Watchers Smart Ones Orange Vanilla Treats, Tofutti Chocolate Fudge Treats, Weight Watchers Smart Ones Chocolate Mousse, Dolly Madison Slender Treat Chocolate Mousse, and Yoplait

Individually packaged frozen bars: up to 110 calories each, including FrozFruit, Hagen-Dazs bars, and Starbucks Frappuccino Blended Coffee Bars

Beverages
Avoid beverages labeled "naturally sweetened" or "fruit-juice sweetened," but help yourself to these:

Unsweetened black coffees and teas

Diet teas and juices: Crystal Light, Diet Snapple, Diet Natural Lemon Nestea, Diet Mistic, and others

Noncaloric flavored waters: orange, chocolate, cream, cherry-chocolate, root beer, cola, and other flavors of bottled or filtered water

Seltzer: plain or flavored, but check the calorie count if the product is labeled "naturally sweetened," since this usually means that the product has sugar in one form or another

Hot cocoa mixes: 20 to 50 calories per serving, including Swiss Miss Diet and Fat-Free and Nestle Carnation Diet and Fat-Free; avoid cocoa mixes with 60 or more calories per serving

Let's Go Shopping
Today's supermarkets are filled with choices for the weight conscious. Here are some of the lowest-calorie choices for a variety of food categories that aren't covered in the Anytime List.

Cereals

Cheerios: a whole grain cereal with 110 calories and 3 g fiber per cup

Kellogg's All-Bran with Extra Fiber: 50 calories and 15 g fiber per 1/2 cup

Original Shredded Wheat: 80 calories and 2.5 g fiber per biscuit

Fiber One: 60 calories and 14 g fiber per 1/2 cup

Wheaties: 110 calories and 2 g fiber per cup

Whole Grain Total: 110 calories and 3 g fiber per 3/4 cup

Spreads

Peanut butter

Low-sugar or sugar-free jams and jellies with 10 to 40 calories per tablespoon

Breads

Light breads with 40 to 45 calories per slice: oatmeal, premium white, wheat, rye, multigrain, sourdough, Italian

Whole grain regular breads or rolls

Rice and Pasta

Whole wheat/whole grain pastas: Hodgson Mill, Ancient Harvest

Brown rice

Whole wheat couscous

Pearled or hulled barley

Other whole grains: quinoa, whole grain cornmeal, kasha, bulgur, millet

Frozen Meals

Low-calorie frozen breakfast foods such as those from Kellogg's, Aunt Jemima, and Pillsbury—and a special mention for the low-calorie, whole grain offerings from Van's

Low-calorie, vegetable-focused frozen meals in the 150- to 350-calories-per-package range, especially the Amy's brand

Beans

All beans, dried or canned

Health Valley canned bean/chili combinations

Low-fat or fat-free refried beans

Snacks

Make it a point to eat starchy, crunchy snacks only in conjunction with a food from the Anytime List. For example, have fruit with popcorn or soup with crackers. Fill up on the former, and go easy on the starchy snack.

Protein Foods

Legumes: beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas

Soy products: bean curd/tofu, meat-replacement products by Boca, Gardenburger, Yves, and Lightlife

Seafood: fresh (do not fry!), smoked, canned, frozen

Note: Calorie counts in this story may vary depending on the brand of products used. Remember to check the labels.

 


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