Fat provides twice as many calories as protein or carbohydrates. The most effective way of cutting the calories in your diet is therefore simple. It is to use low-fat ingredients, such as white fish and chicken, and low-fat alternatives wherever possible, such as reduced-fat cheese and skimmed milk.
One easy option to slim down fat in your meal would be to fill your shopping basket with fat- and calorie-controlled ready meals, or meal components like sauces, light yogurts and lower fat processed foods. By doing this, you may be able to count every gram of fat and every calorie.
Here are some easy rules you can apply to your everyday routine:
- Invest in a good, heavy-based nonstick pan and remember that oil expands once it gets hot, so when you’re softening onions or vegetables you don’t actually need as much oil as you might think. Use a vegetable or olive oil non-stick cooking spray for dishes that require light frying.
- Start with low-fat ingredients – white fish, shellfish, chicken and lean meat are all good choices.
- Choose low-fat cooking techniques such as poaching, braising, steaming, roasting, grilling or stir-frying.
- Marinades are a good way of adding extra flavour without fat.
- Don’t be afraid to use strongly flavoured high-fat foods such as cheese and bacon; you only need to use small quantities to add a lot of flavour.
- To add flavour to dishes; use plenty of fresh herbs and spices in your cooking. Adding a squeeze of fresh lemon juice just before serving can also give your food a real lift.
- Always choose lean meat and trim away any visible fat before cooking. Remove the skin from poultry before eating.
- Bulk out savoury dishes by adding plenty of vegetables; they’re low in calories and high in vitamins.
- Use reduced-fat alternatives such as reduced-fat cheese, skimmed milk, and low-fat yogurts where available.
- To make a reduced-fat white sauce, blend 15ml/1 tbsp cornflour with 30ml/ 2 tbsp cold water, and whisk the mixture into 300ml/ 1/2 pint/ 1 1/4 cups skimmed milk. Bring this to the boil and cook, stirring continuously, for 1 minute.
- Beware of high-fat salad dressings – 15ml/ 1 tbsp French dressing contains 97 calories and almost 11g fat, so use them in moderation.
- To make gravies and sauces creamy, add a little low-fat or Greek yogurt or fromage frais rather than cream. Stir in at the end of cooking to prevent curdling.
- Use cheese with a particularly strong flavour, such as a mature cheddar, Parmesan or stilton for making sauces or for garnishing and you will be able to use less. Adding a little mustard will also enhance the flavour.
- To reduce the fat in baked goods, such as muffins and cakes, replace half the fat with an equal quantity of something fruity, such as prune puree or apple sauce.
- Go for fruit-based desserts and serve with a fruit caulis or pureed fruit, rather than cream or custard.