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Introducing Low-Fat to Your Family

Once you've overcome your own mental blocks about eating healthier foods, you still have one more hurdle: your family. Kids especially have been known to squawk and go on hunger strikes when their high-fat favorites disappear from the kitchen and the dinner table.

You can trick them, subversive as that sounds. The first rule is to resist the urge to announce the changes you're making in the family's eating habits. The second rule is to introduce the changes gradually. Try these tips to get started:

  • Change only one ingredient at a time in a family-favorite recipe.
  • Use nonstick cooking spray to grease pans when cooking and baking.
  • Prepare traditional recipes, such as lasagna, with low-fat and nonfat cheeses.
  • Use equal amounts of evaporated skim milk for recipes that call for heavy cream.
  • Make your own healthy pizza with a store-bought crust and low-fat or fat-free cheeses and loads of veggies. Keep in mind that a serving of most natural and many processed cheeses has less cholesterol but more than six times the saturated fat than a serving of skinless chicken, and almost twice that of lean round steak. That's why low-fat cheeses are good substitutions.
  • Cook with lots of herbs and spices such as garlic, oregano, and tarragon.
  • Choose meats that are relatively low in fat, such as turkey breast, lean ham, boneless pork loin, and filet mignon.
  • Bake turkey stuffing outside the bird to eliminate the fat that drips into the stuffing.
  • Use a gravy separator to de-fat gravy made from drippings.
  • If you drink whole milk, change to skim milk in stages. Drop down to 2% milk for a few weeks, then to 1%, and finally to skim. Everyone will become accustomed to the new taste gradually.
  • In baking, replace shortening or oils with the same volume of pureed fruit plus one-third the oil called for by the recipe. For example, if your recipe calls for a half cup of oil, try replacing it with a half cup of applesauce and one tablespoon plus one teaspoon of oil.
  • Replace some of the whole eggs in recipes with two egg whites each. Every whole egg you replace with two egg whites saves 5 grams of fat. Use at least one or two whole eggs in the recipe to maintain taste and consistency.

Quick and easy substitutions

You can jump right in with many of these dietary substitutions and no one will be the wiser.
If your recipe calls for:Substitute:

Whole milk

Skim or 1% milk

Evaporated milk

Evaporated skim milk

Light cream

Equal amounts 1% milk and evaporated skim milk

1 cup butter

1 cup margarine or 2/3 cup vegetable oil




Nonfat or light mayonnaise or salad dressing


Low-fat cheese

1 whole egg

1/4 cup egg substitute or 2 egg whites

Fat for greasing pan

Fat-free nonstick cooking spray

Sour cream

Nonfat or low-fat sour cream or plain yogurt

Add extra veggies and fruits to family meals

If the idea of five or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day leaves you wondering how you're going to get your family to eat that much, here are some pointers:

  • Eat a full cup instead of a half-cup serving of vegetables. With only a few more bites, you've racked up two servings.
  • Keep a bowl of grapefruit sections or other sliced fruit in the fridge for an instant, no-prep side dish or breakfast accompaniment.
  • Make salsa a regular menu item. Salsa pairs well with most meats and is an essential component of burrito dinners. Each half-cup of salsa counts as one serving, but don't just think tomato. For a real treat, try fruit salsas. You can make them with just about any fruit. Try mangoes with red pepper and cucumber.
  • Tuna and chicken salads are naturals for bulking up with vegetables or fruit. For tuna, add lots of chopped celery and onion. For chicken, stir in chopped apples, grape halves, pineapple cubes, or diced mango. Think half tuna or chicken and half vegetables or fruit. Use low-fat or nonfat mayo or plain yogurt.
  • Throw extra chunks of zucchini, onions, mushrooms, peppers, or shredded carrots into pasta sauces.
  • Add more vegetables than your casserole recipe calls for.
  • Keep frozen vegetables on hand and add a cup of peas, string beans, or carrot slices to the canned soup you're heating in the microwave.

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