27 Ways to Get Lean the Right Way

Here’s the easiest first: choose reduced-fat and low-fat products rather than standard. Do not accept the argument that reduced-fat and low-fat versions don’t taste as good. It’s not true. Low-fat versions may lack some of the flavour you or your family are used to, but after a week or two, you’ll stop noticing the subtle decline in richness. 

27 Ways to Get Lean the Right Way

Here are the places to start:

  • 1. • Milk: you needn’t jump all the way to skimmed; use 2% as a stepping stone from whole milk, but don’t stop there – 35 per cent of the calories still come from fat in 2% milk.
  • Ice cream: most “light” versions taste as rich and creamy as the full-fat versions.
  • Yogourt: given that most people eat their yogourt flavoured, it’s hard to notice the difference between standard and low-fat or fat-free versions.
  • Ground beef: don’t think that buying fatty ground beef and pouring off the grease makes it healthy. Much of the fat is bound in with the meat. Buy extra-lean ground – but bear in mind, even that can contain up to 10 per cent fat, so keep portions modest and bulk it out with vegetables or beans.
  • Cheese: choose reduced-fat or low-fat, particularly with mozzarella cheese for pizza. Low-fat versions still have all the taste and texture you could want.

2. Keep your spreads soft. Choose soft margarines and leave your butter out of the fridge. The softer the spread, the less you’ll use on your bread or toast, which means you’ll be eating less fat.

3. Choose spreads wisely. One typically thinks that a spread will be tasty only if it is of the full-fat variety. But there are many low-fat options that are bursting with flavour, and as is always the case when one changes one food for another, it sometimes takes a few tries before one grows accustomed to the slightly different taste. Tasty options include low-fat cream cheese or hummus.

4. Buy a pretty bottle, fill it with olive oil, then top it with a pourer. Now keep it in plain view and use it for everything except frying (as olive oil burns at lower temperatures than other oils; for frying canola oil is a healthy alternative). Olive oil is the best oil to use because it contains high amounts of monounsaturated fats and low amounts of saturated fats (all oils contain a mixture of the three: mono, poly and saturated; the key is the ratio). Buy the deepest green, extra virgin olive oil you can find – the darker the colour, the greater the amount of phytonutrients, potent little plant-based cancer fighters.

5. If you can’t go without your butter, mix it with olive oil. Let a thick slice of butter (about 100 g) soften at room temperature, then beat the butter smooth, before slowly beating in between 3 and 7 Tbsp (50 and 100 ml) of olive oil. This cuts the amount of saturated fat significantly while adding plenty of healthy monounsaturated fat.

6. Eat the right meats. Of course, meat is one of the primary forms of saturated fat. But meat – whether red or white – is also an excellent source of protein and trace minerals such as zinc and iron. The key is choosing lean cuts of meat and trimming off visible fat before cooking.

7. Don’t be taken in by the “other white meat” slogan. Put simply, lean chicken is much less fatty than lean pork. A 100 g serving of broiled chicken breast (no skin) provides 140 calories, 27 from fat, and only one-third of that fat is saturated. The same serving of roasted lean pork loin delivers 275 calories, 189 of them from fat, half of which is saturated. To top it off, the chicken has 6 more grams of protein than the pork.

8. Cook steak with other ingredients. The goal is to stop eating great slabs of steak. Instead, slice the raw beef and sauté it with peppers and onions, fajita-style. Or cook strips of steak in a wok with plenty of vegetables. Or top a crunchy, large salad with steak slices. Or make shish kebab with steak cubes and chunks of vegetable. Why? Because you almost always eat less meat when you’ve prepared it as part of a nicely integrated dish. Keep the whole steak just for very special occasions.

9. Eat an exotic meat occasionally. How about emu, venison, wild boar or ostrich? All have less than 1 g of saturated fat per 100 g serving, are super-rich in protein and taste extremely good.

10Substitute tofu for meat once a week. Tofu is high in protein, but has little fat.

11. Be wary of recipes that allow starches and veggies to absorb fat. Many classic winter dishes have potatoes, carrots, turnips and other vegetables roasting slowly with chicken, beef, lamb or pork. Delicious, yes. But all those veggies are soaking up a whole lot of fat that’s dripped off the meat. Either find ways to cook the vegetables separately, or wait until you’ve skimmed the fat from the meat juices before adding in the veg.

12. Use skimmed evaporated milk in place of cream for cream-based soups and other recipes.

Follow a simple rule: if you can plainly see fat on your food, remove it. So:

  • • If there’s fat on the meat, trim it off.
  • • If there’s skin on the chicken, remove it.
  • • If there’s oil pooling on the top of the pizza, soak it up with a paper towel.
  • • If there’s leftover dressing at the bottom of your salad, pour it off.
  • • If there’s a pool of fatty juice under a piece of cooked meat, drain it.
  • • If there’s fat at the top of a bowl of stew or soup, skim it off.

13. Cook flavour into breads, batters, cakes, buns and other carb-based foods so you don’t need to add butter. For example, add herbs to breads; blueberries to pancakes; nuts and bananas to buns and cakes. Grain-filled foods are often the ones you want to butter, but if you make them more flavourful, you avoid the urge.

14. Put salsa on your baked potato, not butter or sour cream. You not only skip the fat, but add in a healthy, low-cal serving of vegetables.

15. Mist your fat. Use an olive oil spray to coat pans and foods. You’ll use much less, and still get the great taste.

16. Sauté foods in broth, wine or even juice. These are just a few of the alternatives to filling the bottom of your cookware with calorie-dense oils.

17. Watch out for trans fats in unexpected places. Start with peanut butter, cookies, energy bars, frozen pizza and cereal. Even foods you might think of as health foods – such as granola – often carry large amounts of trans fats.

18. Put soups and stews in the fridge overnight. Voilà! The next morning you can skim the congealed fat off the top before reheating the dish.

19. Grate your cheese. You’ll use less on pasta dishes, sandwiches, etc., if it’s grated rather than sliced.

20. Order pizza without the fat. Sausage and pepperoni are very high in fats, as is full-fat mozzarella. The answer? As mentioned, soak up the excess grease on the top of the pizza, order vegetables on top, ask for low-fat cheese and sometimes order a cheeseless tomato pizza. Never tried one? You are in for a surprise. A vegetable pizza can have 25 per cent fewer calories and about 50 per cent less fat and saturated fat than a meat pizza.

21Stick to mustard, ketchup and other non-creamy condiments in place of mayonnaise and tartar sauce. Mayonnaise is particularly dense with fat. Aim to have it only in small doses.

22. Purée a cooked potato and an onion to thicken soups instead of cream. This also adds extra flavour.

23. Use avocados in place of butter and cream. There’s a reason these green fruits are called butterfruit in Mexico – they mash up into the same creamy texture as butter. Try them in soups as a thickening agent, and in mashed potatoes to provide a creamier texture. Interestingly, avocados and olives are the only two fruits high in fat – yet both are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.

24. Eat a high-fibre cereal for breakfast. Fibre fills you up and seems to reduce your interest in fatty foods. American researchers found that men who ate two daily servings of cereal, each containing 7 g of fibre, reduced their average total fat intake from 91 to 82 g a day, and their saturated fat intake to less than 10 per cent of calories.

25Try soy milk on your cereal. Be sure to look for brands with added calcium. You can also substitute soy milk in baking and other recipes.

26. Look for the key words on labels. Note the serving size, grams of fat and how much of it is saturated.

27. Be fast-food savvy. The amount of fat in a fast-food meal can be stunning. The fries, the burgers, the “special sauces,” even the salads swimming in dressings may be your worst dietary enemy. Go to the website of each fast-food chain you frequent, and look at the nutritional information on the foods you prefer. After the shock wears off, make a commitment to healthier choices.

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