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7 Basic Tips for Low Calorie Cooking

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You may wish to cut calories from your cooking for various reasons, but just don't know where to start. In addition, you may think that lowering calories equals little flavor and no flare, but don't despair. Here are some cooking techniques that can reduce calories, yet please your palette.

1. Minimize Fat

As you might expect, ounce for ounce cooking oils and fats add more calories than any other ingredient. As opposed to adding butter, margarine, oil, or meat drippings to your dish, use cooking sprays to prevent sticking, meat broths to add flavor, and unsweetened applesauce to replace half of the fat in baked goods.

Another less obvious source of fat comes from dairy foods. Ditch the full fat versions of milk, cream, and cheese, and opt for their many reduced and low-fat counterparts that are available at the supermarket.

2. Choose Lean Meats and Poultry

Begin with a lean cut of meat or poultry. Lean cuts of meat include round, loin, and sirloin. Most people think that by choosing poultry they are choosing a lower calorie alternative, but keep in mind this is only true if you select white meat from the breast without the skin.

3. Trim Excess Fat and Skin

Take a minute to trim all visible fat from meat and poultry. Also, remove the skin from poultry as this is where a great deal of the fat and calories is harbored. Perform both of these steps before cooking.

4. Less Sugar

Did you know you can trim the sugar by up to one-half in many sweets and baked goods? Of course you will lose some of the sweetness, but if the recipe calls for vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, or cinnamon, you can add a little extra of these ingredients to help replace the flavor.

As an alternative, there are many sugar replacements available in the baking aisle. Do be cautious with sugar substitutes as some do lose their sweetness when cooked at high temperatures.

5. Choose the Right Cooking Method

Avoid frying, sauteing, and the dreaded deep fat fryer which requires a lot of added oil. Instead stick with baking, broiling, grilling, poaching, or steaming, which all use little, if any, added fat. Broiling and grilling are terrific for meats becasue the drippings are allowed to fall away from the food while cooking. About.com's Guide to Low Fat Cooking offers more advice about cooking methods.

6. Veggies, Veggies, Veggies

Those bright and colorful vegetables add aesthetic appeal to your dish, are packed with important vitamins and minerals, yet contribute few calories. Use chopped vegetables to replace some of the meat in all types of recipes such as soups, stews, casseroles, and meat loaf.

7. Flavorful Ingredients

A little goes a long way when using flavorful ingredients. For example, when using cheese, select a strongly flavored variety such as gorgonzola or sharp cheddar, and use only a small amount so as to not add a lot of calories. Also, chop fresh herbs in place of their dried alternative to lend a lot of low calorie flavor.
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