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Top 5 Tips for Low Fat Recipe Conversion

Updated on June 5, 2012

For those Dinner Entrees

So…your medical doctor just told you that you’re cholesterol levels are high enough that you’re a heart attack looking for a place to happen…or, maybe your triglyceride levels are making him uncomfortable…or, perhaps you would just like to lose some weight and get healthier. If you’re like the millions of us who need to watch our fat intake but love to cook (and eat), then listen up. I have been cooking for many years. This is one of my top 5 favorite activities – and another favored activity is to EAT what I cook.

My recipe collection includes some absolutely awesome dishes that have either been passed down through the generations in my family or they have been given the “I’ve eaten so much that I can’t breathe” seal of approval by each and every person who has enjoyed them. Believe me when I say that modifying these tried and true recipes scares me to death. But, the truth is that, in this age of fast food and busy lifestyles, we are consuming considerably more fat in our diets than our bodies were designed to handle. The result of this increased consumption is presenting itself in dangerously increasing trends of elevated cholesterol and triglycerides which lead to high blood pressure, diabetes and all types of heart disease issues. And, these resulting conditions are being discovered at alarming rates in people of all ages…including children! While this situation is not totally dependent upon one category of food consumption, the increased fat content found in most of the fast food fare and packaged dinners is certainly a large contributor.

So What Do You Do?

What I have done is to take those treasured recipes and modify them so they have reduced fat content. The real concern here for most of us is what will reduced fat taste like in the recipe? Here are my top 5 tips for low fat recipe substitutions that I have successfully made in my favorite entrée recipes that have not affected the taste.

Beef Recipes

One of the easiest ways to reduce the fat content in a recipe having beef as the main protein ingredient is to substitute extra lean cuts of beef. For example: if your recipe calls for ground beef, choose an extra lean (97% lean or higher ) ground beef to replace the normal ground beef you have used in the past. If your recipe calls for browning it first, you will likely need to use a cooking spray or beef broth so that it browns more evenly.

If you’re using a beef roast or beef steak in your recipe, be sure to choose one with as little fat and marbling as you can find. Also, be sure to trim away as much visible fat as you can once you get it home.

Ground Turkey or Chicken

Here is another of my favorite top 5 tips for low fat recipe conversion and substitution. Ground turkey and chicken are generally considerably lower in fat than ground beef or pork. They can be successfully substituted 100% or try a 50 / 50 mixture in any recipe that calls for ground beef or pork. The consistency of your end product won’t likely change but, depending on the percentage of your mixture, you may have to experiment with your seasonings and spices to keep your taste factor similar. I have several great recipes for turkey meatloaf that are actually preferred over the standard ground beef one that I used to make. Adding sun-dried tomatoes to these recipes can rev up the taste factor quite nicely!

Pork Recipe Suggestions

Pork is being advertised as being the “other white meat”…I’m sure you’ve seen the ads as I have. If you are careful, you can find cuts of pork that are quite lean and trimming all visible fat helps make them leaner still. I have seen extra lean ground pork in my shopping expeditions as well. But, please don’t discount our ground foul friends (chicken and turkey) as substitutions for recipes that call for ground pork. I have eaten some turkey sausage, for example, that would rival anything Jimmy Dean or Bob Evans has to offer! Center cut chops and loin make excellent low fat substitutions in your dinner entree recipes.

Are You a Do-It-Yourselfer?

If you are not fortunate enough to have a grocery store near you that carries the extra lean versions of ground beef and pork, you can always choose a very lean cut of beef or pork and ask the meat cutter to grind it for you. Realistically, you don’t really know what goes into that ground meat that you find prepackaged at the market – you don’t know how much “filler” or fat is really going into it. But, if you select your own cuts and ask them to grind it for you, you really will be surer of it. I have even selected several roasts or steaks or chops and taken them home and used my own meat grinder that is an attachment to my upright mixer and have ground it myself! This also works if you have roasts or steaks in the freezer that you would like to use in a ground meat recipe. Using the whole cuts of meat you already have will save you the time and gas money for a trip to the grocery store – not to mention the money saved because you picked up other things that caught your attention on that same trip!

Have You Tried Non-Meat Substitutions?

By non-meat substitutions, I mean things like pinto beans, kidney or black eyed peas to use in place of the higher fat meat ingredients. We could write a whole article on the benefits of meatless meals even for non-vegans. Some of these recipes would satisfy the greatest of your meat eaters. Adding beans and other legumes to your favorite recipes can make pleasant changes to the texture of the finished product. And, think of all of the extra fiber you’re adding to your diet!

Add It All Up

Add to all of this, changes in the way you prepare the meat in your entrees – like braising or roasting instead of frying – and you will cut even more fat out of your favorite recipes. Substituting cooking spray or beef or chicken broth works well to replace the oils and other fats used to brown or sear your meats before adding the other ingredients. I hope I have given you some useful tips today. Perhaps I have even planted a seed or two that will sprout new and even better ways to reduce the fat as you convert your higher fat recipes into healthier ones. Don’t be afraid to experiment!


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