Cut Down Calories At Home

A niece once said that if anyone wanted to lose weight, all they had to do was live in my house for a few months. Now, mind you, my household is not on a perennial diet.

What my niece noticed is that special attention is taken to make the food tasty but reduced in caloric content. We eat "normal" food not the stereotypical "diet food" like cottage cheese and lettuce at every meal (my husband would probably consider that grounds for divorce!). My attitude is that every little bit counts towards reducing calories in our every day food.

An example would be fried pork chops. I serve this dish about three to four times a month to my husband who would otherwise get withdrawal symptoms of nightmarish proportions. To reduce the number of calories, my cook removes three-fourths of the fat (to remove all of it would be too cruel!) and then pats it completely dry with paper towels to remove every excess drop of oil.

We do the same for bacon and homemade potato chips. In the long run, every calorie that you save helps to keep your weight under control.

Keep the use of cooking to a bare minimum.
As a whole, keep frying to a minimum. Instead, turbo-broil, bake, grill, barbecue or boil food. If you feel that frying is the only way to do justice to chicken, use as little oil as possible.

I have discovered that most cooks use double the amount of oil needed. Keeping a close eye on the amount of oil used will not only lighten your fat cells but also your pocketbook. A trick my cook uses to make "fried" bananas is to pick sweet ripe bananas and fry them in a Teflon pan brushed with just a little oil. If the bananas are ripe enough, they come out just as moist and yummy as if you had fried them in a few inches of oil.

A friend has another version - she cooks the bananas in a microwave after she has basted them lightly with a little oil. Stir-frying in a Chinese wok is another good method to use to avoid smothering your vegetables in oil. Use as little oil as possible because vegetables soak up almost all of it.

Substitute when possible.
Whenever possible, substitute higher calorie ingredients for lower calorie versions. Whenever a recipe calls for ground beef, my cook uses ground chicken to keep fat calories to a minimum. She makes ground chicken lasagna, spaghetti, meatballs, etc.

Anytime a recipe calls for milk; we use non-fat milk instead of whole cream milk. If you bake, you can substitute applesauce for the oil or shortening in a recipe - this keeps the muffin or banana bread moist while keeping the calories low.

To thicken cream soups, my cook mixes in blended boiled potatoes instead of heavy cream. She uses homemade yogurt instead of mayonnaise in salad dressings and other recipes. If you feel that substituting the ingredient changes the taste of the recipe too much, try initially substituting only half the amount.

Reduce high calorie ingredients.
You can reduce the amount of sugar by one fourth without really affecting the sweetness of dessert. I know that one-fourth doesn't seem worth the effort but remember "that every little bit counts".

Actually, if you do this gradually, you can eventually reduce the sugar by one-third without your family being aware of it. My cook is such an expert at this that she automatically reduces the amount of butter, sugar, oil, mayonnaise, when she knows she cannot successfully substitute these items without destroying the recipe entirely.

Keep it a secret.
If your family is allergic to the words "healthy eating" or "low calorie" because of past traumatic experiences with awful-tasting diet food, keep these techniques a secret. There is no need to spoil their appetite by telling them how you have reduced the amount of sugar or how you have substituted skim milk for whole milk in their favorite recipes. Telling them only makes them now imagine the food as being tasteless when previous to your announcement their taste buds were perfectly happy.

Reduce the fat in sauces, soups and gravies.
Chill sauces, soups and gravies to allow the fat to congeal so it is easier to remove before serving. However, keep in mind that much of the flavor of food is locked in its fat molecules. Your mission is to remove excess fat keeping just enough so your food is not completely tasteless.

Don't invite the enemy into your home.
A woman once asked me what she could do to stop her kids from eating potato chips everyday at home. I answered with another question - "Who buys them the chips?" She got the point immediately.

It is difficult to eat what you don't keep at home. You might as well throw the glove into the ring in your fight against weight gain if your house is filled to the rafters with every imaginable brand of chips, cookies, soft drinks, chocolates, ice cream, and candies.

I'm not saying you should never eat these things but they shouldn't be so available that your willpower is tested to the limits of human endurance every time you open your fridge or kitchen cabinet.

If you bring these kinds of food into your home, you don't need to be a psychic to predict their next destination - your fat cells! In our house, every time we have a craving for ice cream we go out to the mall and eat it there. This strategy allows us to enjoy the ice cream at a safe distance from home.

A close friend who struggled for years with her weight has finally attained weight loss success. She partially attributes her victory to cleaning out her bedroom fridge. As she puts it, her "personal sari-sari store" is now closed for business.

Make it a lifestyle change.
When I used to hold aerobics classes in my house many years ago, my students would invariably interrogate my cook and other helpers as to whether I really practiced what I preached - a healthy low-calorie way of eating. The tips I just shared with you will only work if you make them part of your lifestyle.

You can make the small realistic changes in your eating habits that will stick with you for a lifetime of successful weight management. It took a while for me to educate my cook but once she got the hang of it she came up with some very innovative ideas. I'm sure you will too.

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