Recipe Makeover: Reducing the Fat in the Kitchen

a couple in the kitchen making a healthy meal

Looking for ways to limit your fat intake? Good news! Reducing the fat doesn’t mean reducing the flavour. Whether it’s a family favourite or a brand new recipe, consider some of these recipe “make over” ideas for a healthier you.

Reducing the fat is a healthy choice

Fat is an important part of a healthy diet. It gives you energy, helps your body absorb some vitamins and adds flavour and texture to all types of foods. At the same time, fat is high in calories and depending on the type of fat, not good for your heart. Include fat in moderation and choose better types of fat that will contribute to your health.

Not all fats are created equal

While all fats offer the same amount of calories, some fats are better for you than others. Unsaturated fats are healthier fats. These are the fats that you can ‘see through’, like olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil and other vegetable oils. Saturated fats are the less healthy fats. These are the fats that are solid, like lard, hydrogenated hard margarines, shortenings and butter. Canada’s Food Guide recommends including a small amount (2 to 3 tablespoons) of unsaturated fat each day. This includes the fats we get from cooking and baking.

Reducing the fat doesn’t mean reducing the flavour

When cooking or baking, you can usually use a lower-fat version of the ingredient the recipe calls for. Some fat is needed for taste, so don’t remove all the fat from the recipe. See some suggestions below for easy and tasty substitutions:

Reducing fat when baking:

When a recipe calls for…

Try this instead…

Butter, margarine, shortening or oil

Replace up to ½ the fat in muffins, quick breads, cookies and cakes with mashed fruit or vegetables, like unsweetened applesauce, pureed pumpkin, squash, sweet potato, pureed prunes or mashed bananas.

Replace up to ¾ of the fat in yeast breads with partly-skimmed ricotta cheese or low fat cottage cheese.

Butter a baking dish or pan to prevent sticking

Use parchment paper or silicon baking mats or pans.

If you use a cooking spray, use a small amount on a paper towel to grease the pan.

Full fat cream cheese

Use fat-free or low-fat cream cheese, cottage cheese or partly-skimmed ricotta cheese pureed until smooth.

Full-fat sour cream

Use fat-free or low-fat sour cream, part-skim ricotta or fat-free plain yogurt.

Full fat milks

Choose 2% M.F. or less.

Substitute with unsweetened soy and rice beverages, 100% fruit juices or water.

Reducing fat when cooking:

When a recipe calls for…

Try this instead…

Cream for cream soups

Thicken soups using pureed potatoes, carrots, lentils or tofu.

Oil-based marinades

Reduce oil by up to ½ and increase other ingredients like balsamic vinegar, 100% fruit juice or low-sodium broth.

Oil in sautéing

Use beer or wine instead (3 Tbsp of beer or wine for every 1 Tbsp of butter).

Use low-sodium vegetable or chicken broths.

Pan or deep frying

Try baking, boiling, broiling, grilling, poaching, sautéing or stir-frying cooking methods.

Butter or oil on cooked vegetables

Season vegetables with lemon juice, herbs or vinegar.

Oil and pan drippings for basting, gravies

Substitute 100% fruit juice, vegetable juice or low-sodium vegetable broth.

Cheeses (hard and soft)

Choose lower-fat cheeses with 20% M.F. or less.

Limit the amount of cheese used – a little is all you need for flavour.

Full-fat sour cream

Use mashed beans (white, black, kidney, chickpeas) instead of sour cream in dips.

Recipes that reduce the fat

Try some of the lower fat substitutions in these great tasting recipes:

Whole Wheat Orange Ginger Scones

Sweet Chili Tofu Stir-Fry         

Soft Oatmeal Raisin Delights

Emily’s Zippy dip – 1st place Winner of Eat Right Ontario’s Kids Recipe Challenge!

For lower fat baked goods perfect for a bake sale, see Bake it Up! by the Nutrition Resource Centre.

You may also be interested in:

Recipe Makeover: Reducing Sugar in the Kitchen

Recipe Makeover:  Reducing sodium in the kitchen

Last Update – February 26, 2019

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