(No) thanks to recession, more of us are cooking at home. But how often does this mean standing at the grocery store, staring with glassy eyes at a shelf of mind-numbingly similar products, wondering just which one to buy? It's an easy choice, selecting the full-fat versions of some of these products. But really, are the lower-fat versions just as good? Here are some of the lower-fat products that I think are worth buying -- the ones that are just a little bit healthier, but where the taste is just as good, or so close, to the full-fat versions.
Much to my surprise, my favorite lower-fat products are mostly -- though not always -- found in the dairy case.
Milk Milk is the number one source of calcium, a nutrient that's particularly essential for women's bone strength. I'm so accustomed to skim milk that even 1% and 2% milk have a mouthfeel that's 'too fatty' for my taste. But if skim milk is too 'thin' for you, then the lower-fat versions of milk have considerably fewer calories and reduced saturated fat -- but might meet the taste test that means you'll drink enough milk.
NUTRITION ESTIMATE for 1 cup Whole Milk: 146Cal; 7g Tot Fat; 4g Sat Fat; 24mg Cholesterol; 97mg Sodium; 11g Carb; 0g Fiber; 13g Sugar; 9g Protein; Weight Watchers 2 points
NUTRITION ESTIMATE for 1 cup 2% Milk: 122Cal; 5g Tot Fat; 2g Sat Fat; 19mg Cholesterol; 100mg Sodium; 11g Carb; 0g Fiber; 12g Sugar; 8g Protein; Weight Watchers 2 points
NUTRITION ESTIMATE for 1 cup 1% Milk: 102Cal; 2g Tot Fat; 2g Sat Fat; 12mg Cholesterol; 107mg Sodium; 12g Carb; 0g Fiber; 13g Sugar; 8g Protein; Weight Watchers 2 points
NUTRITION ESTIMATE for 1 cup Skim Milk: 85Cal; 0g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 4mg Cholesterol; 127mg Sodium; 12g Carb; 0g Fiber; 12g Sugar; 8g Protein; Weight Watchers 1 point
NOTE: Nutrition estimates were calculated with MacGourmet.
Another thought: try different brands of milk, they're don't all taste the same. I've become a huge fan of the skim milk from Farmers' All Natural Creamery, whose milk is pasteurized but not homogenized -- this means that it takes a good shake before drinking. It tastes sooo good that at night, I'll pour a glass in a wine glass, it's that heavenly! It 'tastes' like whole milk to me, plus sweeter, milkier, grassier.
Sour Cream The lower-fat versions of sour cream are very good, worth purchasing, especially for baking but even for dolloping onto a baked potato, say. The non-fat versions of sour cream? Gooey gummy yuck.
Mayonnaise The lower-fat versions of mayonnaise are often good, worth purchasing. I'm a particular fan of Hellmann's light mayonnaise, which has half the fat and calories of the full-fat Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise. (Note: Hellmann's is also branded Best Foods in some parts of the country.) The non-fat versions of of mayonnaise? Gloppy yuck.
Half & Half Dare I say? I love the Land O' Lakes non-fat half & half -- but mostly for morning coffee. It has no thickening properties, so doesn't work for making ice cream, custard or even scalloped potatoes. It does work beautifully as a creamy addition for a milk-based soup, my favorite salmon chowder, say.
Cream Cheese Here's a great find -- the reduced fat cream cheese, also called 'Neufchatel'. It works so well, I never ever buy full-fat cream cheese anymore. Non-fat cream cheese? Gummy yuck.
Peanut Butter I'm a fan of the low-carb peanut butter, where the sugar has been replaced by Splenda. But -- more and more these days -- I turn to a full-fat but no-sugar peanut butter, truly luscious in my morning oatmeal, one tiny spoonful at a time.
Canned Fruit While fresh fruit is great,there are times when canned fruit is useful, for making a Winter Fruit Salad, say. Forget canned fruit in heavy syrup, it's all about the sugar, masking the fruit, entirely. Instead, select canned fruit in its own juice, or in light syrup. You'll save calories, eliminate unneeded sugar and actually taste the fruit.
WHAT ABOUT THESE LOWER-FAT PRODUCTS?
Butter Substitutes I've only begun to explore the butter alternatives -- products like Smart Balance, Earth Balance and the like. What's your experience? Are they any good, for baking? for eating? for what?
Cheese For some reason, low-fat cheese creeps me out. How does it work for you?
WHAT MY FELLOW BLOGGERS THINK ABOUT LOWER-FAT PRODUCTS
(NOTE: Every so often, my fellow BlogHer editor Kalyn Denny and I do a call for links via Twitter. This is a great way to share a favorite recipe here on BlogHer. (And bloggers, you know the value of a link from a high-pagerank site, right? That too!) Follow me via Kitchen Parade on Twitter and Kalyn via Kalyn's Kitchen on Twitter.)
Andrea from Andrea's Recipes: "I have love/hate relationship with low fat products. Want to cut fat but hate how companies often add horrid ingredients. Love Daisy Light Sour Cream & Hellman's Light Mayo (both taste like the real thing vs loaded with chemicals). Another plus: Hellman's Light Mayo has zero HFCS, unlike many other light mayos."
Nika from Nika's Culinaria: "the low fat versions of those are barfy nasty to me. I just have the good stuff in moderation vs the chemically versions"
??? from Chavrie Goat Cheese: "U can sub goat cheese 4 cream cheese. it contains 30% less fat n adds a wonderful layer of flavor. minus the bad additives!"
Corporate Twitterers, won't you please put a real person behind the Tweet? See how beautifully the BlogHer team does it, especially signing each Tweet? Twitter is for people, not companies, but PEOPLE from companies who have good Twitiquette are welcome.
Faith from Blog Appetite: "I'd rather have less amts of full fat with the exception of 1/3rd less calorie phillie cream cheese. I also like fat free evap. milk and condensed milk. Really find I don't miss the fat in recipes I use those in."
Looking for Healthier Products - A Few Tips
- Lower-fat products are worth trying. If in doubt, choose the lower-fat version over a non-fat version. Be wary of non-fat products.
- To compensate for the flavor and texture provided by fat in the full-fat products, companies often substitute ingredients we'd just as soon avoid. Be sure to check labels.
- When you find a lower-fat product you like, blog about it -- share the news with the world, so the rest of us can benefit too.
And you, what's your favorite lower-fat or non-fat product? Leave a tip or a link to a review post in the comments!
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