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LIGHTLY DOES IT : These eight delicious recipes prove that it's simpler than you think to cook in a light, easy, glamorous fashion--even when you set out to reduce fat and calories.

February 16, 1989|ROSE DOSTI | Times Staff Writer

Have you decided, like many of us who want to keep weight down and health status up, to "go light" on cooking?

You know. Low-fat and low-calorie cooking. But you probably also want the cooking to be glamorous and appetizing, and, last but not least, fast and easy.

Tall order, yes, but we're here to help.

We've put together a group of recipes that we hope will give the cook a good idea of how simple it is to reduce fat and calories in almost any recipe you choose without loss of taste or looks. You'll get excellent results by using proper ingredients and cooking methods that are aimed at reducing fat while keeping appeal high.

Last July, U.S. Surgeon Gen. C. Everett Koop urged consumers to reduce overall fat, especially saturated fat, in their diets and to choose foods that are low in fat and saturated fat.

Many other health organizations, such as the American Heart Assn., recommend that a well-balanced diet for healthy adults should consist of no more than 30% of total calories from fat (less than 10% of calories from saturated fat), 55% carbohydrates and 15% from protein. The average American gets about 37% of the daily calories from fats and about 13% from saturated fat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Too much fat in the diet has been linked to heart disease, some forms of cancer, diabetes and hypertension. Saturated fat has been linked to coronary heart disease. "Saturated fatty acids are the most potent dietary factor that affect LDL cholesterol levels," Margo Denke, a lipid researcher at the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Texas, said at a recent food editor's conference in Los Angeles.

Health experts recommend that consumers find substitutes for foods high in saturated fat, replacing whole milk with skim milk, sour cream with yogurt, ice cream with sherbet, and butter with margarine. Opt for fish or skinless poultry more often than red meat, and use an unsaturated vegetable cooking and salad oil.

Certain vegetable oils, such as canola, safflower, sunflower, corn, peanut, olive and soybean, contain the least percentage of saturated fat (6% to 27% per tablespoon, while palm, coconut and palm kernel oils contain the most (51% to 79%). These highly saturated oils, moreover, are also higher in saturated-fat content than butter or animal fat. Canola oil, a derivative of the rapeseed plant, is 94% saturated fat free, about 30% less saturated than safflower oils, 50% less saturated than corn and olive oils and 60% less than soybean oil. All of these vegetable oils are cholesterol-free.

In the recipes given here, we try to show how normally healthy persons can reduce fat content, not by eliminating fat, but by cutting down on its consumption.

Some red meats contain more fat than others. Meats such as sirloin, top loin, chuck arm and blade and round beef contain less total fat than brisket, rib roast and tenderloin. However, taste often dictates choice, and moderation should, therefore, be a guide, according to Denke. Steaming, poaching and broiling will automatically cut fat content, because little or no extra fat is necessary in these cooking methods. But you won't have to eliminate grilling or stir-frying if you reduce the amount of fat in the recipe. Investing in non-stick skillets can help too. (Using liquid fat will help keep cholesterol down, as well.)

In our recipe for Grilled Chicken Wrapped in Radicchio, we used only 2 teaspoons oil instead of the 2 tablespoons called for in the original recipe, (a saving of 135 calories) to cook the radicchio rolls in a skillet. We also used 2 teaspoons oil in a pasta dish containing tomatoes. The same dish using the normal amount of fat (about one-quarter cup butter) would have contained more than 300 additional calories.

A skillet dish in which vegetables are combined with eggs for a brunch entree uses only 2 teaspoons of oil to cook the vegetables before adding eggs for poaching. Eggs are an excellent low calorie and fat alternative to most meats, chicken with skin and even some high fat fish such as salmon, trout or mackerel, for persons without cholesterol restrictions. An egg contains 4.6 grams total fat (1.7 grams saturated fat), but 275 milligrams cholesterol, compared with 27 grams total (10.8 grams saturated fat) and 85 milligrams cholesterol for ground meat, and 14 grams total fat (4.4 grams saturated fat), and 91 milligrams cholesterol for roast chicken with skin. We used less-fatty ground turkey instead of beef for a Greek-Style burger, and lean sirloin steak (instead of the more fatty tender cuts) for a stir-fry steak and potato dish.

Lean leg of lamb was the choice for a curry using lean meat. You can try the same recipe with skinless chicken, turkey, shrimp, fish or vegetables, as well.

Low-fat yogurt is used in place of sour cream for a sauce with the burger and scallop kebabs that are cooked on the grill or under the broiler. Lime instead of fat is used for the basting sauce for the scallops.

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