12 January 2010

Swapping Food Choices for Less Fat and Calories to Trim off holiday pounds

From Denny: Do you ever feel like you are chasing calories and fat away like a game of cops and robbers? Some days you win; some days the "bad guy" wins. Men's Health Magazine, David Zinczenko, shows us some simple food swaps to help cut down on calories and excess fat in our meals and go easy on our wallets. It's definitely a case of "cook this, not that!" If you are stumped for good ideas to change your food routine to something healthier, take a look:

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Transform your meals into more nutritious choices by cooking at home. That's the real fast track to slimming down in 2010. Besides, home cooking will shave more than pounds; it will shave dollars off your food bill at the grocery store - a real winner!

This book, “Cook This, Not That!”, will teach you how to win at food choices. Read on from the book about how to cook your own version of loved fast foods in a healthier lower calorie less fatty version!

1. Chicken Fingers
Average calories in restaurant chicken fingers: 1,100
Caloric equivalent: 22 Dunkin’ Donuts Glazed Munchkins

Cook This! Instead:

Chicken Fingers with Chipotle-Honey

"Cook This, Not That!"

Makes: 4 servings, Cost per serving: $2

Eat restaurant chicken fingers with one of their special sauces and you could be downing nearly a full day's worth of calories. Make the switch to this homemade, oven-fried version once a week instead, and you could shed 25 pounds (and cut out 210,080 mg of sodium) in a year.

250 calories/1.5 g fat (0 g saturated)/ 350 mg sodium


• 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken tenders
• Salt and black pepper to taste
• 3 egg whites, lightly beaten
• 2 cups panko bread crumbs
• 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
• 1 tsp chipotle pepper puree
• 1 Tbsp honey


Preheat the oven to 450°F. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the egg whites in a shallow bowl. Place the crumbs on a plate and season those, too. Dip the chicken tenders into the egg, then toss them in the crumbs, being sure to coat fully.

Place the breaded chicken pieces on a baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the crumbs have browned and the chicken is firm.

Combine the mustard, chipotle, and honey in a large bowl. Toss the cooked chicken tenders in the mixture so they are all evenly coated with the spicy-sweet sauce.

2. Turkey Sandwich

Average calories in a restaurant turkey sandwich: 850
Caloric equivalent: 13 “fun-size” 3 Musketeers candy bars

Cook This! Instead:

Turkey Sandwich with Guacamole and Bacon

"Cook This, Not That!"

Makes: 4 servings, Cost per serving: $3.54

Swapping in the guacamole for mayonnaise not only shaves 70 to 100 calories from your sandwich, but also replaces low-quality fats with healthy mono-unsaturated ones.

430 calories/ 13 g fat (4 g saturated)/ 1,070 mg sodium


• 1 baguette
• 12 oz sliced turkey
• 4 slices Swiss cheese
• 1 large tomato, sliced
• 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
• Pickled jalapeños
• 4 strips bacon, cooked until crisp and patted dry
• 1/4 cup guacamole


Preheat the broiler. Carefully slice the baguette in half horizontally and place on a large baking sheet. Layer the turkey and cheese on the bottom half of the bread.

Place the sheet in the oven 6" below the broiler. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes, until the cheese has just melted and both halves of the bread are hot, but not too brown and crunchy.

Remove from the oven, and then layer the tomato, onion, jalapeños, and bacon on top of the turkey. Spread the top half of the baguette with the guacamole. Slice the baguette into 4 individual sandwiches and serve.

3. Lasagna

Average calories in restaurant lasagna: 750
Caloric equivalent: More than 8 fried eggs

Cook This! Instead:

Hearty Lasagna

"Cook This, Not That!"

Makes: 4 servings / Cost per serving: $3.50

Using low-fat ricotta sauce and lean chicken sausage makes this "hearty" — not heart-attack inducing. In the wrong hands, lasagna turns into a soupy, oily, hyper-caloric mess. But not our version.

430 calories/ 13 g fat (4.5 g saturated)/ 810 mg sodium


• 1 container (15 oz) part-skim ricotta
• 1/2 bunch fresh basil, chopped
• 2 links precooked chicken sausage, diced (we love Al Fresco Sundried Tomato and Basil)
• 1/3 cup 2% milk
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
• 1/8 tsp salt
• 2 1/4 cups Muir Glen Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce
• 8 no-boil lasagna noodles
• 1/4 cup grated Parmesan


Preheat the oven to 425°F. Mix the ricotta, basil, sausage, milk, garlic, pepper flakes, and salt.

Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of an 8" × 8" baking dish. Lay 2 noodles over the sauce; cover with one-fourth of the ricotta mixture and another 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce. Repeat with noodles, cheese mixture, and sauce twice more. Top with a last layer of pasta, the remaining ricotta mixture and sauce, and Parmesan.

Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes, until the top is golden. (Note: This recipe is good for a big crowd and very easy to double up on.)

4. Fish Tacos

Average calories in restaurant fish tacos: 1,250
Caloric equivalent: 2.5 McRib Sandwiches from McDonald's

Cook This! Instead:

Grilled Fish Tacos

"Cook This, Not That!"

Makes: 4 servings / Cost per serving: $2.97

For our version of fish tacos, we wanted to ditch the frying oil and mayonnaise but maintain the flavor, so we substituted a spicy Cajun blackening seasoning and a nutrient-rich mango-avocado salsa, which cuts the heat and pairs perfectly with the fish. This salsa would make gardening gloves taste good.

380 calories/ 11 g fat (2 g saturated)/ 240 mg sodium


• 1 mango, peeled, pitted, and cubed
• 1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and cubed
• 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
• Juice of 1 lime, plus wedges for garnish
• Chopped fresh cilantro
• Salt and black pepper
• Canola oil
• 2 large mahimahi fillets (1 1/2 lb total)
• 1 Tbsp blackening spice
• 8 corn tortillas
• 2 cups red cabbage, finely shredded


Mix the mango, avocado, onion, and the juice of 1 lime in a bowl. Season with cilantro, salt, and pepper.

Heat a grill or stove top grill pan until hot. Drizzle a light coating of oil over the fish and rub on the blackening spice. Cook the fish, undisturbed, for 4 minutes. Carefully flip with a spatula and cook for another 4 minutes. Remove.

Warm the tortillas on the grill for 1 to 2 minutes, or wrap in damp paper towels and microwave for 1 minute until warm and pliable.

Break the fish into chunks and divide among the warm tortillas. Top with the cabbage and mango salsa. Serve with the lime wedges.

In addition they give advice on How to Stock Your Pantry for healthy choices:

The perfect kitchen

Make sure your kitchen is stocked with these five simple staples. They’ll help you instantly improve your diet — and your health.

Low sodium soy sauce

Calories aren't the issue with soy sauce; it's sodium. Choosing a lighter version can save you up to 500 milligrams (mg) sodium per serving.

We like: Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce (1 Tbsp)(Denny's fav too!)
10 calories
0 g fat
575 mg sodium

Dark chocolate

Eating chocolate in moderation isn’t a dietary death sentence, it’s actually surprisingly good for your health — as long as the chocolate contains at least 60 percent cocoa. That’s because chocolate is packed with antioxidants.

We like: Hershey’s Special Dark (1 bar)
180 calories
12 g fat (8 g saturated)
21 g sugars

Extra-virgin olive oil

When choosing vegetable oil, you want to select the one with the highest ratio of monounsaturated to polyunsaturated fats. Here’s a shortcut: In this category, olive oil outperforms the other bottles on the shelf. That’s because nearly 75 percent of its fat content is mono-unsaturated. (Soybean oil has less than 25 percent mono-unsaturated fat.)

We like: Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil (1 Tbsp)(another fav!)
120 calories
14 g fat (2 g saturated)

Canola oil

When choosing vegetable oil, you want to select the one with a high ratio of mono--unsaturated to polyunsaturated fats. Here’s a shortcut: In this category, olive oil outperforms the other bottles on the shelf (with about 75 percent mono-unsaturated fat content) — but canola oil is nearly as good, with mono-unsaturated fats accounting for 2/3 of the total fat. And an extra benefit of canola oil? It’s about a quarter the price of EVOO. (extra virgin olive oil)

We like: Wesson 100% Natural Canola Oil (1 Tbsp)
120 calories
14 g fat (1 g saturated)
0 g sodium

Low-fat/organic dressing

Certain dressings are only a small step above mayonnaise (think: ranch). You wouldn't dress your salad with mayo, right? A great dressing will pack spice and tang without hitting a calorie danger zone.

We like: Annie's Naturals Organic Buttermilk (2 Tbsp)
60 calories
6 g fat (1 g saturated)
230 mg sodium

Organic quinoa

Swap quinoa for brown rice, and you're earning yourself almost double the protein and about eight times as much fiber. Quinoa also delivers more flavor and cooks almost twice as fast.

We like: Bob's Red Mill Organic Quinoa (1/2 cup)
170 calories
2.5 g fat
2 mg sodium

Natural peanut butter

It may seem backward, but when it comes to peanut butter, choose the kind with the most fat. Natural varieties are made from nothing but peanuts and salt, but many commercial brands contain hydrogenated oils and corn syrup. Choose an all-natural product, and you’ll trade the bad stuff for more healthy fat.

We like: Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter, Creamy (2 Tbsp)
200 calories
16 g fat (2.5 g saturated)
90 mg sodium

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