Low- and no-fat foods top the naughty list

Joining the slew of so-called diet foods are nearly as many strategies for surviving the holidays without packing on extra pounds.The most sage of these are practicing moderation when consuming fatty and caloric dishes, eating mindfully at social gatherings and remaining dedicated to a fitness routine. Among the pitfalls to avoid? Fat-free and low-fat versions of conventional foods.

The dirty, little secret of dieting still eluding so many Americans is the translation of “fat-free” or “low-fat” on the label to full of sugar, flour and thickeners inside the package. That’s because fat lends flavor and substance to food. When food manufacturers take it out, they have to replace it with something.

To add insult to injury (or is it the other way around?), these phony foods fail to satiate eaters, who digest them more quickly than regular versions of the food. That’s one reason for low-fat fans’ consumption of about 28 percent more calories, according to researchers for the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. The other is that people often feel free to eat almost twice as much low-fat food without the guilt.

So steer clear of these 10 low-fat foods, compiled by Fitbie.com.

Yogurt — Cutting out the fat in yogurt eliminates the most energy-packed nutrient around. Plus, many low-fat yogurts use artificial sweeteners to make up for lost flavor that can kick taste buds into overdrive, leading to cravings for more sweet foods and upping the risk of weight gain. Instead, eat 2-percent yogurt or choose plain, fat-free yogurt that doesn’t have sweeteners, artificial or otherwise.

Eggs — Fans of Egg Beaters are missing the egg’s most nutrient-rich part. The yolk is packed with zinc, iron, vitamins A and D, choline and hunger-squashing protein. Although yolks do contain all the cholesterol, several studies, including a 2011 one published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, have debunked the myth of eggs causing heart disease. A hard-boiled egg, with just 70 calories, keeps stomachs full for hours.

Milk — Is an excellent source of fat-soluble vitamins A and D, unless it’s fat-free. When you take all the fat out of milk, the body can’t properly absorb these and other essential vitamins, which are vital to healthy metabolic function. One-percent is still low in saturated fat, but it has enough of the nutrient to aid vitamin absorption.

Cheese — Whether alone as a snack or on top of a sandwich, cheese is a true hunger-buster. The combination of protein and fat in regular, full-fat cheese can hold appetites at bay for hours and cut down caloric intake during later meals. So enjoy a small portion of full-fat cheeses you love.

Chips — This favorite, salty snack has about 18 percent more sodium in its “light,” version and 13 percent more carbohydrates (not to mention more than twice the ingredients). Try baking some kale chips (covered in a previous post), which deliver crunch and a bit of salt without all the blood sugar-spiking carbohydrates or preservatives.

Peanut butter — Most contain the same type of sugar that’s in cake frosting. Reduced-fat butters have even more sugar that floods the bloodstream with glucose, the extra of which is stored as fat. Choose all-natural peanut butter for its heathful fats, which can be reduced by pouring off extra oil at the top of the jar.

Salad dressing — Without some fat, eating salad doesn’t lead to shedding pounds. Dietary fat allows the body to absorb many nutrients that contribute to energy and muscle health. People who use fat-free dressings don’t absorb any lycopene or beta-carotene, two health-boosting antioxidants, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Drizzle greens with a bit of olive oil.

Mayonnaise — Low-fat versions contain less saturated fat and calories, but are full of extra chemicals and sodium and have far fewer healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, both vital for weight loss. Top off sandwiches with sliced-up avocado to provide creamy, fatty taste and texture.

Ice cream — The ingredient list on a package of low-fat or fat-free ice creams looks like something in a lab, not the freezer. Breyer’s Fat Free Strawberry Ice Cream, for example, has more than three times the ingredients of its full-fat version. So have a small splurge of some full-fat ice cream. Even better, enjoy some Greek yogurt and top it with a bit of honey.

Cookies — A bit of fat can make the difference between eating one and eating the whole box. Plus, low-fat cookies have extra sugar. So have one cookie. But just one. The most satisfying likely is homemade or fresh from a local baker.

I find citrus-flavored sweets, in particular, so satisfying that I rarely want more than one. Here’s a cookie recipe that was judged one of the season’s best from nearly 200 submissions to the Los Angeles Times.

MCT photo

Lemony Moons and Stars

1 1⁄2 cups (3 sticks) butter, at room temperature

2 1⁄2 cups powdered sugar, divided

3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons lemon zest, divided

2 teaspoons lemon extract

3 cups (12.75 ounces) flour

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3⁄4 teaspoon salt

5 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, more if needed

Heat oven to 325 F.

In bowl of a stand mixer using paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter and 1 cup powdered of the sugar over medium speed until creamy. Beat in the 3 tablespoons lemon zest and the extract.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch and salt. Beat in the dry ingredients over low speed.

Shape dough into a disk, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled and firm, about 1 hour.

Roll chilled dough to a thickness of 3⁄8 inch between 2 sheets of lightly floured waxed paper to prevent sticking. Cut dough into desired shapes using cookie cutters.

Place cookies an inch apart on cookie sheets and bake in preheated oven until edges are slightly golden, about 10 minutes, depending on size. Cool on racks until cookies are just warm.

To make glaze, combine remaining powdered sugar and lemon zest with the fresh lemon juice in a medium bowl, whisking until smooth (add additional lemon juice or water to thin or powdered sugar to thicken, if needed).

To frost, turn warm cookies over and dip tops into glaze. If desired, sprinkle with yellow sugar. Set aside until glaze is hardened. Store in tins with waxed paper separating layers.

Makes about 4 dozen (3-inch) cookies.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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