There are a lot of ways to cut down on your calories when making home-cooked meals. We’ll go through why it may matter to you, the health effects of excessive fat intake and of course, the ways we can reduce our fat intake as home cooks.

There are many reasons why you might want to consider reducing fat when cooking. Some do it in order to lose weight, so they seek to reduce their caloric consumption. A gram of fat has 9 calories. So that makes it an easy target to reduce.(1)

Another good reason to reduce fat consumption is for health reasons. Reducing fat intake lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes, infertility, endometriosis, gallstones, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and some cancers. (2)

Saturated fat should be avoided because they increase your cholesterol levels. (3) The World Health Organization recommends that Intake of saturated fats should be less than 10% of total energy intake, and intake of trans-fats less than 1% of total energy intake, with a shift in fat consumption away from saturated fats and trans-fats to unsaturated fats (3), and towards the goal of eliminating industrially-produced trans-fats. Regarding trans facts, the goal shouldn’t just be a bout reduction but with elimination of industrial trans fats. (4)

Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It’s also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. (5)

Fat consumption in excess is unhealthy. But fat is also important to maintain fat intake because it is part of our diet. Fat consumption provides the body with energy, supports cell growth, protects body organs, and keeps it warm. However, excess consumption of fats is unhealthy. Moreover, consumption of TFAs, especially industrially produced partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease, infertility, endometriosis, gallstones, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes. It is also thought to be a carcinogen. (6)

Eating lots of saturated fat can raise your cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease. Saturated fat is found in your grocery score and supermarket and they are in some of our favorite foods. The UK’s National Health service made recommendations regarding these types of processed foods like cakes, sausages, bacon, cured meats, cheeses, pastries, cream sauces, milk based desserts as well as pantry staples like butter, ghee, suet, lard, coconut oil and palm oil. (7)

Cooking flavorful meals involve 4 key components. Salt, Acid, Fat, and Heat. Fat is a key component of a delicious meal. With these tips, you wouldn’t have to sacrifice having a delicious meal in order to cut down on your calories.

Generally, there are some very direct ways to reduce your fat consumption. Most tips generally fall under these categories. The cooking method, the choice of ingredients and the avoidance of certain ingredients.

First, by changing what you cook and how you cook it– Simply put, choose what ingredients to use and how you use those ingredients. Second, by avoiding purchasing processed foods containing trans fats. Lastly, by limiting the consumption of foods containing high amounts of saturated fats (8)

Make Pantry Substitutions

Substituting kitchen staples in favor of lower-fat counterparts can also be a great way to slowly cut your fat intake without going too hard too fast. 

Use nonstick cooking spray to sauté food in a pan instead of butter, margarine or oil.  

Substitute applesauce, plain nonfat yogurt, or pureed fruit for oil, butter, or margarine when preparing baked products. Try low-fat cheeses when preparing recipes, such as low-fat cottage cheese, low-fat cheeses.  Remove the animal fats that form on the top layer of soups, stews and casseroles.  

Instead of their full-fat variants or using the spreads that you are accustomed to, add low fat or fat-free condiments to food, such as salad dressing, mayonnaise, margarine, sour cream, cream cheese, peanut butter, gravy, melted cheese, etc.  

Substitute low-fat meats for high-fat meat in recipes, such as turkey, fish, skinless chicken breast, pork loin, 93-95% lean ground beef, and ham. Select meats with the least amount of visible fat.  Drain fat from cooked meat and blot with a paper towel to remove excess oil.  

Replace some of the meat in burgers, meatloaf, chili, and stews with vegetables, beans, or whole grains. Coat chicken or fish in breadcrumbs rather than batter to cook.  Use fat-free broth or fat-free milk in mashed potatoes, soups, gravies, and stews.  Season food with herbs, spices, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, or salsa rather than butter, creams, and sauces.  Use low-fat cooking methods, such as broiling, grilling, roasting, baking, microwaving, poaching, and steaming.  Try fat-free evaporated milk in soups and casseroles instead of heavy cream.

Replace whole eggs in recipes with ¼ cup egg substitutes or 2 egg whites for every whole egg.  Use 1% or skim milk in place of whole milk in recipes. (8)

Controlling your fat intake begins at the grocery store or the supermarket. Pay attention to the nutrition facts and compare products. Do not simply rely on the label that indicates “low fat or non fat” Check the number of servings per container and compare fat content.

Avoid Processed Foods

Avoid buying canned meats and other preserved and processed food. Whenever possible, buy fresh. And when you buy fresh, use leaner cuts of meat. 

Use Lean Cuts of Meat

Using lean cuts of meat like pork, beef and chicken will help reduce animal fat consumption. Light meats tend to be naturally lower in fat than dark meats. Processed meats such as burgers and sausages are often even higher in fat. Substitute ground turkey or chicken for ground beef. When buying chicken, the breast is the leanest part and lends very well to brining. Buy skinless chicken breasts and use a mallet to flatten it or cut it to bite sized pieces to avoid undercooking big pieces of breast. Chicken thighs, legs, and wings are popular because they have the most fat and therefore most flavor. However, the same can be achieved with the humble, lean chicken breast with a proper marinade or bring. Trim all visible fat from meat and remove skin from chicken after cooking to keep more moisture in the meat.  

Leaner cuts of beef and pork include beef and pork with a label that says “loin” or “round,” as these have the least fat., the beef sirloin, the flat-iron steak., and bone-in pork loin chops. “choice” or “prime” cuts of beef with excess fat cut off. For ground beef or ground pork, use 95% lean ground beef for hamburgers or meatloaf.

Remove the skin and cut the visible fat from the meat. In chicken, this means removing the skin or cutting out the excess fat on fatty cuts of meat, leaving only the meat behind. This may result in dryer or less flavorful food. This can be alleviated by buying the leaner cuts of meat, which imparts some moisture and flavor through salt absorption. It is not the same as having the fatty cuts of meat but it is still better than sacrificing flavor for health completely. This fat contained in meat is high in saturated fat and therefore can increase levels of bad cholesterol in the blood.

Use Spices to Add Flavor

Use spices for your meats, marinade them, use salt, and acid in your marinades so that your meats can take on more flavor without adding more calories from fat. When making sauces, avoid using creams or other fatty ingredients as a base, vegetable stock can be just as flavorful.

Though not technically a fat-reduction tip, the use of herbs and spices is good in order to give your meals more flavor. Having more flavor can help you resist the urge to eat more and overeat or to add butter, fats or creams in order to feel good about what you are eating. Diets are only good if they are sustainable and nobody really enjoys eating bland food anyway. Use herbs and spices to generate more flavor without having to rely on butter or sauces.  Instead of adding fat, you can add fatty cuts of meat or just put your chicken skin side down, this should render the fat and take care of the need to add a tablespoon or two of oil in order to brown the meat or get things going.

Accurately Measure Your Food

Keeping track of oils used in cooking with accurate teaspoons and tablespoons will help regulate your fat intake better. Measuring spoons can help you weigh out high-calorie fats like oils (120 calories per tablespoon) and nut butters (100 calories/tablespoon). It is important to use the right tools because without noticing, using bad tools can lead you to use more fat than is actually needed if you are following specific recipes. Take it further by using a measuring scale in your kitchen. Moderation is key and having a scale handy is an easy way to be able to tell if you are having too much of a delicious thing.

Upgrade Your Kitchen

You can also try an oil spray, which gives a thin coating of oil. Use a non-stick frying pan to reduce the amount of oil needed. If you are using a wok or a cast-iron skillet, make sure that you have properly seasoned it to give it a non-stick coating. This is a simple and easy way to reduce your fat consumption that people tend to overlook.

Avoid Using Too Much Salad Dressings and Sauces

Do not add salad dressing to your salad, rather place dressing in a small container next to your salad and lightly dip your fork in the dressing before eating a bite. Limit the addition of condiments and sauces to food during cooking and preparation. For salads, the greatest reason why people still experience weight gain despite obsessive salad consumption is because of how much dressing they use. People underestimate the caloric value of salad dressing and vinaigrettes.

Use Other Methods of Preparation

Your cooking method matters a lot. Always use low fat cooking techniques such as boiling, steaming and poaching to reduce the amount of fat added to the cooking process. If unavoidable, use fatty cuts of meat when making stews, soups or casseroles, skim, drain or discard the oil that gathers on the surface of your soup or stew. As a supplement, add more vegetables and have more vegan options in your diet. We get a lot of our fat from cooking oil, from butter, cream, milk, from deep fried foods and animal fat.  Resort to incorporating vegetable proteins in your diet to avoid having some of these temptations in the first place. Use more steaming in your preparation and try different soup recipes like miso soup or other sour soups.

When cooking soups and stews, skim or drain any excess fat. You can do so by using a spoon or a skimmer. A useful tip is to use a slice of bread in order to absorb the fat from the surface of your soups and stews.

When roasting or grilling use a roasting rack to allow fats to drip away from the meat. In general, these drippings can be saved to make gravy, but if you are reducing your fat content, it would be a nice visual reminder to gather the excess fat so you can realize how much fat you are able to avoid simply by grilling food to render the fat or removing the rendered fat from your soups and stews.  

Avoid frying. Frying adds more fat because the meat or vegetables will always absorb some of the frying oil whenever you are deep or shallow frying which increases its fat content. Avoid breaded meats and vegetables. An alternative that you can try is by oven roasting or air-frying instead of relying on the deep fryer.

Skip the Sweets, Substitute or Reduce Them

Chocolates and pastries are high in fat, coming from butter, eggs, and other baking ingredients. Cookies and crisps may be attractive to the eye but are very high in both fat and in sugar. Choose nutritious options like fruits instead. When baking yourself, experiment with removing some of the fat and replacing it with unsweetened applesauce or fruit purees. The lower fat recipe may require a reduced baking time to prevent drying out. There are also vegan options when it comes to sweeteners. For cookies, replace half the butter with applesauce, egg whites, or plain yogurt. You can also replace regular butter with equal amounts of healthier buttery spreads.  Limit the addition of condiments to food during cooking and preparation.

Other replacements you can make are by half the oil in a pastry with applesauce, you can also replace each whole egg with two egg whites or 1/4 cup egg substitute or cream with equal parts of evaporated skim milk. Replace half the cream cheese with equal parts of reduced-fat cottage cheese or part-skim ricotta cheese. Avoid high-fat puddings which are empty calories. Swap these for more nutritious options incorporating fruit, which give a natural sweetness. Replace each 1/2 cup shortening with 1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil. These changes will cut back on the total fat and much of the less-healthy saturated fat. Trade half the butter with pureed fruit such as mashed bananas, apple butter or prunes.

If you are seeking to reduce your fat consumption, there are a lot of ways to be able to do that without sacrificing having good, satiating and delicious meals. Any home-cooked meal can be flavorful without being too fatty.

A lot of these things are easy to overlook, even from an experienced home cook. Sometimes small things like this can make a difference. Simply being conscious and mindful of your fat consumption can lead you to reduced intake that will be better for your heart in the long run.

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