5 recipe make-overs to help you get into better shape and lower cholesterol

Simple changes to ingredients and methods will make a huge difference to your weight and health right now and well into the future.

Fats and oils are not evil (no food is) but if weight loss is one of your heart health goals, cutting the fat and oil back not only allows you to eat more of other beneficial, body-healthy foods but also helps you reach your weight loss goals sooner.

Once at your goal weight, add more oil-rich foods (nuts, seeds, avocado) and use oil in dressings and cooking more often.

1. Get the flavour of sour cream with fewer kJ/cals and far less saturated fat

  • use buttermilk in soups. Buttermilk is only 2 % fat (close to reduced fat milk), but sour cream is more than 35% fat.
  • use plain or natural yoghurt to top vegetables, and stir into soups and sauces. Even the regular fat yoghurt prunes the saturated fat and kJ enormously when used in place of sour cream
  • use Greek style plain yoghurt instead of cream cheese or sour cream when you make dip

2. Use lean meat strips or trimmed ham instead of bacon on pizza, in soups, fritattas, zucchini slices, and casseroles. You will slash a massive 12 grams of fat and almost 800 kJ per 100 g (2 rashers of bacon) if you switch to ham.

  • don't buy the pre-diced ham. Cut up your own from lean ham (ask the deli to slice the meat thickly) or off ham steak. The pre-diced stuff is very fatty.
  • better still, use thin strips of home-cooked beef, lamb, chicken or seafoods

3. Make it automatic to use reduced fat milk instead of regular milk in all recipes

  • by doing this, you have the chance to use cream or more fat and oils elsewhere in the day
  • skim and high calcium milk catch (and stick) in the pan when heating, so reduced fat milks are a more reliable milk to use in cooking
  • mash spuds, skin and all, with reduced fat milk. Instead of butter, try mustard, herbs or chutney or natural yoghurt to add back some flavour
  • mashed white beans (harricot and cannelini beans) are an interesting alternative twist to mashed potato

4. Pastries are packed with saturated fat, so how do you reduce from 2600 kJ and 38 g fat (that's almost 2 tablespoons of fat) to 800 kJ and 6 gram fat with commercial products?

  • Switch to filo pastry from shortcrust and puff, but spray lightly with oil rather than brushing with butter. Avoid filo wrapped parcels from cafes because between the layers lurks excess melted fat.
  • If you want to use shortcrust or puff pastry, then go bottomless. Don't top and bottom your pies! Only pop a top on the pie. Cut a smaller circle of pastry than the actual pie, cut slits into the pastry, and then stretch it over the pie to fit.

5. Dilute the kJ (cal) content of your meal by including more 'body protective' foods.

  • Always serve vegetable or salad allowing at least six cups of chopped vegies for four people
  • Measure the total amount of meat used - at the most 600 to 700 g for four people with hearty appetites, but use much less when making stir-fries (say 400 to 500 g per 4 serves) and when cooking for people who have had weight loss surgery (gastric band, gastric sleeve or gastric bypass).
  • Include legumes and lentils in mince dishes, casseroles, slow cooked meals, curries and stews.
  • Trim excess edge fat off meats before pan cooking to avoid fat seeping into the flesh during cooking.
  • Measure oils in cooking. Allow for and measure 1 metric teaspoon of oil per serve in the recipe being made. Choose from seed (sunflower, safflower), 'fruits' (avocado, olive) and tree nut (macadamia, almond) oils.