Since meats are one of the main sources of saturated fats, cutting back on meat will almost certainly reduce the amount of fat in your diet.
It’s possible, however, to eat no meat at all and still get unhealthy amounts of fat in your diet. The reason is that, in their efforts to eliminate meat from their diets, many people substitute unacceptably high amounts of nuts, cheeses and dairy products, many of which are extremely high in fat. A 1-ounce chunk of Cheddar cheese, for example, contains more fat than a 3-ounce cut of T-bone steak, and almost as much as 3 ounces of fresh ham. To enjoy the benefits of vegetarian cuisine without loading up on fat, here’s what experts advise.
Turn up the flavors
To replace the rich taste of meat, don’t hesitate to compensate by raiding the spice cabinet. Go for big flavors — with dry and fresh herbs, spice mixtures or flavored liquids such as herbal or balsamic vinegar. Once you amplify the flavor of your favorite foods, you’ll be surprised at how little you miss the meat.
Be wary of dairy
Cheese, sour cream and other dairy products can add good taste and a wonderfully creamy texture to many meals. At the same time, though, they can add unacceptably high levels of dietary fat. To get the taste and texture of dairy without the fat, try to use ingredients that are lower in fat than their traditional counterparts.
- Substitute skim milk or 1% low-fat milk for whole.
- Swap buttermilk for whole milk. Despite the name, buttermilk is a low-fat product. Read the label, though; some buttermilk is fat-free while other brands aren’t.
- Neufchatel cheese is a good substitute for cream cheese and has about one-third less fat.
- Rather than using full-fat ricotta or cottage cheese, use homemade yogurt cheese or reduced-fat ricotta and cottage cheese.
- Substitute big-flavored cheeses like sharp Cheddar for milder varieties. Even when they’re higher in fat than milder cheeses, they have a stronger taste, so you can get by with using less.