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One of the most common complaints of people who are dieting, watching their weight or just trying to eat healthier is that low-fat foods do not have the same flavor as regular, fattier foods. Now you can lose the fat and keep the flavor. Also, read on for a great tasting alternative to fried chicken - you will not believe your taste buds!

I will soon divulge the secret to great tasting low-fat meals. You will never eat bland low-fat foods again, and you will even be able to fool the food detectives in the family. You know who those are - whoever is not dieting in your household instinctively knows when you have dished up a low-fat dinner. They may keep their dismay hidden, but when you offer to cook the same meal again, they may grown and complain. You will be surprised when they ask for more!

The first step to better tasting low-fat cooking is to spice it up. Instead of adding a lot of butter to your vegetables for flavor, try some garlic salt. Lemon pepper is also good for green vegetables like green beans, peas, asparagus and spinach. Just a dab of butter is fine, but if you want to eliminate the butter altogether, try a serving of butter spray instead. This is the first tenant of low-fat cooking: eliminate the butter and load on the spices. If you do not like salt and pepper, try some herbs like basil, tarragon or oregano on your vegetables and meat (tarragon is great for chicken). Eliminating the butter from your food will reduce the fat content up to 99%. Just a dab of olive oil on vegetables and meat is also a great alternative, as it has greater health benefits than butter.

This brings us to our next step. Butter spray is a must for those seeking a healthier lifestyle. (Plus it takes up less space in your refrigerator!) It is great as an alternative to butter or margarine on bagels, toast, English muffins, baked bread and muffins. One serving has 0 grams of fat. Next, you do not have to eliminate those great and easy skillet recipes from your meal plan if you are trying to eat healthier. Instead of using oil or butter to prevent sticking, try non-stick butter or oil spray. They come in a variety of flavors, like olive oil and butter. The olive oil flavor is great for cooking vegetables and meat in a skillet, just spray on the bottom of the pan and heat the skillet, adding the meat and veggies when hot. Make sure to check frequently, as you may need to add more. It is good to coat the vegetables or meat with the spray as well - with 0 fat per serving, you can't go wrong. However, the sprays are not a good alternative for butter in baked goods. Read the following list of common substitutions for more suggestions. If you don't like the flavor of low-fat versions of high-fat foods like milk, sour cream, cheese, etc. try to reduce the amount you use and follow serving suggestions.

Quick-Reference: Common Fat-Free Substitutes for High-Fat Ingredients

1) Butter or Margarine = reduced fat/fat-free varieties or butter spray (Note: I do not recommend that you use butter spray or fat-free brands for baked goods like muffins, breads, cakes, etc. Try cutting the recommended amount in half, or use reduced-fat varieties. You can also substitute applesauce for butter in baked goods like muffins and spice cakes)

2) Eggs = egg substitute (good for all yolk- only recipes, scrambled eggs and quiches) or use egg whites only

3) Cream Cheese = Neufchatel or fat-free

4) Sour Cream = reduced fat or fat-free

5) Cheese = reduced fat (fat-free not great for cooking as it does not melt well)

6) Ice cream = frozen yogurt (usually fat-free and tastes great)

7) Oil (for frying) = cooking spray

8) Chocolate (for baking) = carob

9) White Sauces (for pasta) = in a blender, blend fat-free or low-fat cottage cheese and evaporated skim milk to desired consistency with other spices (lemon juice and rosemary are great) and then heat in a medium saucepan for a very delicious light pasta sauce

10) Peppercorn sauce (for steak or pork) = as an alternative to heavy whipping cream, the common ingredient of meat sauces, use fat-free coffee creamer for thickness. First, heat garlic and finely chopped onions in an oil-sprayed saucepan. Add creamer and peppercorns so they have time to soften. Also, add a beef bouillon cube for added flavor. Add any other spices you enjoy. Add flour or cornstarch for desired consistency. Another great alternative is using fat-free cream cheese and skim milk, stirring and adding to desired consistency.

11) Meats (chicken) = buy lower-fat cuts and skinless chicken (the skin adds most of the fat). Cut off all excess fat before cooking.

Secret Recipe--when you can't live without fried chicken

Here is a great recipe for an easy, low-fat, delicious alternative to fried chicken. You can even tell the non-dieters in your household that is low-fat - they will still come back for more. Using boneless, skinless chicken breast or chicken strips, cut all excess fat and wash chicken. Use as much as you need, but 1 lb of chicken equals 1 packet of ranch seasoning. Sprinkle with garlic salt (optional). Next, prepare a bowl of flour and a bowl of flavor mix. Try a packet of dried ranch seasoning (sounds high fat, but the fat is in the Mayo and milk that you use to make it into a dressing). You could also use wheat germ (a vitamin-enriched alternative), mixed with your favorite spices - tarragon and thyme are great for chicken. Coat the chicken with butter spray or oil-spray. Dip the chicken first in the flour, spray again, and then dip in the mix. You can even put the mix in a Ziploc bag and shake, like shake-in-bake. Add to a lightly sprayed glass baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. Cook for 30-40 minutes on 375, or until chicken is cooked all the way through. Avoid overcooking the chicken to keep it moist. Enjoy!

Now you know that you do not have to eliminate your favorite foods from your diet when you are watching your weight. The best part is, no one else will even realize they are eating low-fat foods. Now everyone in the family will be happy, and the best part is seeing their reaction when you tell them they are eating healthy!