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WAYS TO SLIM DOWN YOUR MEALS: WHEN YOU SHOP

Plan your food shopping in advance, keeping in mind what you're going to need in your quest for fat- and calorie-control. Then stick to that list. It helps if you take along only a little more than the amount of money you'll need to cover the items on your list (and don't take along your credit card).

Avoid impulse buying which is more likely if you have the wherewithal to pay for those impulse purchases / if you shop for food when you're hungry / if you shop when you're too tired to think smart on your feet. Impulse buying is likely to load your shopping basket with foods you never intended to buy, and many of them are likely to be poor choices nutritionally.

Read food labels and choose those foods that are lower in fat and saturated fat. (Most items on Indian shelves, however, do not specify such a break-up. You need to be aware of the sources of saturated fats in foods. See the chapter, "All You Need To Eat".)

Buy low-fat versions of dairy products such as skim milk.

But watch out for labels that say 'Reduced fat' or 'Lower fat' (rather than 'Low fat'). Reduced or lower fat does not automatically mean low-fat. These terms only tell you that the shelf product contains less fat than the original one — and that doesn't tell you much. The fat calories may have been 'reduced' from 88% to 85% — but the food is still high-fat!

Be wary of 'health food' traps. Tofu, for instance, is high in fat: soyabeans, after all, contain oil.

Consider fish and poultry as alternatives to red meat; they are somewhat lower in saturated fat.

Most store-stocked salad dressings are primarily fat, with most of it coming from oil. Some also contain eggs, cream and cheese. A fat-free dressing will usually list water as its first ingredient, followed by vinegar, sugar in one of its forms (eg. corn syrup), spices, and sometimes lemon juice or tomato paste.

(But you still have to curb the urge to indulge: most commercial salad dressings are high in sodium).

Ground chicken can contain both light and dark meat, as well as skin and fat — and more than half of its calories could well come from fat. To ensure the ground chicken you eat is low in fat, buy lean, skinless portions and grind the meat at home yourself.

Cottage cheese stands alone in the category of natural cheeses that get less than 20% of their calories from fat. Among regular high-fat cheeses (over 70% calories from fat) are cream

cheese (88%); neufchatel (81%); brie (75%); cheddar (74%); and blue cheese (73%).

In the mid-fat range are creamed cottage cheese (40%), part-skim cheeses and reduced-calorie processed cheeses.

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