~ CHEESE ~
* NEED-TO-KNOW LINGO *
Reduced-fat, 2% milk, and 33% less fat all indicate the same thing—cheese with at least 25% less fat than standard cheese.
Low-fat, on the other hand, is pretty specific—3 grams of fat or less per serving!
Fat-Free and Reduced-Fat Shredded Cheese
The fat-free kind is a major calorie bargain, but flavor options are limited and it doesn’t melt quite as well as the reduced-fat cheeses. Opt for fat-free shreds (cheddar is a supermarket staple) when you’re topping an already decadent dish or when meltability isn’t a concern. Choose reduced-fat cheese when your snack or meal calls for more richness—you’ll find the reduced-fat version a lot more flavorful.
HG Standout: Any brand of 2% milk Mexican-blend cheese. The mix of mild and zesty cheeses is fantastic for easily infusing cheesy Mexican flavor into dishes.
HG Tip: Before grabbing that part-skim mozzarella, consider light string cheese. While the shreds are good for multi-serve recipes that call for a sizable measured amount, light string cheese offers the same great flavor and meltability—and it’s portion-controlled. Check out page 8 in this section for more info on this.
Fat-Free and Reduced-Fat Slices
Unlike no-fat shreds, fat-free slices melt very well, making them perfect for burgers and open-faced sandwich melts. They’re also great for when you want to keep the fat count down in dishes that include some decadent ingredients. The reduced-fat slices are better for snacking on straight. And they do offer up a better taste when it comes to Swiss cheese, so those can be worth the splurge for Reubens and other sandwiches that call for Swiss.
HG Tip: If you’re easily lured in by open packs of deli slices, consider the individually wrapped singles instead.
Fat-Free and Reduced-Fat Block-Style Cheese
Fat-free cheese you shred yourself typically melts much better than the pre-shredded kind. It’s also fantastic for making stovetop cheese sauces with a little light soymilk. The reduced-fat blocks are great for snacking and often cheaper than pre-wrapped individual snacks—but if you can’t be trusted to keep portions in check, the savings likely aren’t worth it.
HG Standout: Lifetime makes an amazing assortment of fat-free block-style cheese, including flavors you typically can’t find without fat, like Monterey Jack.
? The Fat & Calorie 411 for Shreds, Slices, Etc.?
Read labels and seek out cheeses with the following stats …
1 slice = 25 to 30 calories
1 ounce (¼ cup) shreds = 45 calories
1 ounce (a 1-inch cube) block cheese = 45 calories
1 slice = 40 to 60 calories and 2.5 to 4.5 grams of fat
1 ounce (¼ cup) shreds = 60 to 80 calories and 5 to 6 grams of fat
1 ounce (a 1-inch cube) block cheese = 60 to 80 calories and
5 to 6 grams of fat
Reduced-Fat Cheese Snacks
Portion-controlled cheeses are ideal for protein-packed snacking on the go, but stick with ones that have 100 calories or less. Look for firm types, like cheddar cubes and jalapeño jack sticks, and semi-soft stuff too, like this next Hungry Girl favorite …
Mini Babybel Light. These are the wax-encased cheese rounds that come packed in white nets. Each one has 50 calories and 3 grams of fat, and their protective red wax makes them perfect for tossing into your purse, backpack, or toting device of choice. The regular (not Light) varieties are delicious too; just know that those have 60 to 80 calories and 5 to 6 grams of fat each.
Light String Cheese
The word “light” should lead you right to the versions with 50 to 60 calories and about 2.5 grams of fat each. Typically part-skim mozzarella, these pull-apart treats are amazing—not only as snacks, but in recipes too. They melt terrifically once torn into pieces, laid over your favorite foods, and baked, toasted, or broiled.
Best Tip Ever: String Cheese in a Blender!
Break a stick of the light stuff into thirds, and toss into a mini food processor or blender. Pulse to a shredded/grated consistency. The result is an ideal amount of fluffy cheese with superior meltability for making personal pizzas, Italian-style scrambles, English-muffin melts, and chicken Parmesan. Mmmmm!
Fat-Free and Reduced-Fat Crumbled Feta Cheese
These little flavor-packed morsels go a long way. Great for salads and Greek-inspired recipes. A ¼-cup serving of the fat-free crumbles has just about 35 calories. The reduced-fat kind typically contains 60 to 70 calories and 4 grams of fat per ¼ cup.
Look for seasoned types, like basil and garlic. Or just buy plain and season it yourself.
The Laughing Cow Light Cheese Wedges
With 35 calories and 1.5 to 2 grams of fat each, these foil-wrapped wedges are in a category all their own. They’re spreadable, meltable, super-creamy, and deliciously mild. They’re packed in 8-wedge wheels emblazoned with a giddy red cow. The Creamy Swiss is classic, but there are several other flavors … ALL worth trying! There are similar products out there, but the kinds by The Laughing Cow are truly the best.
HG’s TOP ATE Uses for
The Laughing Cow Light Cheese Wedges
1. Four words: omelettes, scrambles, egg mugs! (See Egg-Mug/Egg-Scramble Essentials, page 205.)
2. As a cream cheese swap!
3. In gooey-good quesadillas made with high-fiber tortillas.
4. Mixed with fat-free sour cream and reduced-fat Parmesan-style grated topping for a guilt-free Alfredo sauce.
5. Stuffed inside homemade burger patties made from lean turkey or extra-lean beef.
6. Spread on apple slices and paired with other fruits.
7. Mixed with salsa or fat-free refried beans to make a creamy queso dip!
8. In cheese-infused scoopable salads and spreads made with tuna, salmon, or crab. Yum!
Fat-Free Cream Cheese
Seek out the round tubs as opposed to the rectangular blocks. Why? Because this stuff is best when melted and mixed with other things, and the tub product is softer and easier to work with. When you’re craving a classic schmear, The Laughing Cow Light cheese wedges really are an ideal swap. But FFCC has its place in your shopping cart—it’s a valuable component when making extra-creamy fillings, sauces, desserts, and more. Each 2-tablespoon serving has about 30 calories.
There’s no such thing as “low-fat” cream cheese. The reduced-fat/light kind packs 70 calories and 5 to 6 grams of fat per 2-tablespoon serving. That’s more than twice the calories of fat-free cream cheese, and a little steep for a simple spread.
Fat-Free, Low-Fat, and Light Ricotta Cheese
This creamy, mildly flavored stuff is wildly underrated. Use it in dessert recipes in place of fattening mascarpone—just add a little vanilla extract, no-calorie sweetener, and some room-temp fat-free cream cheese. Mix it with savory spices and use as a creamy filling for stuffed mushrooms or as an ingredient in casseroles.
Devilishly Deceptive: Part-Skim. Skip It!
Fat-free ricotta can be a bit elusive, but its nutritionals are seriously impressive—¼ cup contains about 45 calories. The low-fat and light kinds are common and completely reasonable, with an average of 60 calories and just 2.5 grams of fat per ¼ cup. Just know that part-skim is not the same; that has 70 to 90 calories and 4.5 to 6 grams of fat. Big difference!
Fat-Free and Low-Fat Cottage Cheese
With 80 to 100 calories and impressive protein stats (about 13 grams) per 1/2-cup serving, this creamy, scoopable stuff is an ideal staple for snacking. Add flavor and sweetness with sweet spices and extracts (try cinnamon and vanilla), fruit (fresh, juice-packed and drained, or thawed from frozen), and a little sweetener. Great for no-cook breakfasts and parfaits too. In addition to the tubs, look for single-serving containers—perfect for snacks on the go and as mini-fridge staples.
Fun Find: Fruit on the Side!
Look for individual containers of the low-fat stuff with sidecars of sweet and fruity add-ins, like Knudsen/Breakstone’s Cottage Doubles. Sure there are pre-mixed fruit-infused cottage cheese cups, but these are just a little more fun (and better for control freaks) …
Cheese Alternatives: Almond Cheese and Soy Cheese
Despite being made with nuts or beans, these can be fantastically low in fat and completely delicious. But they require a few heads-ups …
1. Not all alterna-cheeses are created equal. Read the nutritional panels to ensure they meet your guilt-free standards. Look for those similar in stats to reduced-fat cheese—some of our favorites (the standouts listed below) are even lower!
2. These aren’t always dairy-free. If you’re lactose-intolerant or sensitive to dairy, read through those ingredient lists. Do it before you chew it …
3. They may be hard to find. If you don’t see them near the regular cheese, look for them with the refrigerated tofu, soy-based products, specialty foods, or gourmet cheeses.
HG Standouts: Lisanatti Foods The Original Almond Cheese Alternative and Galaxy Nutritional Foods Veggie Shreds, Slices, and Blocks.
Don’t Forget …
to swing by the pasta aisle for reduced-fat Parmesan-style grated topping. With just 30 calories per tablespoon, this product adds major flavor to all sorts of recipes. Use it as a topping or stir it into soups, sauces, and more.
to stock up on frozen veggies in low-fat cheese sauce. For a quick and easy side dish with built-in cheesy goodness or a saucy start to veggie-loaded recipes! You can find these in single-serving trays and multi-serving bags and boxes. Green Giant’s Just for One options are some of the best in the biz.
~ YOGURT ~
Fat-Free Fruity and Desserty Yogurt
Look for single-serving containers (usually 6 ounces) with 110 calories or less. These are fantastic snack staples to keep in the fridge. They also make ideal ingredients for super-easy recipes like smoothies and parfaits. Look for flavors inspired by whichever fattening desserts you crave, like banana cream pie, apple turnovers, or blueberry cobbler. And don’t discount classic vanilla. YUM!
Not all fat-free yogurt is low in calories—some brands have as many as 160 calories per 6-ounce serving. So read those labels!
HG Standout: Yoplait Light. It’s our hands-down, go-to yogurt line. Amazing flavor options, rich and creamy texture, and all-around delicious. Yoplait Fiber One ROCKS too!
Fat-Free Plain Yogurt
It may seem boring, but this stuff is fantastic in so many ways. Add some seasoning and use it as marinade for lean meats; it’ll make your protein of choice insanely tender and delicious. It’s also good in tangy cream sauces, sweet salad dressings, and anywhere else you want to add creamy texture and a touch of tartness without a specific flavor attached. For a sweet snack, mix in things like fruit and sweetener. Look for yogurt with 110 calories or less per 6-ounce serving. If you use it often, go for the larger tubs, with a 1-cup (8-ounce) serving size—then your calorie count should be about 130.
Think yogurt can’t be too bad in the stats department? Guess again. A cup of full-fat yogurt can have around 200 calories and 8 grams of fat … READ THOSE LABELS!
Fat-Free and Low-Fat Plain Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt undergoes a straining process that results in a SUPER-THICK consistency. Compared to regular fat-free yogurt, it has more protein (about 20 grams per cup, nearly twice as much as regular), fewer carbs, less sodium, and less sugar—although standard yogurt does have more calcium. There’s room for both in our fridge! What else makes it special? It’s ideal as a dip base; add pre-mixed seasoning packets or DIY in the spice department. It’s also amazing as a sour cream swap, especially if you’re sensitive to the taste of fat-free sour cream. A 6-ounce serving of fat-free plain Greek yogurt has about 100 calories. The same amount of low-fat plain Greek yogurt, often labeled 2%, contains about 130 calories and 3 grams of fat.
If you think the stats on regular whole-milk yogurt are shocking, get this: Full-fat Greek yogurt packs up to 300 calories and 20 grams of fat per cup! Even scarier? The tubs usually look EXTREMELY similar, so make SURE you grab the ones labeled fat-free, low-fat, 0%, or 2%.
Fat-Free and Low-Fat Greek Yogurt with Fruit
The new wave of fruity Greek yogurts comes in single-serving containers (5 to 6 ounces) with a sidecar of a gooey fruit mixture, and we love this. There are also those that come with a side of honey; these have a good deal more calories, so be careful. Aim for options with 150 calories or so.
HG Tip: If you can’t find fruit-ified Greek yogurt, just pick up some sugar-free or low-sugar fruit preserves, and swirl it into your unflavored Greek yogurt. Aren’t you resourceful?!
PUDDING, DESSERTS, ~ AND DESSERT TOPPINGS ~
Sugar-Free and No-Sugar-Added Pudding Snack Cups
With 45 to 60 calories, these are almost always lower in calories than their fat-free counterparts. Perfect solo for a sweet fix or as a layered ingredient in pies, parfaits, and more. Chocolate and vanilla are super-common flavors, but seek out more decadent options too, like caramel and even cream pie variations.
HG Snack Tip: Dunk-a-Fruit!
Grab some strawberries and dip ’em in a chocolate snack cup. Plunge some peach slices into vanilla pudding (perhaps zazzled up with a dash of cinnamon)! And if you track down the caramel-flavored pudding cups, it’s all about the apple slices …
In addition to instant pudding mix, shelf-stable pudding snacks can be found in the baking aisle. Just remember, the same rules apply: The sugar-free ones give you the best bang for your calorie buck. For more on instant pudding, see page 185 in the Baking Products section.
Snack Cup Cousins!
In addition to classic sugar-free and no-sugar-added pudding, seek out these variations on a theme: mousse (like the 60-calorie Mousse Temptations by Jell-O), rice pudding, and tapioca pudding. Kozy Shack makes the world’s best rice and tapioca puddings.
Sugar-Free Gelatin Snack Cups
Hello, Jell-O! We can’t NOT mention these 10-calorie, sugar-free gelatin snack cups that are always chilling nearby—an ideal treat when you’ve got to have something sweet but have next-to-no calories left in your daily food budget.
Fat Free Reddi-wip
Weighing in at 5 calories per 2-tablespoon serving, this shake ’n squirt dessert topping is a refrigerator staple. Made with real milk and cream, it has a natural taste to it. It’s creamy, it’s light, it’s airy … it’s PERFECT. Use it to top beverages (hot or cold), ice cream treats, pudding cups, and parfaits.
That Other Dessert Topping … Cool Whip Free!
Head to the freezer aisle and you’ll find tubs of fat-free dessert topping, a.k.a. Cool Whip Free. It’s a little higher in calories—15 per 2-tablespoon serving—but it’s as essential as its 5-calorie counterpart.
See page 142 for more info.
Which One When?
Fat Free Reddi-wip vs. Cool Whip Free
These products are equally valuable, because they serve TOTALLY different purposes. When it comes to topping off anything you plan to devour immediately, it’s Fat Free Reddi-wip all the way. Think lattes, hot cocoa, blended drinks, and more. For mixing, layering, freezing, and otherwise concocting dessert creations, you need the wonder tub that is Cool Whip Free. Think pies, trifles, puddings, and more.
~ EGG PRODUCTS ~
Fat-Free Liquid Egg Substitute
Egg substitute is basically real egg whites with added nutrients and coloring. It comes in a carton with a sealable spout, for easy pouring and storing. A ¼-cup serving, the equivalent of one egg or two egg whites, has 30 calories. The most recognized and best-tasting variety out there is Egg Beaters Original. This item can be used practically anywhere real eggs would be used: scrambles, frittatas, omelettes, baked goods, and more. Two unique Hungry Girl uses? Egg mugs and faux-frying. For the full 411 on those, visit Egg-Mug/Egg-Scramble Essentials on page 205 and the Fiber One section on page 24!
Fun Find: If you aren’t using egg substitute on the regular, or you just want a fast and pre-measured portion size, seek out individual containers with peel-off lids. These typically come in three-packs, and each pack contains two servings—perfect for a “two-egg scramble” or a recipe calling for two eggs.
Liquid Egg Whites
Truth be told, liquid egg whites are nearly identical to fat-free egg substitute, and the two can almost always be used interchangeably. However, the yellow-hued substitute is better suited for faux-frying (see page 24), where it’s used as a binding agent for crumbs and seasoning. Liquid egg whites, on the other hand, are ideal for meringues and recipes where their translucency is valued (dishes where the yellow color would be off-putting).
While they’re useful for the occasional huevos rancheros or eggs Benedict recipe, whole eggs are a little fat-and-cholesterol-heavy for many people. So why include them in this book? Because hard-boiled egg whites are incredible in recipes and as snacks. They’re high in protein and very low in calories. Each large egg white packs only about 17 calories and a whopping 3.5 grams of protein! By the way, each large yolk contains about 55 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, and about 200 milligrams of cholesterol. The choice is yours …
HG Snack Tip: Stuff It! Here are some fantastic items to fill your egg-white halves with: fat-free refried beans, salsa, light cheese, Dijon mustard, hummus, tuna, and hot sauce. Mix ’n match! Just don’t use them all at once …
How to Hard-Boil
Since it’s only the whites you’re after, you don’t really need to be concerned with an exact cooking time or worry about overcooking the eggs. In fact, the more solid the yolks become, the easier it is to separate them from the whites. So, place the eggs in a pot and cover completely with water. The pot should be large enough that there are still a few inches of the pot’s inner edge above the water line—this way, the water won’t boil over. Bring it to a boil, and then continue to cook for about 10 minutes. After that, carefully drain the water, and cover the eggs in the pot with very cold water. (Got ice? Add it.) Once the eggs are cool enough to handle, crack ’em and the shells should peel off easily. Run a knife along the circumference of each peeled egg to separate the white into halves—like cutting around the pit of an avocado. (It’s easier to remove the yolk if you don’t slice it in half.) Tada!
MILK, MILK SWAPS, ~ AND CREAMERS ~
HG All-Star! Blue Diamond Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Breeze
Consider this the ultimate milk swap. You might be thinking, “Vanilla flavored … but not sweetened?! That’s ODD!” Trust us: Try it and you’ll be hooked. The natural sweetness is enough, and the subtle vanilla taste keeps things flavorful. This all-natural, non-dairy swap is rich, creamy, and tastes FANTASTIC. With just 40 calories per cup, it has less than half as many calories as fat-free milk. It does contain a few grams of fat—3.5 to be exact—and it’s worth every one of them. U.V.A.B., as we like to call it, is a tremendously versatile ingredient that’s great in most places you’d use milk: cereal bowls, smoothies, coffee drinks, baked goods, and more. And yes, it definitely tastes better than competing unsweetened almond milks.
The Where-to-Find 411! While it is sometimes available in refrigerated cartons, it’s typically found in its more popular shelf-stable boxes, stocked with the other non-dairy milk alternatives. It can also be ordered online. If you can’t track it down, know that the next item is practically its doppelganger …
Light Vanilla Soymilk
Don’t assume soymilk is just for the lactose intolerant—if you do, you’ll be missing out. Sweet and creamy, light vanilla soymilk is delicious and has fewer calories than regular milk (even the fat-free kind). Look for versions with about 70 calories and 2 grams of fat per cup. Like its fellow milk swap, Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Breeze, this can be useful in nearly all those “I need milk!” moments. Use it in blended beverages, lattes and hot drinks, over cereal, and in baked recipes. The main difference between this and U.V.A.B.? Soymilk is a bit sweeter. So keep that in mind before adding any additional sweetener to whatever you’re using it in.
A Time and Place for Plain … While vanilla is most useful on a day-to-day basis, plain light soymilk has its purpose too. Use it in creamy soups, savory sauces, and rich dips. Or use it exclusively if you just plain hate vanilla. It’s a little lower in calories, with about 60 per cup.
HG FYI: Almond Breeze and light soymilk can be used almost anywhere milk is called for. The exception? With packaged pudding mix. You need old-fashioned fat-free dairy milk for that. (The pudding won’t firm up properly with those milk swaps.)
Unsweetened Coconut Milk Beverage
Here’s another unconventional milk alternative. With about 50 calories and 5 fat grams per cup, this is light and naturally sugarless. If you’re looking for a low-calorie milk swap without soy or almonds, or you just want to infuse some coconutty flavor into your diet, here’s a great option for you. It has some fat, but the calorie count is still WAY lower than skim milk. Like Almond Breeze, this can be found in two places: the refrigerated dairy section or the shelf-stable aisle of non-dairy milk swaps.
Don’t confuse this dairy-free drink with the thick, creamy goo you get from a can, a.k.a. “lite coconut milk.” That has a LOT more fat, is heavily sweetened, and should be used sparingly as a recipe ingredient … not sipped straight.
HG Standout: So Delicious. Really, that’s the name of the product line. And it is sooooo delicious …
Fat-Free Non-Dairy Liquid Creamer
When it comes to flavoring coffee and other drinks with creamy goodness, the liquid kind isn’t our first choice. You get the most bang for your calorie buck with the powdered kind. (More on that in the Coffee, Cocoa, and Tea section on page 174.) But non-dairy liquid creamer does have its calling. It’s ideal as a half & half swap; it tastes better than fat-free half & half. Use it in recipes that need some serious creamy intensity delivered in a small amount of liquid. Mix it into mashed potatoes (we add steamed cauliflower to our mashies!), make super-rich sauces with it, and add it to batters for baked sweets.
Flavored non-dairy liquid creamers—even fat-free ones—typically have TWICE as many calories as the regular unflavored fat-free ones. So be careful! VERY careful …
See also …
If you’re looking for flavored creamer options, flip immediately to page 194! We’re all about the powdered kind.
~ SOUR CREAM AND BUTTER ~
Fat-Free Sour Cream
With just 25 calories per 2-tablespoon serving, this is one guilt-free condiment! Use it as a topping for every type of Mexican food imaginable. It’s also an amazing blank canvas—it brings a rich and creamy texture with just a touch of tanginess. Use it as a dip base or a sauce starter. Turn something intensely flavored—like spicy salsa, hot mustard, or sweet ’n fruity marinade—into something cool and mild. And if you’re not a fan of fat-free mayo, consider using this instead in places that mayo’s ordinarily used: scoopable salads (like tuna and chicken), sandwiches, burgers, slaws, and salad dressings. Speaking of salad dressing …
HG Dressing Swap!
Bottled fat-free ranch dressing can be less than delicious, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy ranchy goodness without fat. Whip up your own fat-free ranch dressing by mixing about half a tablespoon of powdered ranch dressing/dip mix (the type that comes in the packets) into 1/3 cup fat-free sour cream; each tablespoon has only 15 calories or so and no fat. And it tastes great—the tanginess of the sour cream works really well with the ranch. Congrats!
Light Buttery Spread and Light Whipped Butter
Look for tubs—not sticks—of these spreadable butters with about 45 calories and 5 grams of fat per tablespoon. That’s half as much fat and half as many calories as regular butter. With the spreads, a little goes a long way. And in case you’re wondering, yes, there are some fat-free spreads out there with hardly any calories … but the light kinds taste SO MUCH BETTER. Try ’em and see!
HG Favorite! Brummel & Brown. It’s basically a light buttery spread that’s made with yogurt. It tastes just like real butter—maybe a little sweeter. When it comes to light whipped butter, Land O’ Lakes is our pick.
MYTH-BUSTING WITH HG:
“Shouldn’t dieters choose margarine as an alternative to butter?”
Most margarine has just as much fat and just as many calories as regular butter. Some people argue over which is worse: the trans fat in margarine or the saturated fat in butter. We seek out options with less TOTAL fat—like our light whipped butter and light buttery spread picks.
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! Spray and Other Zero-Calorie-Per-Serving Spray Butters
Zero-calorie butter spray is terrific for day-to-day usage when you only need a few spritzes. In small portions, it’s virtually calorie-free, and a little goes a long way. Use it on veggies, on popcorn, and anywhere you need an even mist of buttery goodness. But don’t remove the lid and pour! Read on to find out why …
HG Heads-Up: The Calorie 411!
Here’s the scoop: A single spray has less than a calorie—low enough to be rounded down to zero. If you rack up 10 sprays (1/2 teaspoon), you’re looking at about 10 calories and 1 gram of fat. So, while it isn’t exactly “loaded” with calories and fat, it does add up. An entire 8-ounce bottle of spray butter contains around 900 calories and 90 grams of fat. YIKES!
HG Tip: If you tend to go overboard with the spray, you may want to try using a light whipped butter or light buttery spread—the nutritionals are similar, but it’s easier to gauge how much you’re using and how many calories and fat grams you’re taking in.