since that’s where a lot of the fat lurks. Or simply leave behind the last half-inch of sauce-drenched food in the container. Better yet, order steamed dishes and ask for other low-fat preparations. And share your dishes, or take most home leftovers. Entrees are usually huge—often a pound and a half each or more, enough for four “sensible” portions.
Forget the old rule about eating raw shellfish only during “R” months (September to April). That rule may reduce the risk of food poisoning but certainly doesn’t eliminate it. About 5 to 10% of all raw shellfish are contaminated by Vibrio bacteria. People with chronic diseases or impaired immunity face a high risk of potentially fatal vibrio-related illness. Even shellfish “certified clean” is risky, since there’s no way to detect many viruses and bacteria in fishing waters. To be safe, eat only thoroughly cooked shellfish (140°).
Always cut a hardshell winter squash in half before microwaving. A whole squash cooked in the microwave can explode and cause serious burns. Piercing the shell with a fork before cooking may not be adequate to vent the confined steam pressure.
If you’re grilling chicken, marinate it first—and not just for good taste. One study showed that a chicken breast marinated in olive oil, cider vinegar, brown sugar, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, and salt produced fewer heterocyclic amines than un-marinated chicken when grilled on a propane grill for 30 minutes. These substances, produced when meats are cooked at high temperatures, promote cancer. Marinating reduced some of them by 99%. If you want to consume the remaining marinade, be sure to boil it before serving.
Use a blender. Food processors have overshadowed blenders in recent years, but there are some things blenders do better. They purée and liquefy foods to a smoothness few processors can match. So dust off your blender to make healthy shakes and drinks. You can combine nearly any fruits with skim milk and/or nonfat yogurt to make smoothies. Try frozen ingredients, such as bananas or orange juice. You can also make vegetable “cocktails,” flavorful dips, quick sauces, velvety soups, and low-fat sandwich spreads.
Try “melted” berries. Fresh or frozen whole strawberries or blueberries make a delicious pancake topping (replacing syrup and butter) if you “melt” them: put them in a saucepan with a little sugar, mash slightly, add a small amount of water if necessary and heat just until the sugar dissolves in the juice.
Use a meat thermometer not only for turkeys and roasts but also for casseroles, egg dishes, ground meats, even leftovers. This is an especially good idea if you’re in frail health. Nearly one-third of all cases of food poisoning at home are caused by inadequate cooking, according to the USDA. There are easy to use models that give an instant reading when inserted in food.
If you’re a woman capable of becoming pregnant, you should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid from a supplement or fortified breakfast cereal. This B vitamin is known to reduce the risk of certain birth defects by at least 50% when consumed before conception and during early pregnancy.
Here are some shopping tips for crackers. Choose whole grains: whole wheat or whole rye should be the only flour or at least first on the ingredients list. (Don’t be fooled by “hearty wheat,” “stoned wheat,” or “multigrain” crackers, which are usually made from refined wheat flour.) Look for at least 3 grams of fiber, less than 4 grams of fat per ounce, and little or no artery-clogging trans fat.
Don’t believe the claims made for sea salt, a favorite at health food stores and gourmet shops. It has no nutritional advantages over regular salt. It is coarser, so it may be a little less salty per teaspoon—but if you season by taste, you’ll just use more of it. By the time sea salt is cleaned and processed for the table, it’s virtually identical to regular salt, though much more expensive.
To make caffè latte quickly and easily, use a “brother,” a stovetop or microwave pot with a plungerlike top that aerates warmed milk (even nonfat milk) into a thick froth. This is a good way to increase your milk intake.
Choose bright and dark-colored fruits and vegetables. The color is generally a sign of extra nutrients. For instance, buy red grapes instead of green, romaine or watercress rather than iceberg lettuce, red cabbage instead of green, and dark orange carrots over pale ones.
Always ask your doctor or pharmacist whether the medicine should be taken with food or on an empty stomach. This can affect the drug’s absorption. Some drugs (prescription or over-the-counter) interfere with nutrient absorption, so if you take vitamin/mineral supplements, ask if it’s okay to take them at the same time as your medicine.
Lead can leach out of lead crystal, especially if acidic beverages sit in it for a long period. So don’t store wine or spirits in a lead crystal decanter. Use the decanter only for serving— pour the beverage into it shortly before you plan to use it, and then return it to its original bottle. Similarly, don’t store vinegar based dressings in lead crystal cruets. Don’t worry about drinking from a lead crystal goblet—only tiny amounts of lead would be released during the short time that the wine is in the glass.
Try yogurt cheese as a tasty substitute for cream cheese or sour cream. It’s thick, spreadable, tangy, and fat-free if you make it from nonfat yogurt. To make it, place a fine-meshed strainer or colander over a bowl and line it with one or more coffee filters, a double thickness of cheesecloth, or three layers of paper towel. Add plain or flavored yogurt (one containing no fruit, jam, or gelatin) and refrigerate overnight or longer. The longer it drains, the thicker the cheese will be. Yogurt cheese has only 20 calories per ounce. A pint of yogurt yields a cup of cheese.
to cut calories, start your meals with a low-fat salad. One study found that people who ate three cups of low-fat salad before lunch ended up eating 12% fewer calories at the entire meal than those skipping the salad. The key is to avoid high-fat dressings and cheese. More good news: a three cup salad will provide at least three of the nine servings of produce you should eat daily.