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10 Tricks to Lighten Up Your Favorite Treats

The 'Recipe Doctor' shares her top light cooking secrets

7. Less, or Lighter, Cheese

You have two light choices when it comes to recipes using one of my favorite food ingredients -- cheese. You can use half as much of the full-fat cheese called for, or you can use the same amount called for but switch to a light or reduced-fat cheese. Recipes often call for more cheese than is truly needed, so if you stick with full-fat cheese, you can usually get by quite well with less.

8. Light Cream Cheese

It looks like cream cheese, it tastes like cream cheese ... but it's light cream cheese, with 1/3 to 1/2 less fat, depending on the brand. For recipes calling for cream cheese -- cheesecakes, cookies, muffins, casserole, spreads, or sauces -- you can usually use light cream cheese without a noticeable difference. If you want to cut calories and fat even more, use half light cream cheese and half fat-free cream cheese. (I don't use fat-free cream cheese for the full amount called for in recipes because I think its taste and texture is just too far from the real thing.)

9. Lean and Trimmed Meats

Buying lean or lower-fat meat (like skinless chicken, light sausage, the leanest cuts of beef or pork) for your recipes can crank the calories and fat down a few notches without really changing the taste of the dish. And don't forget to trim any visible white fat from the meat before adding it to your recipes.

10. Sugar Blends

They look a little like sugar, they taste like sugar, they measures like sugar, but they're only half sugar! They're the new sugar blends, and they're great for recipes. (They are pricey, I'll warn you.) You have two choices: the Splenda and sugar blend, or the Equal and sugar blend. Most people I've asked seem to prefer one or the other. The only way to know for yourself is to try them both.

And now for my own little trick -- I'm actually giving you 11 lightening-up secrets instead of 10!

11. Less-Fat Margarines

In baking recipes where you can't substitute canola oil, you can use a less-fat margarine (around 8 grams of fat per tablespoon) with no trans fat to cut the fat by 1/3! It works in all sorts of recipes, from pound cakes and cookies to crisps and cobblers.

Originally Published October 20, 2005.
Medically Updated September 2006.

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Reviewed on September 22, 2006

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