Saturday, December 8, 2012

Dairy Fat Confessions

Recently I posted on the topic of Heart Healthy Habits. Then I did a little bit of self analysis and examined some of my not so healthy habits, especially in the area of diet. Specifically, I wrote about salt and sugar, and how these sneaky ingredients in food sabotage my generally healthy attitudes and eating habits. Although one can choose not to add salt or sugar to the plate, sometimes they can be hard to avoid, for example, when eating out in restaurants. I find that restaurant meals generally are quite salty, and bakery treats and restaurant desserts tend to be very sweet and much too big.

Dairy fat is another category of food that calls for moderation. Milk itself has wonderful nutritional value. It is a great source of calcium and vitamin D, and it has protein and other good things in it. Many people don't people don't consume enough dairy. I am the opposite; I enjoy it too much. I drink at least one glass of milk everyday. One cup of low fat milk (1%) has 110 calories and 8 g of protein. That's a healthy choice. I also enjoy yoghurt, and usually choose the low fat, low calorie kind, even though the full-fat yoghurt is much more satisfying.

However, cream, whipped cream, ice cream, and butter are another story. They contain fat -- lots and lots of saturated fat. I have worked myself down from full-fat milk to 2% and then to 1%, and I think I see skim milk in my future. I put milk rather than cream in my coffee. And I only put a thin little scraping of butter on my bread. In choosing to eat butter rather than margarine, I am opting for saturated fat over trans fats. There are some softened margarines, like Becel, that have no trans fats, but butter tastes better, I think. So I eat butter, but don't slather it on. As I mentioned in the earlier post, I don't indulge in cream, whipped cream, or ice cream very often.

So why am I flagellating myself about dairy fats? Well, I can sum that up in just one word. Cheese. I love cheese, just about every kind of it. Cream cheese, cheddar cheese, feta cheese, Gouda cheese, parmesan, and wonderful creamy, full-fat Brie. Mmmmmm. For years of my life, I ate a cheese sandwich in my bag lunch almost every day and never tired of it. My favourite snack, to this day, is a few stoned wheat thin crackers and 20-30 grams of cheese. Thirty grams of the kind of cheddar in my fridge right now would provide 110 calories (I can live with that) but also 14% of my daily fat intake, and 30% of the recommended daily saturated fat intake. Whoa! That is something to think twice about.

I also like to use cheese in my cooking. Pasta, of course begs for cheese: macaroni and cheese, lasagna, fettuccini alfredo, manicotti stuffed with spinach and ricotta, or a lovely bit of grated premium Parmesan sprinkled on top of fusilli or penne. I put cheese or cheese sauce on broccoli and cauliflower, goat cheese into salads, and cream cheese icing on cakes. I would be a very unhappy gal if I was deprived of cheese.

I also like to use butter in my cooking. Although most of the time I opt for healthy oils like olive oil, there is nothing like fresh caught trout or salmon cooked in a little butter with dill or other garden herbs. I have recently taken up Indian cooking, and ghee is a necessary ingredient to get the authentic taste, and oh so yummy.

My other big dairy fat confession centers on sour cream. Sour cream is a fabulous ingredient with perogies, in chowders, in sauces, and in baking. I am making myself hungry just thinking about it. I am afraid that the dairy fat habit is going to be a very challenging one for me to break!