Jul 30

Why You Should be Eating More Fat (the truth about fat in diets)

For decades, we have been told that fat is bad. We’ve been told to avoid fats like the plague because they’re the downfall to every diet. However, new information is showing that fats can be both beneficial and essential to weight loss.

What is fat?

Fat is an essential nutrient that cannot be dissolved in water. Fat not only contributes energy to our bodies; it also helps us get the maximum benefit of all the other nutrients we consume.

What role does fat play in the body? Why do we need it?

Fat improves our bodies’ function in a wide variety of ways. Fat supplies us with energy. It helps us produce the right amount of testosterone and estrogen. Fat helps our immune system be at its finest. It helps us absorb other nutrients including the FAT soluble vitamins A, D, E, K.

To those who are deeply concerned about weight loss, fat should be your friend, not your enemy. According to the British Journal of Nutrition, eating fat helped participants lose weight even if their daily calorie consumption remained unchanged. On top of that, eating certain fats can boost your metabolism and make you feel fuller for longer.

What are the different types of fat?

Though you should be eating fat, it is of course important to consider where the fat is coming from. The three main categories of fats are saturated, unsaturated, and trans fats.

Saturated fats have their molecules completely surrounded by hydrogen atoms. In the past, they have been considered “bad” fat as they raise LDL cholesterol levels.  However, if we limit saturated fat intake and replace it with carbohydrate there is no improvement in risk for cardiovascular disease.  If we reduce our saturated fat intake and replace it with poly-unsaturated fats there is decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Unsaturated fats are not completely surrounded by hydrogen atoms. They have always been considered the “good” fat. Unsaturated fats can raise HDL cholesterol levels (the “good” kind) and boost your metabolism. Monounsaturated fats have only one hydrogen atom per fat molecule and can boost your metabolism for hours after your last meal. Polyunsaturated fats (such as omega-3 and omega-6) fats can lower the bad LDL cholesterol levels. They also help the immune system by combating inflammation.

Trans fats don’t occur naturally. They’re made by making vegetable oils more solid by adding hydrogen to them. These are found primarily in highly processed foods and should be avoided. Trans fats both raise LDL cholesterol levels and lower HDL cholesterol levels.  More and more food manufacturers are taking these out of the foods we buy since their negative impact on health has been exposed.

How to get the good fats in your diet

It’s important you consider where your fats are coming from. Though fat is good, it’s best to get it from whole foods. Avoid highly processed foods such as sweets and potato chips.

  • For example, a donut and an avocado contain the same amount of fat, but a donut is also high in sugar and very low in nutrients like vitamins and minerals. An avocado is high in monounsaturated fats and provides several vitamins and minerals.
  • Avoiding processed foods will also help you avoid bad trans fats. If you stick to eating organically there is no way for trans fats to sneak into your diet.
  • Consider foods you already eat; our dietary habits easily provide us with enough of certain fats already. For example, omega-6 fats are found in vegetable oils that we commonly cook with. Getting enough of it isn’t really an issue. We also get plenty of saturated fats from traditional foods in our culture like milk, cheese, and meat.
  • If you’ve been dieting for awhile you may have been trained to avoid foods that contain beneficial fat. It may help to reintroduce those “bad” foods into your diet. Egg yolks, nuts, oils, avocados, olives are all great  sources of healthy fats.

Good and bad foods with fat

Common sense can help dictate which foods with fat can be a great addition to your diet and which foods will only hurt you. You should always make a point to avoid processed foods. Read the ingredient labels; if you find yourself unable to pronounce most things on the list, you should avoid eating it.

Avocados are a popular choice; they contain 21 grams of highly beneficial fat and no excess chemicals found in packaged snack foods. Milk and yogurt, though they contain saturated fats, will help you burn fat more efficiently.

Avoid fats from foods that contain little to no nutritional value like high fat baked goods like donuts or biscuits.  Instead replace with whole grains that provide fiber and B vitamins.  Always check the label of foods to make sure the fats used are not trans fat.

Conclusion

Fats are highly beneficial to your body, despite years of being told otherwise. They help improve our bodies’ overall functioning, helping out our immune system and nutrient absorption. Fats also help us achieve our weight loss goals; by consuming fat, we both reduce our appetite for prolonged periods of time and give our metabolisms a great boost. You should definitely make fat a part of your diet.

Image Credit: Yersinia pestis

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Jul 07

9 Foods You Shouldn’t Buy When You’re on a BUDGET (how many are in your fridge now?)

When shopping on a budget there are some foods that should be avoided for certain!  Living on a budget always has some give and take, but there are some things that should be more give and less take.  We talk a bit about fun food hacks here.

TV Dinners

These foods are usually high in fat and sodium and expensive.  Feed your family a balanced home cooked meal with rice, chicken, and a vegetable in season and you will save money and provide a healthier meal.

Soda

Soda has little to no nutritional value.  The calories, since in the liquid, form don’t tend to make us feel full.  This then leads us to consume more calories than we need.  It is unnecessary and has negative effect on our health.  Trust me I know it is tasty, but what else do I need to say.

Individually wrapped snack foods

It is much cheaper to buy one large bag of pretzels and bag ourselves then to buy the individually packaged snack food.  Take the time to portion snack foods out yourself and it will definitely help you to shave that grocery spending.

Brand named products

Generic versions of food are often made at the same plant and of the exact same quality as the name brands.  Slight variations in flavor may occur one product to another, but in general generic is a good tasty option.  This is a great money saver.  I make a few exceptions to this rule.  If the generic form is particularly higher in salt, fat, or any other nutrient you are trying to reduce then choose the least expensive product that meets your nutritional demands.

Candy bar

These incredibly tempting treats are impulse buys placed in the checkout line to tempt us into an unnecessary purchase.  They are high in fat and sugar and will not help with weight maintenance.  Impulse buys teach our children to make impulse decisions.  Impulse decisions don’t tend to be what’s best for us in the long run.

Gluten-Free

Unless you have an actual allergy to gluten, gluten free products are unnecessary.  They do not provide any nutritional advantage, and they usually cost more than their gluten-containing counterparts.  Gluten is a protein found in wheat.  It is strong and flexible and allows bread to maintain its integrity while it rises.  This is why breads made with wheat flower are soft and rise well.

Organic produce

Thoroughly washing produce will remove pesticides used during farming.  Produce with a peel that will be removed can be safely eaten.  Produce with small pores like berries may be best organic since it is difficult to clean thoroughly.  Always buy fruit in season to get the best prices.

Gourmet Pet food

If you can’t afford gourmet for you, you certainly shouldn’t be spending extra on a beloved pet.  They may deserve the world in your eyes, but your budget applies to your pets as well as you.  Find a product they will suitably eat that will meet their nutrition needs.  Don’t break the bank in the process.

Prime Rib

There are less expensive and lower fat ways to get protein in your diet.    Steak should not be a staple, but a special occasion.  Prime rib is a particularly expensive cut of meat.  Try a variety of fish, chicken, turkey, pork, and lean cuts of beef.

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Jul 01

4 Tips For a Healthy 4th of July

I couldn’t tell you where the traditions came from, but each year for the 4th of July I find myself watching fireworks and enjoying a BBQ.  A lot of our typical BBQ foods aren’t the healthiest choices, but I have some suggestions that will help you have a healthy 4th of July this year.

  1.  Make a smart meat selection.  The main entre of a BBQ is, of course, the meat.  Choose leaner cuts of meat for an all around healthier meal.  Fish, chicken or turkey breast, lean cuts of beef (less marbling), low fat burgers or hot dogs.
  2. Enjoy some fruit.  So many fruits are on sale and in season this time of year.  Enjoy some fresh watermelon, cherries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries all at least half the price then they are the rest of the year.  Fruit is high in nutrients (vitamins and minerals) and low in calories.  Add more fruit to your BBQ by including a fruit platter with a low fat fruit dip or grilling up some pineapple while cooking your meat.
  3. Veggie time.  Vegetables are high in nutrients like fruit, but lower in calories and sugar.  You can’t go wrong with a great vegetable platter with dip.  Grill up kabobs with steak or chicken and throw on fruit and vegetables: mango, kiwi, pineapple, apple, zucchini, tomato, mushroom, bell pepper, shallots, or anything that sounds good to you.  Grill up some zucchini cut lengthwise and top with garlic powder and mozzarella cheese once cooked.
  4. Have fun enjoying the games, activities, or conversation at your BBQ and don’t fixate on the food.  A lot of social activities seems to revolve around food, but don’t let yourself fall into that pitfall.  Have fun and enjoy the company!

Follow the tips below for healthy grilling suggestions:

  • Adjust your grill so that food cooks evenly inside and out.  If the temperature is too hot the outside may get overcooked before the inside reaches proper temperature.
  • Make sure to use a clean plate for meat once it is cooked.  Don’t allow the juice from the raw meat to come in contact with any read-to-eat foods.
  • Clean your grill between uses to reduce exposure to bacteria and carcinogens.
  • Turn meat over at least once to allow more even cooking.
  • Avoid charring the outside of meats as it can produce carcinogens.  To reduce these substances marinate the meat, pre-cook it before grilling, or scrape off any blackened surfaces.
  • Cook poultry and fish until internal temperatures reaches target: 165F for poultry and ground meat, 145F for pork or fish.
  • Control coals to avoid flame flare-ups: trim obvious fat from meat first, drain high fat marinades, have a spray bottle of water.

However you celebrate the 4th of July make it a fun and healthy holiday.  Enjoy your favorite traditions and maybe start some new ones this year.  Happy grilling!

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Jun 16

9 Money Saving Tips in the Kitchen (How to Make Your Food and Money go Further)

Cooking for a family takes a lot of time and planning.  Add to that, it can be expensive to plan and buy food for the whole family.  These tips will help you save money and waste less food in the kitchen.

1. Freeze extra herbs.  Whether cooking for yourself or a big family you may find that you often end up with leftover herbs.  I love a little fresh basil when I am making spaghetti sauce, but you can’t just buy a few leaves at a time.  Several years ago I started chopping up the leftovers and freezing them in spare ice cube trays.  Just a hint, though, you may never want to use these trays for ice again.  Sometimes the flavors from the herbs stick around even after multiple washings.

2. Always use your fresh fruits and vegetables.  I love buying fresh fruits and vegetables, but sometimes things don’t work out as planned and they go bad before I get a chance to use them.  This always feels like such a huge waste of money.  Now I pay very close attention to the fresh items in my house.  First, I always put several fruit on display in the house.  They are more likely to be seen and eaten if in a basket on the counter or table.  Second, I move fruit that isn’t being eaten into the refrigerator.  If we still don’t use it there are a couple options.  Cut up and freeze for a smoothie,  blend up and dry for fruit leather, chop up and freeze for use in muffins, pancakes, or waffles.

3. Homemade freezer waffles.  Instead of buying frozen waffles make a bunch at once and freeze leftovers.  Reheat in the toaster when ready to use.  This can also be done with pancakes.  It is a great way to deal with leftovers, and it is less expensive and healthier than buying the pre-made waffles.

4.  Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season.  Fruits and vegetables usually go on sale when they are in season.  During the beginning of summer strawberries will be on sale, but the rest of the year they will likely cost 4 to 5 times the sale price.  This is the same with peaches, mangos, and more.  Not only does this impact price, but it impacts flavor.  Green beans always look and taste the best when they are in season.  Your family may be more likely to eat the sweet cherries during the summer, then the bitter ones offered during the off season.  Bananas and apples are great fillers as they are usually a very good price all year round.

5. Find creative ways to use leftovers.  During a recent move we ended up eating pizza every day for a week and still had a lot of leftovers.  None of us wanted another bite of pizza, but I didn’t want to waste it.  I found a fun recipe online for pizza lasagna.  I made it up and stuck it in the freezer for a busy day meal.

6. Freeze leftovers.  When there are too many leftovers around and you are worried some may go bad, portion into little meals and freeze on a paper plate with a plastic bag around it.  It makes a great freezer meal later when needed.  In small portions it is easy to reheat in the microwave.

7. Plan ahead.  Make sure you know what you have at home before heading to the store.  This is particularly important for perishable items.  Do a quick inventory check and make sure to buy what you need.  For pantry items that don’t go bad as quickly try to buy when on sale, and buy extra.  The next time you shop you can skip that item, and try to buy it again next time it is on sale.  This saves money and also saves time.  If you do this regularly you will find that you are buying larger quantities of fewer foods.  This saves a lot of time as it is easier to pick up 5 cans of soup then to pick up 5 different items.

8.  Leftovers on the plate.  If you frequently have a lot of leftovers on your kids plate try serving up smaller portions.  It is easy enough to give them more when they ask, but a lot harder to take away extra after their sticky hands have mashed half the food up.  Don’t ever go so far as to not offer foods they don’t like.  It is always beneficial to offer at least a little.

9. Freezer meals.  Making meals ahead of time and freezing is a great way to prepare for life.  Homemade freezer meals cost less and give you control over ingredients.  It is great to have them around the house on really busy days.

 

I love to spend time in the kitchen, but I like to make sure that I am staying on a budget.  I am careful with the food around the house to make sure things don’t go to waste.  I try to make sure to use everything we buy.

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Jun 10

8 Milk Facts You Need to Know

I hear the most interesting things about milk all the time.  I have friends that don’t drink milk for various reason.  I wanted to set the record straight, and provide some information about milk that is both scientifically based AND information that I share with my patients as a Registered Dietitian.  I think milk can be a good part of a healthy well balanced diet and here is why…

 

1. Pasteurization:  Pasteurization Is the process of heating a liquid for a period of time then re-cooling.  This process does not kill all organisms, but it does reduce the number.  It has helped reduce spread of E. coli and Salmonella which can be present in raw milk.

 

2. Hormones:  The hormone bovine somatotropin is naturally found in cows and stimulates milk production.  A synthetic version of this hormone has been created and can be used to increase a cow’s milk production.  The pasteurization process destroys a lot of this hormone.  Once milk has been pasteurized milk from cows with the synthetic version of the milk hormone is the same as milk from cows without it.  In addition our digestive tract breaks down any hormones ingested.  This is why people with diabetes can’t take insulin as a pill.  If insulin was swallowed it would be broken down and would become completely useless.  Insulin is injected so that it can be utilized by the body.  The same process occurs with any natural or synthetic bovine somatotropin that is in milk.

 

3. Lactose intolerance: One interesting fact about lactose intolerance is that often people can tolerate yogurt and cheese.  They contain only small amounts of lactose.  For people that can have yogurt and cheese this is a great way to continue to get foods from the dairy group which are high in protein, calcium, vit D, and more.

 

4. Soy Milk vs Cow’s Milk:  Soy milk is naturally lower in Calcium than cow’s milk, however extra Calcium is often added to soy milk.  Soy milk is a great alternative for those that can’t tolerate other types of milk, however, calcium is better absorbed from cow’s milk.

 

5.  Organic Milk.  Organic milk, also known as raw milk, must follow specific guidelines.  For milk to be classified as organic cow’s must be fed organic feed with no animal or poultry products, no synthetic hormones or antibiotics.  They must be able to pasture during all grazing seasons.  Nutritionally there is no difference between milk and organic milk.  The same amount of protein, carbohydrate, fat, calcium, etc is found in both.

 

6. Milk and Mucus: Milk thickens saliva, but it doesn’t increase mucus production.  There is no reason to decrease milk intake because of asthma or a cold.  It will not aggravate or make is worse.

 

7. Antibiotics in Milk: When antibiotics are used to treat animals there is concern that there will be increased drug resistant bacteria.  I personally am very concerned with all over prescription of antibiotics.  I am concerned that antibiotic use is abused in livestock, pets, and people.  Whether regular or organic, milk is tested regularly for antibiotics and pesticides with very strict standards.

 

8. Good source of Nutrients: Milk is a great source of many essential nutrients: Calcium, Protein, Magnesium, Potassium, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B12, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, and Vitamin D.

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May 15

12 Food Hacks For a Healthy Family (How to Cut Calories Over 60% Without Your Family Noticing)

Feeding a family is a difficult job!  Coming up with a meal idea each night, shopping for the food, and dealing with the spills and complaints about the food.  Add to that trying to feed your family “healthy” food and you make the job just that much harder. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be a challenge!  In fact, your family doesn’t even have to know.

A few years ago Sandi and I went on a hard core low fat diet.  The problem was that we were both sugar and junk food addicts. So we had to think outside the box . . . we weren’t really willing to give up our favorite foods.  While doing this we found several alternatives to some of our favorite snacks that allowed us to indulge and loose weight all at the same time. The best part?  Most of these food hacks don’t cost any more than the “regular” alternative.

So sit back and check out these awesome food hacks that will reduce your fat intake and overall calorie intake without restricting you to salad and lemon cleanse drinks! All of these foods are available at a small neighborhood Wal-Mart within walking distance to our home.

1. Fiber One Fruit Snacks

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This is a pretty new product.  In fact I just noticed it on the shelves a couple weeks ago.  These fruit snacks have 3 grams of fiber per little pack, that’s about 10% of the recommend daily intake  . . . and believe it or not the flavor is actually not that bad at all.  I started taking a pack to work each night and couldn’t really tell any difference in the flavor from regular fruit snacks.  Taz (our 3 year old son) however wanted the “fun fruit snacks” but when he was given these over the others he couldn’t really tell a difference either.

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2. Fat Free Sour Cream

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I love sour cream!  I love it on my burritos (which I eat a lot of – – – read below), it love to add it as a thickener for sauces, as a substitute for oil in cake mixes, and as a dip.  Mix some of this fat free sour cream with some baked tortilla chips (or fat free potatoe chips – – watch out for the olestra) and you have an awesome snack. Wal-Mart also makes a generic fat free sour cream that is actually really good.  Kroger makes one too, but it is pretty liquidy and I would not suggest it, it just wasn’t as good as the Wal-Mart generic.  When you buy the WalMart brand, it is actually no more expensive than the ones with more fat.

 3. Fat Free Cheese

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This is a wonderful product from Kraft.  Sandi and I found this several years ago and started using it more and more.  We never switched to using it exclusively however because it just really doesn’t melt like the fattier cheese.  We do use 2% milk fat cheese for things like enchiladas or lasagna.  One thing we were able to do was to do like 70% regular cheese and 30% fat free cheese on things like that.  This does work great for burritos (told I love burritos) or as a simple topping. Using fat free cheese can really cut out a TON of fat and calories from your diet if you eat half as much cheese as we do!

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4. Egg Whites

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The truth is these are really no more than just egg whites . . . hence the name “100% Egg Whites”.  They do have a little bit of coloring added for color.  These are a fantastic product because eggs are loaded with fat and cholesterol.  These egg whites can be used in direct substitution of eggs.  You could just make these at home by buying a dozen eggs and then just cooking only the egg white, but these little boxes are much more handy. A little box like this would cost about $5 and is equivalent to about a dozen eggs.

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5. Hawaiian Punch – Singles to Go

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So here’s the deal with these little drink mixes. . .I am not a fan of low calorie drinks, I hate the taste of Splenda, and other artificial sweeteners.  These little drink mixes are actually really good and they do not have any sugar in them.  I actually buy them for myself, but they would make an excellent substitute for regular Hawaiian Punch which is loaded with sugars and corn syrup.  For just $1 you get six drink packs.  The flavor is actually really strong too so I usually only mix in half a packet with an entire glass of water.

6. Dr. Pepper Ten

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As you are probably starting to see, I am a huge drink fan.  I don’t drink alcohol, but I am addicted to sodas (this is my biggest struggle with eating healthy).  Dr. Pepper recently came out with Ten calorie sodas .  What they have done is leave a small portion of the corn syrup in there to lessen the “diet flavor”.  While this still isn’t the ideal beverage, it makes a great substitute for a soda junkie like myself.

You can still tell that it isn’t the full flavor soda, but the flavor is much closer to the original.  The A&W and 7Up flavors are actually almost spot on in my opinion.  The flavors that are sold at my local WalMart are Sunkist, Dr Pepper, Canada Dry, 7Up, and A&W.

7. Fat Free Refried Beans

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Once again, I am a big burrito eater!  Refried beans can contain a fair amount of excess fat but many companies make a fat free version.  WalMart makes one, Rosarita makes one, but one that I really like is the Gebhardt brand.  They only cost $0.78 per can and a single can is enough to make enchiladas for our family of four.  You really don’t have to sacrifice very much with flavor when it comes to fat free refried beans.

Another product option for the fat free beans is this one that I found last year and really love.

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The Mexican Rose refried beans are the most authentic beans I have found.  They come in a little bag as dehydrated bean flakes.  You just add a cup or two of water and microwave for like 5 minutes and you have authentic beans.  These beans are the closest to restaurant style beans in my opinion.  Sandi doesn’t like making them as much as I do and they do take a minute longer to make, but I think that the flavor is superior.  They cost a couple buck a bag and each bag is probably two or three cans worth of beans.

8. Fat FREE Hot Dogs – Yeah, I just said that

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When I met Sandi I quickly found out that her favorite food was . . . Hot Dogs!  Yeah, a dietitian who’s favorite food was hot dogs right?  So we tend to have hot dogs in our refrigerator pretty consistently. When we started trying to decrease our fat intake we spent a fair amount of time trying to find a better solution for hot dogs.

Well BallPark makes a fat free turkey hot dog.  They are great!  I don’t think you have to sacrifice any real flavor with these either. I mean how much flavor do hot dogs have in the first place.  This is also a great product to give to your kids.

We throw these in our macaroni and cheese or just give them to the kids as a meal or snack.  A great meal is:

  • Fat free hotdogs
  • Fat free chili
  • Fat free cheese

Voila, you have a fat free chili dog!  Can’t beat that.

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9. Turkey Breast

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Okay so maybe this one isn’t revolutionary, but using turkey breast instead of other meats can really reduce saturated fat and overall fat intake significantly.  Often you can even find fat free turkey.

10. Fat Free Cream Cheese

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WalMart makes a fat free cream cheese that is actually cheaper than other cream cheese brands.  We use this when making frosting, dips, and basically for anything you would make with regular cream cheese.  You can throw this in with some fat free cottage cheese and fat free mozzarella cheese to make a significantly reduced fat lasagna that is still cheese and creamy.

If you mix this with some sugar and vanilla it will make a frosting for cupcakes or cake.  It isn’t nearly as creamy and light and a frosting made with Crisco, but it works if you are really just trying to cut out the fat.  You really have to play around with consistency to get it just right with frosting.

11. 96% Lean 4% Fat Meat

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So this is an obvious choice.  It will cost you a bit more at the register, but buying the lean meat drastically reduces your saturated fat intake over regular meat.  Without even looking at the packaging you can tell how lean a meat is by how red it is.  Fatter meats will look pink while lean meat will appear red.  The 4% fat meat has just 1.5 grams of saturated fat.  This meat can be used in direct substitution for fatter meats without sacrificing on flavor.

12. Betty Crocker Fudge Brownies

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So we saved the best for last.  These brownies by Betty Crocker are not marketed as low fat or healthy or anything. In fact they contain less fat than the low fat Betty Crocker brownies. The Betty Crocker Fudge Brownies contain just 1 gram of TOTAL fat per serving and 0 saturated fat (before mixing)

Check out the screenshot below from the WalMart website with the nutrition facts:

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Needless to say, these little guys have become a staple dessert in our home.  You can also buy some fat free ice cream or frozen yogurt to add to the top to complete the ensemble or just eat the brownies as is for a surprisingly low fat dessert.

You can make these lower fat when mixing by using egg whites and apple sauce instead of whole eggs and oil.  Just mix in equal parts of egg whites and apple sauce instead of the eggs and oil respectively.

What Nutrition Hacks Do You Have?

Do you have some nutrition tips to avoid fat and “trick” your family into eating healthier?  Share them below in the comments for everyone to share.

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