Eating low-cholesterol foods is just one part of the equation

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By Norm Harding, Reporter

Most of us these days are trying to watch our weight and eat a healthier diet. When you walk down the aisles at your favorite grocery store, you notice products labeled “no cholesterol” or “low cholesterol.” What does this mean?
In some respects, it is a marketing gimmick. Stores could put a sign above the entire produce section that says “cholesterol-free,” since cholesterol is only found in products that originate from animals. Plant-based products have no cholesterol.
It’s important to remember that eating low-cholesterol foods is just one part of the healthy living equation. Saturated fat actually increases blood cholesterol more than cholesterol itself, and food with trans-fatty acids (trans fat) can also increase blood cholesterol.
Although eating low-cholesterol foods is important, we also need to look for foods that are low in saturated fat and trans fat.

Cholesterol-free Foods
Fruits and vegetables are low in saturated fat and total fat, and have no cholesterol. They are great substitutes for foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Breads, cereals, rice, pasta, and other grains, and dry beans and peas are generally high in starch and fiber and low in saturated fat and calories. They also have no dietary cholesterol, except for some products that may be made with high-fat, high-cholesterol milk, butter and eggs. Check the labels.

Healthier Caesar Salad
Traditional Caesar dressing has about 160 calories and 16 grams of fat per serving. This version has less than 20 calories and virtually no fat.
2 tsps. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tsps. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. minced garlic
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup fat-free mayonnaise dressing
8 cups romaine lettuce, torn not chopped
1/2 cup fat-free croutons
Shaved Parmesan cheese
In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and garlic. Whisk in mayonnaise. In a large salad bowl, toss lettuce with dressing; add ground black pepper, to taste. Divide among serving plates. Top each with croutons and shaved cheese. Makes 4-6 servings.

Easy Red Beans and Rice
This is an easy and delicious take on a Louisiana classic that you can prepare and cook in 40 minutes. Use turkey kielbasa to cut down on the fat, but not the flavor.
2 cups water
1 cup uncooked rice (your choice)
1 (16 oz.) pkg. turkey kielbasa, cut diagonally into 1/4-inch slices
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 clove chopped garlic
2 (15 oz.) cans canned kidney beans, drained
1 (16 oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add rice and stir. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. In a large skillet over low heat, cook sausage for 5 minutes. Stir in onion, green pepper and garlic; saute until tender. Pour in beans and tomatoes with juice. Season with oregano, salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Serve over rice. Makes 8 servings.

Bahamian Baked Tilapia
This recipe is great for tilapia fillets, but you can also use it with grouper. It’s both healthy and flavorful. Serve it with rice and coleslaw to complete the meal.
4 (4 oz.) tilapia fillets
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 tomato, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
Arrange the tilapia on a plate. Drizzle the lime juice over the fillets and season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a baking dish. Lay the fillets in the baking dish in a single layer. Arrange the tomato slices, onion slices and bell pepper slices atop the fillets; cover with aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven until the fish flakes easily, about 1 hour. Makes 4 servings.

Asian Orange Chicken
Enjoy delicious citrus chicken marinated in lemon and orange juice with brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. It’s terrific served with rice.
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt and pepper
3 Tbsps. olive oil
1-1/2 cups water
2 Tbsps. orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2-1/2 Tbsps. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. grated orange zest
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsps. chopped green onion
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
3 Tbsps. cornstarch
2 Tbsps. water
Pour water, orange juice, lemon juice, rice vinegar and soy sauce into a saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir in the orange zest, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, chopped onion and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and cool 10 to 15 minutes.
Place the chicken pieces into a resealable plastic bag. When contents of saucepan have cooled, pour 1 cup of sauce into bag; reserve the remaining sauce. Seal the bag, and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
In another resealable plastic bag, mix the flour, salt and pepper. Add the marinated chicken pieces, seal the bag, and shake to coat.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place chicken into the skillet, and brown on both sides. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels, and cover with aluminum foil. Wipe out the skillet, and add the sauce. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Mix together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water; stir into the sauce. Reduce heat to medium-low; add the chicken pieces, and simmer, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes 4 servings.

Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, email him at nharding@brunswickbeacon.com.