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TOPS group members learn how to reduce fat in cooking

June 06, 2000|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

The smells of grilling beef, chicken and bison heightened appetites in the audience as Debbie French and Betty Jones talked about cutting harmful fats from food during a recent meeting of their Taking Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) support group in Hagerstown.

cont. from lifestyle

The grease dripping off the meats was poured into clear cups as a visual aid to show the difference in ground meat made from different cuts of beef and bison and in chicken cooked with and without skin.

Using four George Foreman grilling machines, they cooked 6-ounce patties of ground beef with 30-percent, 27-percent and 10-percent fat contents and bison, with a 3-percent fat content, then compared the amount of fat collected from the drip pans.

The marked difference in fat collected - corresponding roughly with the fat percentages - prompted a few wows from audience members.

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French and Jones then grilled two chicken breasts, one with skin and the other with the skin removed. There were even more wows when the cups with chicken fat were held up, showing that the breast with skin produced more than twice the fat of the skinless breast.

TOPS members take turns making presentations on different health and dieting topics during the weekly group meetings.

While the meat grilled, French and Jones tutored fellow members about fat and its place in a healthful diet. All fat isn't the same, they explained.

Saturated fat, the predominant type dripping off the grilling meats, is the kind that plugs your arteries and raises your "bad" cholesterol level, Jones said.

It should be avoided, she said.

On the other hand, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats don't raise your "bad" cholesterol and can be consumed in moderation, Jones said.

Fish oils can help raise your "good" cholesterol level, she said, noting she tries to eat fish at least once a week.

Audience members were quizzed on their fat-related knowledge:

* Which is leaner, filet mignon or prime rib? (filet mignon, with less than 9 grams of fat in 3 ounces compared to 31 grams in the same amount of prime rib)

* By what percentage does removing the skin from a chicken breast reduce fat? (more than half)

* Does it make a difference if you remove the chicken skin before or after cooking? (no)

TOPS member John McPherson of Waynesboro, Pa., was pleased to learn the skin doesn't have to be removed before cooking.

McPherson, 43, said he thinks chicken stays moist when it's cooked with the skin on.

He said he learned something else from the presentation.

"I was really surprised with the lack of fat in bison," said McPherson, who said the bison he has eaten tasted like beef.

Member Norma Itnyre of Boonsboro said she has tried to cut the fat in her diet by skinning and trimming her meats and letting soups and stews gel so she can skim off the fat.

Itnyre, 75, said she doesn't expect miracles due to her change in diet. She just doesn't want to gain any more weight.

French said she got the idea for her presentation on fat after she began using her George Foreman grilling machine and realized how much fat she'd been getting along with her meats before switching to the new cooking method.

"Normally, you fry it in a pan and eat that grease, which is the worst thing you can do," said French, who joined TOPS about six months ago and credits the grill with helping her cut the fat in her diet and lose weight.

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