Eating Well: On a Low Fat Diet - #119

BURT WOLF: Eating well on a low-fat diet -- it's more important for good health than ever before. We'll find out what fat is all about and how we can cook up low-fat versions of some of our favorite dishes. We'll get the technique for Dinah Shore's pizza. We'll tour New York's Rainbow Room and discover a chocolate cake with no cholesterol. Join me, Burt Wolf Eating Well on a Low-fat Diet.

BURT WOLF: The single biggest problem we have in America with food and good health is fat. In 1988 the Surgeon General of the United States declared war on high-fat diets. He recommended that we all reduce the amount of fat that we eat, especially saturated fat. A series of scientific studies clearly indicated the relationship between high-fat diets and illness and chronic conditions that lead to disease. Fat-linked diseases include obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, high blood cholesterol and cancer. This is serious stuff but fortunately it's only a problem of quantity. In small amounts, fats are fine. Fat plays an essential role in our body functions. We use fat to store energy and to circulate the important fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat is also the magic carpet on which flavor travels. Without fat many of our foods would not taste as good as they do. The key to understanding the relationship with fat to good health lies in recognizing the different types of fat, how they work and what amounts are safe. Let's take a look at the different kinds of fat. Saturated fat is the most dangerous, and most of it comes from animal foods and products made from animals. Meat, milk, milk products, egg yolks. In addition, there are three sources of saturated fat that are non- animal: coconut, palm oil and palm kernel oil. These are all called the tropical oils. We should all try to limit our intake of saturated fats. No more than 10% of our daily calories should come from those saturated fats. It's amazing when you realize that it’s saturated fat in a diet that does more to raise cholesterol levels than the actual cholesterol that you eat. The rest of the fat in our daily diets should come from mono-unsaturated fats like olive oil or soybean oil and from poly-unsaturated fats, which are the best. You find them in vegetable oils like corn, safflower and canola oil. Moving to a low-fat diet doesn't take all the fun out of eating. What we want to do is make substitutions. Substitutions that are satisfying. I wouldn't give up a hot fudge sundae for a bowl of bran but I would trade in a hot fudge sundae for a bowl of frozen yogurt covered with chocolate syrup. That substitution is quite satisfying for me and I save hundreds of calories from fat. Its a kind of sacrifice a guy like me can make. Also, there are a number of books that list the foods that are commonly eaten in the United States and the fat content of each of those foods. You get one of these, you check on the foods that you like and that you eat often, you see what the fat content is, and if its a high-fat food you find the satisfying or almost satisfying substitution that's low in fat. What I'm gonna do now is I'm gonna eat my little substitution before it melts.

Researchers are telling us that oatmeal can lower our cholesterol levels. Oatmeal products contain a form of soluble fiber. When the fiber gets inside you, it forms a gel. As the gel moves through your body, it appears to affect your cholesterol. Research in Northwestern University indicates that two ounces of oatmeal each day reduces cholesterol levels by almost 5%. Sometimes I think if I increase the oat content of my diet any more, I will turn into a horse. Be that as it may, one of my favorite ways of keeping the oatbran in my diet, is with a recipe for high-fiber no-cholesterol oatmeal waffles or pancakes. Start by mixing together half-cup amounts of whole wheat flour, white flour, cornmeal and oatmeal. Mix that with a tablespoon of baking powder, two cups of buttermilk, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, two egg whites that have been beaten. Pour that into a lightly-oiled waffle iron and bake until done. This recipe is packed with fiber, low in fat and virtually free of cholesterol. Whole eggs with their yolks normally found in waffle recipes have been taken out and egg whites substituted. The buttermilk helps too, since its made from skim milk. What you eat for good health is often in the form of a recipe. But it can also be an event.

In 1938, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the National Foundation For Infantile Paralysis. The organization quickly became known as the March Of Dimes. And for over 50 years it has been raising money to protect the health of people all over the world. Much of the fundraising takes place at gourmet galas where famous folks from movies, theater and sports cook in competition. Tony Randall is entering his pan- fried egg plant. Geoffrey Holder has pinned his hopes on an orange-flavored chicken. But the insiders are picking Dinah Shore and her power- packed pizza. Dinah's been famous in the world of entertainment for more than half a century, and for most people she's thought of in terms of her singing career. Well, somewhere along the way while she was singing for her supper, she also learned to cook. And some of her best cooking takes place while she's helping to raise money for The March of Dimes.

DINAH SHORE: My interest in cooking at the gourmet gala is not only because I adore to, but because I'm em.....proud of my cooking and the recipe that I'm doing tonight, eh, I didn't understand they had to be regional so mine is eh, generic regional.


DINAH SHORE: It's a California, Tennessee, Santa Fe, Mexican style (LAUGHTER) chicken pizza.


BURT WOLF: Dinah starts with a standard bread dough, which is kneaded until it’s smooth and silky. At which point its pressed out onto a ceramic tile disc. Former Governor Carey of New York State is giving Dinah a hand. Next a layer of tomato sauce. The key to keeping the sauce low-fat is to reduce the oil in the recipe to about a third of the amount that's usually recommended. Also use a poly-unsaturated oil like canola or safflower. The toppings are black olives, slices of green peppers, thin strips of sauteed boneless, skinless chicken breast. A few mushrooms and some capers. There's an old song called Someone's in the Kitchen with Dinah - hey, now I know why.

Time for a fat-free holiday in London and proof that the British have not chickened out when it comes to good food for good health. Halfway around the world to Buckingham Palace. For hundreds of years this Palace has been the home of the Kings and Queens of Great Britain. And for many of those centuries it was a Britain so great that it ruled the seas. From these shores on the river Thames, the British sent out their military and merchant fleets to control their colonies and bring the riches that made all that imperialism worth the trouble. And along with the treasures, came the tastes of those faraway lands. You can still see these influences throughout the restaurants of London. This is the Halcyon Hotel. A small and very elegant establishment in a quiet part of town called Holland Park. It was recently constructed inside two handsome private homes. Each of the hotel's 44 suites has a unique style of decoration. The rooms give you the feeling that some very rich friends have invited you to spend a few days in their London home. I wish I had friends like that. Its restaurant has become well- known for a series of healthful dishes that are as good for you as they are good-tasting. Here's their low-fat recipe for chicken and yogurt. A marinade is made from low-fat yogurt, a little ginger, cardamom, coriander, mint and lemon juice. Chicken breasts with the skin removed are soaked in this marinade overnight and they're given a coating and grilled on each side for about 4 minutes or until they're done.

When using a skinless boneless chicken breast, you're using about the healthiest form of chicken you can find. Low-fat, low cholesterol. When you're picking out your yogurt, make sure you get a low-fat variety of that too.

The sauce is made by mixing together some minced cucumber, mint, garlic, pepper and cup of low-fat yogurt. A few tablespoons of the sauce goes onto an individual serving plate. A few sauteed cherry tomatoes as garnish, the grilled chicken breasts go onto the sauce and the dish is ready to serve. Low-fat, low cholesterol, good- looking and great-tasting. We may have Scotland Yard on our trail for divulging that one.

Food does for your body what fuel does for a car. Or wood for a stove. It keeps the system running. When your fuel is fully burned, you're in good shape. When your fuel is not burned properly you could be in for trouble. Dr. Robert Levy is a specialist studying the problems we have with fat and he explains what we're up against.

DR. ROBERT LEVY: Well fat is, is one of the major food substances. We get more calories eh, for every gram of fat we eat than for the protein and carbohydrate, the two other major calories sources... and so fat is a good way to eh, to get the calories we need for, for energy but we've learned that eh, you might say the American way of life, perhaps the American way of dying is that we eh, we consume too much fat.

BURT WOLF: So a little fat is OK. We burn it up. But excess fat can get stored in dangerous places. And that's why doctors and members of the American Dietetic Association recommend that our fat calories be limited to 30% of our total calories. Little tricky to tell how many calories of fat there are in a packaged food. For some reason they're listed in grams. These cookies have about 3 grams of fat per cookie. There are 9 calories in a gram. So you do 3 times 9 and you find out that there are 27 calories of fat in each of these cookies. Then you compare that to the 40 total calories in each cookie and you see that almost 70% of the calories in this cookie come from fat. And yet the manufacturer calls it “light” and “healthy.” These are about as light as the Rock of Gibraltar. I never understood this system of grams... it does not make my life easier. I can only assume it was designed by the same nitwit mentality that designed our income tax forms. But now let's look at some great design. (MUSIC) Rockefeller Center. It's an imposing group of skyscrapers located in the heart of midtown Manhattan. 22 acres of the most valuable land on the globe. John D. Rockefeller Jr. originally put the property together. He called it a city within a city. Each day a quarter of a million people come to Rockefeller Center... to work... to shop... to play tourist and to eat. And some of the best of that eating takes place on the 64th and 65th floors of the center building in the world famous Rainbow Room.

When it opened in 1934 it was the meeting place for elegant cafe society. Today, after a full reconstruction, it's a major attraction for both New Yorkers and visitors. There are absolutely wonderful views of the city and the beauty inside is equally amazing. A detailed refurbishing takes you through millions of dollars of artistry with the kind of detail and construction that shows you what it was like in the old days. Fabulous stuff and fabulous food too.

This fish is going to be cooked in a little paper bag. It's a technique that the French call en papillote and it's really good because it holds in the food's natural juices and nutrients. Chef, Andre Renee starts by cutting out a heart shaped piece of parchment paper...then four ounces of watercress go on half of that parchment. If watercress is unavailable -- fresh spinach will do just fine. Top that with a three to six ounce piece of sea bass fillet or a similar white-fleshed fish. A little fresh pepper, next a few slices of tomato. A layer of mushrooms, a little chopped fresh ginger, a squeeze of lime juice and a few thin slices of lime. Fold the paper over to make a bag and seal the edges all around. If you fold the edges about an inch at a time, you'll end up with a bag that's just about airtight for cooking. Place the little package on a baking sheet and bake on the middle rack of a preheated 375 degree oven..for about 12 minutes. When you take the bag out of the oven, slit the package along the top and the sides. Carefully slide the contents onto a plate, including the juice, and you're ready to serve. It's a perfect example of good food for good health. And now, the sweet sounds of Betty Buckley.

Betty Buckley is no stranger to the limelight. I always enjoyed her in the television hit “Eight is Enough” and her stellar performance in the Broadway mega-musical “Cats.” I caught up with her backstage at the Rainbow Room.

BETTY BUCKLEY: Singing, you know, is your whole body and have to be very, very strong. When I'm really...doing a Broadway show or something, my real, real power, my singing comes from stomach, hips and legs. Sometimes I'll take a note literally and grab it out of the floor with my toes. (LAUGHS) It's really funny.

BURT WOLF: Are there any foods that you feel contribute to your appearance?

BETTY BUCKLEY: Well vegetables, when I forget to eat my steamed vegetables I don't, I don't eh, feel as good, I don't look as good and eh...vegetables make your skin shine you know, did you know that? They do. If you leave them out of your diet, then you look kind of, you have a dull quality. And your skin, my skin is, is better when I eat more vegetables.

BURT WOLF: What are your favorite foods?

BETTY BUCKLEY: Pineapple and strawberries and there are some other exotic food... chocolate.

BURT WOLF: Aah yes. Chocolate could be very helpful.

BETTY BUCKLEY: This cheers me enormously.

BURT WOLF: Chocolate in general?

BETTY BUCKLEY: Chocolate in general (LAUGHS) yeah, but chocolate and fruit is like, you know like, hot fudge chocolate? Chocolate you an instantaneous good feeling you know.....

BURT WOLF: Well Betty is going to feel especially good after this. The Rainbow Room's own recipe for a low-fat no cholesterol light chocolate cake. No way, you say, how can a chocolate cake be light? Well, this cake is made with whipped egg whites, no egg yolks and no flour. Watch this. Oven goes to 350 degrees fahrenheit. 6 egg whites are whipped until stiff. Egg whites are a wonderful ingredient. High in protein, low in fat, they are the part of the egg that has no cholesterol. Into a second bowl, pour in one cup of sugar and a half cup of unsweetened cocoa powder. Using the cocoa powder is a really good idea. You get the chocolate flavor but you don't get the saturated fats that you would find in a chocolate bar. Next 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil, 2 more egg whites and a cup of chopped nuts. That mixture gets stirred together and the beaten egg whites are folded in. The batter is poured into a greased and floured pan and into the oven for 35 minutes. Each serving is garnished with a slice of strawberry and a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

Now let's travel somewhere over the rainbow, across the United States in fact, to the Pacific Northwest for some fabulous low-fat foods. There's an old saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Wonder why? Well for one thing, a recent set of scientific studies indicate that a single serving of fresh fruit every day can reduce your risk of stroke by up to 40%. Also, apples are high in a type of fiber called pectin. And pectin can reduce your risk of heart disease. Whenever I think of apples I think of Oregon's magnificent Columbia Gorge.

Oregon. In the Pacific Northwest. It's an unspoiled paradise right here in the States. Hundreds of miles of shoreline make it a fisherman's dream, with some of the finest salmon catches in the world. Snow covered mountains give rise to rivers and streams that wind their way through pristine forests. When it comes to natural beauty, Oregon's the place. This is the Columbia Gorge Hotel. Built in 1921, it remains one of America's finest country inns. It sits on a cliff overlooking a spectacular landscape and it keeps up 100 year old gastronomic custom. The early pioneers who settled in this part of the country had a life filled with heavy work. The time pressure of the day pretty much did away with the lunch break. Breakfast became the most important meal, and that tradition lives on. If you watch the people eat breakfast around here, you get the feeling that they're on their way to a day on the trail. Their breakfast consists of fruits... fritters... oatmeal... biscuits with honey... eggs, smoked pork chops, bacon, sausages, potatoes, pancakes and their famous baked apple. And that is not a choice. You get it all. Unless you're planning a workday that burns up about 10,000 calories or you're going to make this your meal of the month, limit yourself to tasting. There is, however, one recipe that I definitely want. It's the baked apple. Start by mixing together three quarters of a cup of light brown sugar...which by the way is just plain white sugar with a little bit of molasses added in for color. A teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a quarter teaspoon of ground nutmeg. Cinnamon and nutmeg are two of the sweetening spices. They increase the sweet flavor of the sugar without adding any calories. Next, a third of a cup of raisins, and a blast from a childhood past, a third of a cup of cinnamon red hot candies. Put that mixture aside for a minute while you cut the core out of 6 apples but don't peel them. Lightly oil a baking pan, stuff the center of the apples with the sugar mixture. Set the apples in the pan and pour a little maple syrup on top of each of the apples. Then into a preheated 350 degree fahrenheit oven for about forty minutes or until the apples are baked through and tender. If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, this is definitely a great way to take the apple.

And as long as we're in Oregon, let's head over to Portland's fabulous Heathman Hotel. When the Heathman first opened in 1927, local newspapers welcomed the Italian renaissance style building as the best spot in town. Today, after a 16 million dollar restoration, the grand old Heathman Hotel has been reborn and it's better than ever. The first-floor rooms are filled with antique furniture and teak panelling of Australian eucalyptus. An extensive collection of original art hangs throughout the public spaces as well as the guest rooms. The graphics in the dining room are part of a series by Andy Warhol called “Endangered Species.” One of the endangered species not found in the graphics is the great chef who works in the hotel. Years ago all the best chefs worked in hotel kitchens. Today a distinguished chef in a hotel is harder to find than an American eagle. Fortunately the Heathman Hotel has a splendid chef and he's in his natural habitat.

CHEF: I really enjoy cooking in the Northwest. It's a great place....all of the North American and Europe cooking in different places em...there's nothing like the Northwest, the Pacific Northwest offers, you know an amazing bounty of good things.

BURT WOLF: So let's take some of those good things and make them into a low-fat potato and red pepper soup. Start by peeling 6 russet potatoes, slice them into half-inch discs and submerge them in boiling water. Let them simmer in the water for at least 20 minutes until they are tender. While the potatoes are cooking, take 3 red bell peppers, dip them into a little olive oil and roast them under your broiler. Keep them about 4 inches away from the heat source and rotate them every minute until all of the skin is blistered. Remove the peppers from the heat, let ‘em cool, cut out the cores, slice ‘em in half, pick out the ribs and most of the seeds. Then slice them into quarters and remove the skins. Saute the peppers in an ounce of olive oil, adding 2 tablespoons of minced garlic, 2 cups of chopped onions, 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme and one minced jalapeno pepper. Cook that together for 5 minutes, then drain the potatoes and add them to the saute pan. Let that heat through for a minute, then put everything into the food processor. Pour in 3 cups of chicken stock and process until all of the ingredients are smooth. Add a little fresh pepper and you're ready to serve, either hot or cold.

This is the town of Jacksonville, Oregon. During the 1850s, gold was discovered nearby and the joint began to jump. Prospectors came in from all over the world seeking wealth beyond their wildest dreams. They go up into the mountains and use their pans to separate the gold from the earth and they come into town and the local cooks would use their pans to separate the gold from the miners. While those guys were up in the mountains looking for gold they didn't spend much time doing any good cooking but they were perfectly willing to spend some of their gold on good food when the got to Jacksonville. These days the good cooking takes place at the Jacksonville Inn and chef Diane Menzies is in charge of the recipe for chicken with a peach sauce. Four sliced peaches go into a saute pan, a cup of white wine, teaspoon of cinnamon, eighth of a cup of sugar. That cooks down. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are lightly floured, dipped into an egg wash, coated with chopped hazelnuts. If you don't have hazelnuts you can use walnuts or almonds ground up; just make sure whatever your favorite nut is, it's unsalted. Sauteed, then onto a plate, peach sauce on top, you're ready to serve. Finally let's get the last word on fat and cholesterol from a comedy troupe in Washington D.C. A town filled with budgetary fat...

SINGER: So please join me in welcoming the President and Mrs. Bush...

BURT WOLF: They first performed at a Christmas party in 1981. A group of present and former Congressional staffers poking fun at current events. Today they are known as the Capitol Steps and they are acknowledged as the stars of the Washington comedy scene, excluding the Government, of course. They figured if Ronald Reagan could go from acting to politics, they could go from politics to acting.

SINGER: We're some members of the US House of Repre-hensatives.....

BURT WOLF: And our national food fads are regular targets for their satire....

SINGER: Back in the middle ages, lots of people gathered in great halls... for great feasts of red meat. Today, 500 years later... they're all... dead.

SINGER 2: (SINGING) What’s there?

A tasty lunch I see,

But as for me, a McD.L.T

For me, my life is but a bowl of cherries,

Granola flakes, brings stomach aches.

Do you see, I'd rather eat

What comes from dairies,

The chocolate shakes

And layer cakes.

Give me cheddar cheese and scrambled eggs,

French fries, chili dogs and chicken legs.

My doctor says these dishes all Contain too much......

SINGER 3: Cholesterol!

SINGER 2: Everything we like

Will fill us with cholesterol....

SINGER 3: I’ll tell what kind of

Poison on your shelf is

You've had enough

Of greasy stuff

Or else you're gonna end up just like Elvis,

Or Mama Cass

That hefty lass.

SINGER 2: Tune in to Richard Simmons

Beat our brains out

Reduce your thighs

Through “Jazzercise”

SINGER 3: Get thin and eat some bran

To clean your veins out

This plankton dish

Is quite delish...

ALL: Watch out, watch out

Limit your amount

Everything you eat

You've got to count


You've gone too far


Like Roseanne Barr

I’ll eat what I want,

And like Roseanne

You'll be a star.


BURT WOLF: So reducing the fat in your diet is really no big deal. You just have to pay a little attention and you have to do that with most things in life anyway. Let me recap the things you should be thinking about to keep you on the right track.

Know the fat content of the foods you eat, especially those you eat often. Choose lean meat, fish and poultry and remove all the visible fat and skin before or after you cook the food. Limit your intake of animal foods or foods from animals. Use low-fat cooking techniques. Boiling, grilling, roasting and steaming. Avoid deep-fat frying. Choose low-fat versions of the foods you enjoy. When you're picking out an oil or a fat, start with poly-unsaturated or mono-unsaturated. Last and certainly least preferable is saturated.

That's Eating Well On A Low-Fat Diet. Please join us next time as we travel around the world looking for things that taste good... and make it easier to eat well. I'm Burt Wolf.