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Cut the fat—Keep the taste

Reducing the fat in your diet sounds like a chore, but there are lots of simple and fairly painless ways to do so. And you’ll find the effort pays off.

Regardless of your age or the condition of your coronary arteries, reducing fat intake can help stop or prevent atherosclerosis (arteries blocked by fatty deposits), which can lead to heart attack and stroke. High-fat diets also have been linked to other diseases, including cancer.

If you’re watching your fat intake, the best food choices include fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods, like pasta, bread, cereal and rice. The worst fat offenders include bacon, sausage, ice cream and butter.

But fats can also sneak up on you: The toppings or sauces we add can turn healthy foods into fatty foods. One example is a salad loaded with vegetables … and ham, cheese and creamy dressing. Another is vegetables, fish or pasta dripping with butter or a cream sauce.

Outwit sneaky fats by substituting a healthy choice for the high-fat part of your favorite dishes. For example, instead of ham and cheese in your salad, use white-meat turkey and a low-fat cheese. Instead of butter on your potato, try a plain yogurt sauce flavored with spices. Instead of a cream sauce on your pasta, try a tomato sauce or fresh lemon juice flavored with herbs.

The way we cook foods can also add unnecessary fat. Never deep fry, and avoid pan frying. If you sauté, use a small amount of vegetable oil. Cook meat by baking, broiling or roasting.

Ten years ago, trimming fat from the diet was difficult. These days it’s easier because the food industry offers low-fat or nonfat substitutes for almost everything we eat. So when it comes to fat, get smart. Read food labels, choose low-fat alternatives, avoid adding fat when cooking—and watch your risk of fat-linked diseases go down.