Quick-fix recipes reduce calories mostly by cutting fat since, as we've been told 10 million times, fat contains 9 calories per gram while carbohydrates and protein has 4 calories per gram. Reduce the fat gets you down quicker to a specific calorie mark.
The easy way out can work for a specific meal, but doesn't really help you try and be smarter about reducing fat over the long haul.
I noticed this as I saw a family from Oklahoma City take on the mayor's challenge of eating better. The recipe on the Web site called for fat-free mayonnaise. I groaned audibly at the TV even though I was the only one in the room. This was a family in need of nutrition information.
Fat-free can be an unsettling term if you are relying on those products to improve your way to eating better. When food companies take things out, other things go in.
More often, sugar or sweet replaces fat in fat-free products so the slight savings in calories aren't worth the hassle. Fat-free mayonnaise shouldn't even be allowed to be called mayonnaise, since mayonnaise, by definition, contains fat.
Fat-free ice cream is another misnomer. Cream has fat; ice cream has fat. Fat-free ice cream isn't ice cream.
There are a few dairy-only exceptions — fat-free milk, yogurt, sour cream, cheese — as long as nothing is added to replace the fat, you should be in good shape.
As for reduced fat, this would depend on what is added to replace the fat. If you find a potentially appealing reduced-fat product, look at the label of the regular version side-by-side with the reduced fat version. Chances are if you use less of the regular version, you'll do just fine.
Then there is the need for fat so that fat-soluble vegetables can keep their health benefits. Even if you like the taste of vegetables, you want the vitamins.
The recent study from Purdue University shows that carotenoid levels are higher with dressings made from canola oil as opposed to butter or vegetable oil.
Just because a product is reduced-fat or fat-free, that is not a license to go nuts (except with nuts, which have fat). Learn from those who stuffed their face with fat-free Snackwells.
Fat is supposed to equal flavor. So don't eat fat unless it adds to your enjoyment. Eat a decent amount of good fats and a moderate amount of bad fats. No need to buy "reduced" products. Enjoy the real stuff in a reasonable fashion.