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In India, we're still having a fling with chicken and feeling virtuous about it, while red meat continues to be in the doghouse — considered high in fat and cholesterol and therefore hard on the conscience and fatal for the hips. But in America and Europe, they're returning to red meat, not with a vengeance but with selectivity and health savvy. )The reason: correctly chosen and carefully prepared for the dining table, many cuts of red meat can more than hold their own against their henhouse rival.

Here's how you can contour cuts of red meat to make them as light as chicken:

When buying, select the lean cuts — eye of round, top round, top sirloin, round tip, top loin, tenderloin, flank steak, T-bone (That's right — any name tagged with 'round' or 'loin'; they come from the lean, muscular parts of the animal.)

When buying pork, the only really skinny cut is tenderloin.

If 'round' or ‘loin’ are Greek to you and your butcher, eyeball the colour of the meat — pick the meat with the reddest appearance and the least fat in the muscle.

Limit your intake of processed meats such as sausages and luncheon meats. They are usually high in both, fat and sodium.

It's hard to tell how much fat there is in mince. Even mince which looks quite red can be very fatty. But you can remove most of the fat:

(i)     Cover the mince with water and boil for about 5 minutes.

(ii)     Remove the mince from the heat and let it stand for a minute or two. The fat will float to the surface.

(iii)     You can now pour off most of the fat and cook the mince immediately in the usual way.

While preparing meat, trim visible fat from the outside and in the seams before you cook it.

Marinate in lime juice, wine and vinegar, or in non-fat curd. (Refrigerate at least 2 hours, up to 24 hours).

Baste meats with broth, tomato juice or fruit juice, instead of with fatty drippings.

Use buttermilk instead of butter to prepare a gravy for, say, beef stroganoff.

Try using less meat in a dish, and bulking it up instead with beans or vegetables.

Marry a serving of steak with a side-bar of sauteed vegetables, rather than French fries.

Let a meat gravy dish stand for a few minutes after it's cooked so that the fat floats to the top; then spoon it off.

Even better, refrigerate the dish to congeal the fat, then skim it off. (You can thicken the gravy with flour if you add a little at a time).

Poultry

Poultry skin is almost pure fat, mostly saturated. Chicken eaten with the skin can be as high in fat as fatty cuts of beef. By removing skin from chicken and trimming all visible fat, you'll

get about half the fat.

There's some evidence that the chicken meat won't absorb fat from the skin during cooking. But remove the skin before eating; and don't add the pan juices to the dish.

The dark meat of chicken is about twice as high in fat as the light meat. Chicken breast is the leanest part of the chicken.

But if you fry chicken to a crunch or make it sopping in a cream sauce, you'll get in more calories and more fat than you would from roasted pork tenderloin. It's what you do with the chicken, lean and skinless as it may be, that makes the vital difference.

Buffalo wings are prepared from the fattiest part of the chicken, the wings, which are fried, then dunked in a cheese dressing.

Except for deep-frying, other methods of cooking chicken are good low-fat approaches — roasting, baking, poaching, grilling (even stir-trying if minimal fat is used). Of all the methods, roasting a whole bird at room temperature melts away the most fat. Use a roasting rack so that the fat can drip into a tray and be discarded.

Fish

Grill, steam or bake fish rather than having it deep-fried in batter.

Similarly, avoid breading fish before frying. The crumbs tend to soak up the cooking oil like a sponge.

If you're buying tinned fish, pick the one packed in water rather than in oil. (But discard the water: it's high in sodium).

Use lemon instead of tartar sauce; avoid creamy and buttery sauces.

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