Healthy Cook: Dad’s special dinner, made healthier

Here we go again. It’s Father’s day.

A tie he won’t wear?

A fishing lure he probably won’t have time to use?

A 6-pack of imported beer?

Getting something for Dad is tough enough, but the more Father’s days under his belt combined with the number of children for which he is father too (who will also be presenting him with a gift) makes it even tougher.

What is dad’s favorite food? A thick, juicy steak marbled inside and rimmed with tasty fat outside? A rack of saucy spare ribs? A mile-high burger with juices that run onto the plate? Do Dad a favor and make his favorite meal with a difference— make it healthy, and just as tasty as he likes.

You can’t do much about the fat running through the steak, but you can buy a leaner cut of meat. Try a sirloin or eye of chuck. Get out the bottle of meat tenderizer and a couple of forks. Sprinkle the tenderizer on the wet meat and play a drum solo on the meat with the forks so the tenderizer gets into the fibers. Now put on his favorite spices and sear that sucker over high heat to keep the juices in.

It’s hard to do much to make pork spare ribs healthy. They can be parboiled before going on the grill to get some of the fat out and leave the taste in. Just don’t tell Dad that you boiled his ribs. Extra spices will make up for lost flavor from the lack of fat.

Meatloaf is big with dads and it’s simple to make a healthier meatloaf. Buy lean ground beef— seven percent or 10 percent fat— ground round or ground sirloin work well and, again, add extra spices to make up for the fat. Some grated carrot or zucchini add moisture that lean meat lacks and doesn’t change the taste much.

If you do use a juicier grind of beef you can lose some of the fat and calories by draining the loaf before serving. Take a strip of foil long enough to cover the bottom of a loaf pan and come up the sides and fold over a bit. That will be a handle later. Fold it long way into thirds or fourths that will cover the bottom. When the loaf is done, lift it out with the foil and let it drain over the pan. Serve with a low-fat mushroom and onion gravy.

Chill the juices. Take off the fat and the next day add that liquid to yesterday’s sauce.

A little steak sauce adds low-calorie interest to the new gravy. If you want to top the loaf with tomato flavor use tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce, not ketchup. Check the calories on each. Ketchup is high in sugar and salt. Forget the bacon.


FYI: A half cup each of salsa, ketchup, spaghetti sauce, and crushed tomatoes have . . .

  • Salsa: 40 calories, 8 grams of sugar, 920 milligrams of sodium.
  • Ketchup: 160 calories, 32 grams of sugar, 1,280 milligrams of sodium.
  • Spaghetti sauce (Classico): 70 calories, 6 grams of sugar, 390 milligrams of sodium.
  • Crushed tomatoes: 50 calories, 6 grams of sugar, 240 milligrams of sodium.


Tasty tacos are simple. Start with lean ground beef or turkey. Drain the meat after it browns and add salsa to replace the moisture fat would provide.

A word on ground turkey (actually a few words). Don’t assume that it’s lean just because it’s turkey. Check the fat percentage on the package. Ground beef chuck can be about 15 percent fat. So can ground turkey. Ground turkey breast is the leanest cut on the bird, but because it has to be cooked thoroughly, it needs something to add moisture: ground vegetables, salsa, ketchup, and stock are some options.

A mess of greens goes well with ribs and meatloaf, especially when it is cooked with a fatty pork hock.  Leave the pork hock out and substitute lean smoked turkey neck. Or better yet, when the greens are ready, add a tablespoon of olive oil and a few drops of liquid smoke. 

Liquid smoke is with the sauces in the grocery store. It’s usually a little bottle on a top shelf. Try to find a brand that’s just smoke and water, without caramel and flavorings.

Dessert? Angel food cake topped with sliced fresh fruit, low-calorie whipped topping, and a good squirt of chocolate sauce. Now, give your satisfied Dad back the TV control and let him nap while he watches a game.




story by TRENT ROWE, Food Editor


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