The creamy white consistency of vegetable shortening is a staple in many homes. From making flaky biscuits and pie crusts to frying chicken and fish, the uses for vegetable shortening are impressive. However, vegetable shortening contains ingredients that you need to limit when following a heart-healthy diet. Learning how to make your entrees and sweet treats delicious without using vegetable shortening will help you avoid some of the fat and calories associated with this type of shortening.
A recipe for biscuits or pastry may require 1 cup of shortening, which has 1,812 calories. A tablespoon of shortening has 113 calories. Of those calories, the cup contains 204 g of fat, and the tablespoon 12.80 g. About 25 percent of the fat calories are from saturated fats, 10 percent are from trans fats and the remaining fat calories are from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Vegetable shortening has small amounts of vitamin E and about 7 mcg of vitamin K per tablespoon.
The saturated and trans fat components of vegetable shortening are concerning, as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans indicates that both fats contribute to a variety of diseases, from heart disease to obesity. If you follow a 1,800-calorie diet, you should eat no more than 10 percent of your calories, or 20 grams, from saturated fats. Just 2 tablespoons of vegetable shortening contain more than your daily recommended allowance.
Banana puree, applesauce or prune purees are healthy substitutions for vegetable shortening. Although the flavors may be slightly different, you will become accustomed to the difference. Unsweetened applesauce adds moisture to blueberry muffins, and prune puree gives brownies a chewy texture without altering the chocolate flavor. Use banana puree in place of shortening in banana muffins or bread. Experiment with your recipes to determine if you can substitute 1 cup of fruit puree directly for 1 cup of shortening, or if you need to add small amounts of healthier margarine to ensure good results.
Olive or Canola Oil
Instead of frying fish, poultry or batter-dipped cheese sticks in hot shortening, use olive or canola oil to sear meats or stir-fry vegetables. Although olive and canola oil have larger percentages of healthier fats, both still contain about 240 calories per 2 tablespoons, and 1,900 calories per 1 cup. Use the minimum amount of oil possible when sautéing vegetables for pasta or rice dishes, and avoid submerging vegetables or meats completely in oil.
If you are making a pie crust, biscuits or muffins, substitute plant-sterol enriched margarine in place of vegetable shortening. The plant sterols can help lower your cholesterol levels, according to J. Lynne Brown, associate professor at Penn State. The higher water content of the margarine may affect the texture of your baked goods. Experiment with replacing the shortening with half plant-sterol margarine and half regular baking margarine until you find the right combination. A tablespoon of plant-sterol margarine spread has 50 calories and 5.4 grams of fat, most from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, and less than 1 gram from saturated fats.