Thursday, May 5, 2016

The fat-free paneer dilemma ??

What is fat free paneer ?? Is it fat free and low in calories ?? Is it tasty and delicious ??


Mathematical wizard is not an adjective that some one would ever use for me - I understand elementary level math. Anything beyond that my brain hurts. I'm certainly not a nutritionist. You don't get a degree in nutrition by reading the nutrition facts on the cover. If you ask me the numbers and facts on the label gives you just a small part of the story… if it was indeed this simple!!!

So armed with some common sense, elementary level math and self taught information on nutrition (sometimes half baked knowledge is more dangerous) …I embarked on some research on paneer. It was more for the curious housewife in me than anything else. I have never been the kind to accept things as they are…curiosity may not have killed the cat…it probably made the cat wiser - 'probably' the operational word here.

I have always looked at the 'fat-free' paneer  at the store and wondered …."maybe I should get it" it will probably help me squeeze into my skinny jeans, that is another story that nothing will help me squeeze into those…for the love of food, skinny is not my middle name. Going back to the paneer…curiosity got the better of me and I ended up making panner from three different kinds of milk.

Whole milk…..yuuuuuuum!!
2% milk fat
Fat free skim milk

3 cups of each and made paneer from it. We will do the taste test later…for now some nutrition facts. For visuals the whole milk gave me nice moist decent quantity of panner and the skim was a bit to rubbery (did not look real - kind of synthetic feel) and small amount of panner. That was just the visual deduction…. Do I sound like a mad scientist…certainly feel like one. Hear me out, this is the hard part…. first me doing the math, now trying to explain.

1 - Took 3 cups each of  whole milk, 2% and skim.  Added 2 tbsp lemon juice to each and stirred to incorporate, left it on the flame till the milk solids separated from the whey.
2 - Separated the whey from the cheese ( paneer) using  a muslin cloth.
3- Carefully removed the panner from the muslin and weighed it.

 I tried to look for nutrition facts for whey from different kinds of milk…no luck. So for my mathematical table - I did not take the nutrition value of whey into consideration, assuming it is low in calories.  I then calculated the calories for 10gms  of paneer made from the three kinds of milk. I had to compare the same amount for each kind of milk. There are a lot of deductions that can be drawn from the table, however I would like to stick to a few. Just look at the fat, carbs and total calories in the chart - highlighted.

a)- 3 cups of whole milk yielded 103.5gms of panner while the skim about 42.4gms - not even half.
b)- For 10gms of paneer even though the fat free paneer had 0 fat, it had more carbs and hence more calories than full fat.
c)- Fat free panner had almost three time more carbs than full fat paneer.
d)- look at the sugar in the fat free paneer

Of course fat free panner is 0 in fat …but that led me on the journey or understanding the difference between fat and carbs and their effect on calories. It's really not rocket science.

What really is a calorie ??
A calorie is a unit of energy. I guess our bodies need calories to function - but too much of it and it probably translates to weight gain ( my skinny jeans are peeping from my closet)..Can't survive on water.

1 gm of protein = 4 calories
1 gm of carbs = 4 calories
1 gm of fat = 9 calories.

Not all calories are equal. I am not an expert in nutrition, however I know the more calories I eat - I need to burn it (not taking into consideration all the nutrients, minerals our body needs) So, why would make paneer from skim milk and get less then half the amount I would get from whole milk and probably more calories. Why I use the word probably - I have not taken into consideration the nutrition facts of whey ( the watery part that is left over after paneer is made).

All this does not add up to to fat free being not only fat free but low in calories or maybe I'm just missing something? For a person who does not have a degree in nutrition - it is just simple math, probably an expert might have a different view. I would love to hear your thoughts, expert opinions. This really is not a conclusive post …rather posting a question am I thinking right ??

Food for thought 

Calories from carbs or fat ?

Skim vs full fat

Fat (gm)Carbs(gm)Sugar(gm)Protein (gm)Total calories Paneer (oz)Paneer (gms)whey
Fat free milk - 1 cup01312890
fat free milk - 3 cup03936242701.542.52 3/4 cups
2% Milk - 1 cup513128130
2%Milk 3 cups153936243902.570.82 1/4 cups
Ful Fat Milk - 1 cup812128150
Fullfat Milk - 3 cups243636244503.65103.52 cups
PaneerFat (gm)Carbs(gm)Sugar(gm)Protein (gm)Total calories
Fat free milk - 10gms09.178.455.6463.52
2% Milk - 10gms2.115.505.083.3855.08
Ful Fat Milk - 10gms2.313.473.472.3143.47
Taste test : I did not do a pilot testing with 100 people - just the three of us at home - full fat paneer hands down. Moist, rich and extremely flavorful. You really do not want to know how the fat free tasted like….:(((

I have always believed, food not only fuels are bodies - they connect us and are more than calories and portions. It is good to understand the basic concept, in order to live a healthy life. I would rather pick a small piece of good full fat dessert - than a huge portion of dry lifeless cake. Well, that is just me !!

I really enjoyed working on this post and looking forward to some insightful inputs from you. If you prefer to email me - most welcome !



1- Not taken the nutrition value of whey
2- human errors in measurement 

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  1. Wow! The efforts you went through. :)
    I love love love paneer, but would always stay far away from low fat or no fat or even tofu for that matter. Full fat paneer for me, always. More so after this post. Thanks.

  2. Awesome post Simi. I will have to come back at leisure to absorb the math and science behind the fats and carbs. Kudos to your effort to break everything down and make it so visual and understandable.

  3. As I said to you on the phone, I think this is a very interesting experiment and I am an ardent support of eating real food.

  4. Wow! Simi It is always lingering in my mind about full fat to low fat! Nice article.. I like the final outcome :-)

  5. Wow Simi! I am really proud of your mathematics experiment ; well i know you're a mad scientist and your subject can be still life or food. I always believed in eating natural and that's what I eat, however I measure the calories I am taking in the body. That's a must for me. I am glad you've done this - this fat free thing is totally a myth and people should understand it bette. Second picture is the best - I have seen paneer picture before, but nothing that like that - it's so calm and serene.

  6. Simi this post is really thought provoking. So right...we usually go for the fat free or sugar free options oblivious to the effects of the substitute. To be honest I am sure like me most of us have done it.
    Appreciate the hard work behind and yes the lens work as usual is amazing.
    Well done!!!!!!!!!!


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