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Healthy 'Skinny' Omelets

An easy, low-cholesterol omelet recipe, plus tips for cooking egg substitutes

En español | When my husband, David, first discovered that he had high cholesterol, one of his most depressing realizations was that he'd have to cut out — or cut way back on — two of his favorite foods: eggs and cheese. It hit hard, since the stick-to-the-ribs breakfast that he loved, a ham-and-cheese omelet, was now presumably off the menu. My mission: to develop a skinny omelet. It had to have fewer calories and, more importantly, less cholesterol than our usual fare.

skinny omelet ham egg heart diet

Learn how to make the perfect omelet, healthy and delicious. — Getty Images

I started with egg whites (meaning regular eggs minus the yolk), but from the moment they hit the skillet, they stuck like gum to a shoe. I served whatever I could scrape off the pan and ended up with a bland, pale omelet.

I moved on to two brands of egg substitute — cage-free and organic — from Whole Foods. Sadly, we did not like the flavor of one, and the other separated hopelessly in the cooking process. The result was a mound of eggs seeping liquid onto the plate.

Egg Beaters was the brand that most resembled and tasted like real eggs. A ConAgra product, it contains 99 percent egg whites. The remaining 1 percent of ingredients (including gums, spices and coloring) may not appeal to purists, but we were happy to have found an egg substitute that David liked to eat and I liked to cook.

Some No-Stick Tips

But all egg substitutes — even Egg Beaters — stick to the pan if you don't cook them right. My tips:

  1. Add a little oil to the pan (not cooking spray). You don't need a lot, but the pan surface needs to be coated.
  2. Heat the pan well. You want it hot enough so the oil just starts to send up wisps of smoke. And when the eggs hit, you should hear them sizzle.
  3. Classic omelet ingredients such as onions, peppers and mushrooms leave a residue in the skillet that causes the egg substitutes to stick. So don't saute other ingredients in the pan before adding the eggs.
  4. This is important: Once you add the eggs to the skillet, let them cook for 10 or 15 seconds without stirring. Then stir them as little as possible.
  5. If you're making a second omelet, wipe the pan clean and return it to the stove. Residue from the previous omelet can cause the next one to stick.

To further reduce the fat and calories, I switched from regular to light cheese. One of my favorites is Jarlsberg Lite. A 3/4-ounce cheese slice (which I cut into small dice and scatter over the omelet before folding it) has only 50 calories and 10 milligrams of cholesterol. Add an ounce of extra-lean ham and some fresh herbs and scallions to heighten the flavor, and you've got a very satisfying omelet.

Here's the best part: My new "two-egg" ham-and-cheese skinny omelet has only 187 calories and 20 milligrams of cholesterol. The old version weighed in at 345 calories and 229 milligrams of cholesterol. Success!

Skinny Omelet With Ham and Cheese

Serves 1

  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute, such as Egg Beaters
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons each: chopped fresh parsley and thinly sliced scallions
  • 1 slice (3/4 ounce) reduced-fat Swiss cheese, cut into small dice
  • 1 ounce (scant 1/4 cup) extra-lean ham, cut into small dice

Heat oil in an 8-inch nonstick skillet over low heat while preparing ingredients. Beat egg substitute with pepper, parsley and scallions.

A couple of minutes before cooking, increase temperature under skillet to medium-high. When wisps of smoke start to rise from the pan, swirl oil around to completely coat.

Add egg mixture to the skillet and let stand for 10 to 15 seconds for bottom to set. Using a plastic or wooden spatula to push back the eggs that have set every several seconds, tilt pan so that the uncooked egg substitute runs into the empty portion of the skillet. Continue pushing back cooked eggs and tilting pan until omelet top is wet, but not runny. Turn heat to low and sprinkle on cheese and ham. Fold one-half of the egg mixture over the other; let stand a few minutes to warm through. Serve.

AARP food expert Pam Anderson is a best-selling cookbook author and blogger at threemanycooks.com.

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