The way you prepare your food is just as important as the food you consume. While healthy cooking is fairly simple, it does require a little effort. It takes time to budget weekly meals and to write up a healthy shopping list, but the payoff is well worth it. It should come as no surprise, then, that healthy cooking also takes time, but it doesn’t have to take any longer than it would for you to drive to McDonald’s, decide what you want to eat, wait in a line, and then drive back home to eat it. There are ways for you to modify many of your favorite recipes, and often there are already healthier alternatives to them available. For example, there are many cooking substitutes that can help you cut down on the calories and fat in a recipe. Here are some other simple, healthy cooking tips:
When cooking light, it is advised that you limit your intake of added fats, sugars and salt and include a plentiful variety of vegetables, fruit, grains, and lean protein such as beans.
In general, when cooking light, it is best to broil, roast, bake, steam, or grill foods instead of frying them; stir-frying with just a little added oil or broth is also a tasty and healthy option.
Steam or bake your vegetables (instead of boiling them) to help retain valuable nutrients. When steaming or sautéing, opt for water or a low-fat, low-sodium vegetable broth.
Add flavor to a dish by using seasonings such as herbs, spices (I love black pepper and Mrs. Dash seasonings), lemon juice or vinegar. Choose these options instead of butter or extra salt.
Opt for whole-grains instead of refined-grain products. Brown rice, wheat bran, quinoa and oatmeal are all great choices. You can substitute whole-wheat flour for up to half of the amount of all-purpose flour called for in a recipe (for example, if the instructions call for 1 cup of flour, try 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour). I find that white whole wheat flour is often less noticeable than regular whole wheat flour, so you might consider that if you’re trying to feed picky eaters.
Add whole grains or vegetables to meaty dishes. This creates a more satisfying meal by bulking up the portion size without adding a lot of extra calories. When it comes to recipes for burgers or meatloaf, for example, you might consider adding mushrooms, pepper, bulgur or brown rice. Try adding 3/4 to 1 cup cooked grains or diced vegetables for each pound of meat.
Trim the fat off of meats before cooking; poultry such as chicken and turkey may even be prepared without the skin.
Skimming the fat from your soup or chili is another ideal tip for healthy cooking. It floats to the top of the pot as your dish cools, so skim it off before reheating and eating your meal.
Use nonfat or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese in your recipes. You can also save about 45 calories for each 2-tablespoon serving of sour cream that you replace with nonfat Greek yogurt. Try it in recipes for dips and tacos, or use the yogurt as a thickening agent in a cooked dish.
Reduce the amount of cheese in your recipe, but keep the flavor. In other words, you can reduce the amount of calories and fat in your recipe but still give it a flavorful impact by using smaller amounts of bold-flavored cheeses like extra-sharp Cheddar, low-sodium feta, or Parmigiano-Reggiano (the rind also adds a great flavor to soups).
Substitute two egg whites for each whole egg in a recipe, to cut down on cholesterol and fat (both of which are only found in the yolk).
Opt for frozen or fresh produce over canned. Processed or preserved vegetables typically contain a high amount of sodium. If you must buy canned, check for low-sodium options and rinse the vegetables under cold water to reduce the amount of salt added to your dish.
Finally, cook larger batches of food but keep an eye on your portion size. You can cook once during the week and eat the leftovers over the next few days. For certain recipes like cookies or waffles, you can freeze a batch and have a ready-made healthy treat for days you are simply too tired to cook.