No need to trade savory meat dishes and divine desserts for healthy but bland, boring, and uninspiring alternatives. With a little help from smart shopping strategies and creative recipe substitutions, you can easily create healthy menus without compromising the flavor, texture, or taste of your favorite recipes. Try these simple tips to revamp your cooking and keep those extra pounds away:
The first step towards cooking healthier meals is buying fresh and nutritious foods. Choose plenty of leafy vegetables, brightly colored fruits, and whole grains such as rye, oats, millets, quinoa, and barley. Stock up the kitchen cabinets with low sodium canned foods, baked crackers, corn tortillas, dried beans, nuts, tuna in water, low fat soup packs, and herbs, which can be made into quick and wholesome meals within minutes. Navigate your shopping cart away from the nutrient stripped sections of junk foods, wafers, chips, sweets, and sugary colas. Get in the habit of reading labels and paying attention to serving sizes.
Trim the fat off the meats, remove skin from poultry, and cut back on processed meats such as hot dogs, salami, and bacon. Select lean ham, chicken breast, and lean pork and beef cuts. The department of Health mentions that all cuts with the name "loin," or "round," are lean and that "select" grade meat is leaner than "prime" or "choice.”
The best way to preserve nutrients and colors in vegetables is by cooking them quickly using steaming or stir frying methods. Imagine ruining the goodness of summer fresh zucchini by batter coating and deep frying it instead of a gentle sauté’ with chili peppers in olive oil. Low fat cooking methods such as baking, poaching, broiling, grilling, and roasting capture the flavor well without the need for unnecessary extras like salt, sugar, and oil. Using non stick cookware and keeping an oil spray handy also helps to keep the fat content under control.
Cut the amount of fat in your recipe by using reduced fat or fat-free salad dressings such as lime juice, vinegar, dried herbs, hot mustard, and salsa. Top baked potatoes with plain non-fat or low-fat yogurt, reduced-fat sour cream, non-fat cottage cheese, or hard cheeses. When preparing cream soups and sauces, choose skim milk in place of the full-fat version.
Beans offer an excellent substitute for meats, especially if you plan to have a meatless day for your family every week. Burritos stuffed with beans, lentils in appetizing healthy soups, pinto beans in dips, and kidney beans as sandwich filling offer delicious and nutritious twists to regular meat dishes. Try sprouted bean salads with onion, lettuce, and tomatoes or simply throw some cooked black beans over herbed wild rice to enjoy a low fat and protein loaded meal.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests eating two 4-ounce portions of fatty fish each week like salmon, lake trout, albacore tuna (in water, if canned), mackerel, and sardines and selecting oils that provide omega-3 fatty acids such as canola, flaxseed, or soybean oil in daily cooking.
Reduce the fat content of your decadent baking recipes by tweaking the traditional cookie, cake, and pie recipes a little. Satisfy your taste buds and waistlines simultaneously by using fat substitutes such as applesauce, plum sauce, mashed fresh fruits, fruit purees, orange juice, and cooked vegetables. The amount of butter, cream, chocolates, eggs, and cheese used in the muffins, fruit cakes, quick breads, or scone recipes can be reduced and replaced with low-fat yogurts, buttermilk, egg whites, and reduced fat creams. If the batter using fat substitutes tend to become drier, a shorter baking time is often enough.
Reduce sugar in your recipes by one third to one half and add spices such as cinnamon, cloves, all spice, and nutmeg or flavorings such as vanilla extract or almond flavoring to boost sweetness.
Ingredient swap is yet another great way to perk up the nutrient density of the meal while cutting the fat, sugar, and calories. Use whole wheat pastas, multigrain breads, and brown rice in place of white breads, enriched pastas, and white rice.
Condiments such as ketchup, soy sauce, honey mustard, mayo, or sour cream are best restricted or used only sparingly.
The Bottom Line
Trying out new recipes with different combinations of ingredients may appear somewhat daunting initially. However, after you have tried a few times and mastered the recipe, the health pay off will be well worth the effort.
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