Sometimes, healthy eating is all about the preparation. Even the healthiest of foods can still sabotage your diet if you cook them in ways that add extra fat or eliminate the food’s nutrients.
Likewise, less healthful foods can be prepared in ways that make them less harmful to your health and your waistline. Below, read 8 tips for cooking in ways that will keep your diet on track.
1. Choose Good Fats
Many people think that when it comes to cooking, fat equals flavour. While it is important to include fats in your diet, recent research shows that the type of fat that you eat could be more important than the amount.
For example, when selecting proteins for your grocery basket, focusing on items with lean fat, such as seafood or soy can make a huge difference.
Additionally, the type of fat that you use as cooking oil is extremely important. Even the healthiest meats and vegetables can become disastrous for your health and weight if you cook them using bad fats like butter. These types of fats are high in calories and can lead to problems with your heart health.
Instead, cook your foods using good fats like coconut oil (pictured). This cooking method will give your dishes the same rich flavour without the negative health impacts.
2. Don’t Peel Fruits and Vegetables
When cooking with ingredients such as apples, zucchini, or potatoes, your first instinct may be to reach for the peeler as you prepare the foods. However, studies indicate that removing the peels from fruits and vegetables before eating them actually decreases their nutritional value.
Much of the fibre content in fruits and vegetables is located in the peel. By removing this part of the food, you lose out on this valuable part of your diet. In addition, the peels in your food are high in nutrients such as vitamin C and zinc.
This means that if you want to get the best nutritional value out of your foods, skip the peeling. Instead, scrub your vegetables and fruits and cook them with the peels still on. This will actually improve the food’s texture while creating a dish packed with nutrition.
3. Consider Steaming Your Food
There are a lot of different ways that you can cook foods before sliding them onto your plate. It may surprise you to learn that the cooking method can have a significant impact on the nutritional value of your foods.
According to one study, vegetables that have been cooked using steam were the least likely to lose their nutrients during the cooking process. In addition, using steam to cook your food means that you don’t have to use cooking fats that add calories to healthful foods.
Sauteeing is another good option for cooking your foods without destroying the nutrients. However, most experts agree that boiling and microwaving are not ideal. So before you start cooking, take the time to think about which cooking method will be best for your health.
4. Be Careful About Canned Vegetables
There is a lot of debate about the pros and cons of using canned vegetables in your cooking. On the one hand, canning is actually a great way to maintain the nutrients in the foods for a long period of time.
However, one of the major ingredients used to preserve the food is salt. Having too much sodium in your diet can lead to heart issues over time, and many experts agree that preserved foods are a major offender.
The easiest way to avoid this problem is to stick with fresh produce when possible. Fresh fruits and vegetables will still have all of their nutrients without added processing. However, if you need to use something that has been preserved, look for lower sodium versions. These options still have great flavour but avoid the negative impacts of added salt.
5. Don’t Skimp on Spices
Even if you’re trying to lose weight and improve your overall health, you still want your food to taste great, right? If you’re trying to avoid cooking fats to make your dishes healthier, you can punch up the flavour by using spices instead.
Herbs and spices are typically low in calories and almost completely free from fat, allowing you to create delicious meals without sabotaging your diet. In addition, many herbs and spices actually contain tons of antioxidants that can be great for your body.
Here are some of the healthiest spices to include in your cooking:
6. Plan Your Meals in Advance
Life can get hectic, and when time is short, it can be tempting to throw together a quick meal using ingredients that are less than ideal for your health. This is where meal planning can be extremely helpful.
At the beginning of every week, plan out healthful recipes that will fit with your schedule to avoid the temptation to grab something that would be terrible for your diet. Having a plan makes it easier to stick with your healthy lifestyle.
Meal planning is even more effective if you can prepare as much of the food as possible in advance. Having healthful meals ready in the fridge is the easiest way to stay on track. Plus, you’re able to control the portions you have for each meal.
7. Switch Out Your Sweeteners
Who doesn’t enjoy ending their meal with a bite of something sweet? If you love to bake, you probably feel the temptation to load up your recipes with sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth.
However, too much sugar can be detrimental to your health and get in the way of your weight loss efforts. Sugar is high in calories, so even a small amount can have a major impact.
There are several options for healthier sweeteners, such as stevia, xylitol, and even honey. Using these natural options to sweeten up your desserts is a great way to make them healthier.
8. Consider an Air Fryer
Air fryers are one of the newest cooking fads that users claim makes their cooking healthier. As it turns out, they’re right.
When using an air fryer to cook foods like chicken or potatoes, your dish will have the same delicious flavour and texture as those cooked in oils. However, the air fryer version will have significantly less fat. If you love fried foods but want to watch your weight, this device may be a worthwhile investment.
Trying to lose weight and improve your overall health doesn’t have to limit the joy that you experience in the kitchen. Making a few simple changes can make your cooking far healthier without sacrificing flavour.