If I'm going to cook, I want my meals to be full of flavor, healthy for my body and not ridiculously expensive (or I may as well dine out). These requirements can make it challenging to cook a variety of healthy, flavorful dishes.
Luckily, there are a few tricks to make your meals healthier without sacrificing taste (or money).
A dozen eggs are rather inexpensive, costing about $2, give or take. Instead of using whole eggs in recipes, just use the whites. One egg yolk contains 55 calories and almost 5 grams of fat. But the white contains just 17 calories, virtually no fat and almost 4 grams of protein. Use 2 egg whites to replace 1 whole egg in recipes.
While red meat is a great source of protein, it’s also full of saturated fat which slowly deteriorates your health. Red meat is also pricey, especially if you like high-quality steaks or beef. Choose lean chicken and fish, instead.
Cooking doesn't have to be challenging every night. Add color to your plate by sautéing, baking or grilling vegetables. Each veggie brings a unique flavor to the creation, and your options are almost endless. Our favorite combinations include onions, mushrooms and red peppers; broccoli and garlic; tomatoes, cucumbers and red onion; and squash, zucchini and yellow peppers.
While olive oil and sesame oil are healthier alternatives to vegetable oil, it doesn't mean you can eat unlimited quantities. Use the least amount you possibly can, each and every time you cook. When sautéing veggies, for example, a little oil goes a long way. Vegetables naturally contain water that, when cooked, helps give them a crisp, finished flavor. A little oil is necessary to help prevent your food from sticking to the pan but always use small quantities.
Try sautéing your vegetables in a few tablespoons of vegetable broth next time.
Through the years, I've learned that most of the flavor lies within the seasoning. If you can learn to season your meals well, you'll always eat well. Try to avoid salt, as sodium can lead to high blood pressure and bloating. Mrs. Dash salt-free seasonings are incredibly tasty and affordable.
After browning ground beef, drain the fat with a strainer. With chicken or steaks, cut the fat off after cooking. If you trim the fat prior to cooking, you'll lose precious juices (fat helps hold them in) and sacrifice flavor.
Veggies are great as a stand-alone side, as mentioned earlier, but they're also great for replacing carbs. Make your pizzas with a thin crust, easy on the cheese and add in loads of veggies. Substitute some pasta for extra veggies. Stuff your sandwiches full of tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts and avocado to help fill you up. Use spaghetti squash in place of regular spaghetti.
A super easy way to eat healthier is by eliminating condiments. Sure, a sandwich may be a tad drier without the mayo, but you'll save yourself 150 calories with each sandwich (and trust us, you'll get used to the taste). Cut out ranch dressing from your diet, use ketchup minimally, go easy on the cheese, avoid maple syrups and use salsa as a dip instead of those cream-based ones.
Personally, snacking is what gets me. Out of sheer boredom, I wind up in the pantry grabbing the easiest thing I can find (which is usually the unhealthiest). After gaining a few pounds, I learned to snack smarter. I have healthy foods on hand instead of junk, I preslice fruits and veggies each week for easy access when I get the urge to munch, and I have smoothie ingredients on hand instead of milkshake ingredients.
The best secret to cooking healthy is using healthy recipes. Find a few websites that you like for good-for-you meals. Some of our favorites are Cooking Light, Eating Well and, of course, our very own Healthy Recipes compilation.
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