Ask a healthy chef: Easiest ways to cut calories

Nov 18, 2011 at 4:50 p.m. ET

Do you ever wish you could spend time with a health-conscious chef to find out the easiest ways to cut calories without feeling deprived and dissatisfied?

Chef Meg

If you answered yes, we've got great news. We sat down with world master chef Meg Galvin, healthy cooking expert at and author of The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight, and asked her to give us the delicious skinny on diet-friendly cooking.

What are the easiest – most delicious – ways to cut calories

Chef Meg Galvin uses the following cooking tricks to cut calories and maintain mouthwatering flavor and super satisfaction.

Use parchment paper for steaming and roasting

"By 'wrapping' up your food you will be able to reduce and even omit using oil and butter in your steaming and roasting recipes," explains the master chef. "The paper will trap in the heat and not permit flavors to escape. Easy clean-up is an added bonus."

Go topless to cut carb calories

Chef Galvin recommends using only one slice of bread on sandwiches, omit breadcrumb topping on casseroles, and say, "No, thank you," to croutons on salads.

Use low-calorie garnishes

Not only are veggies and greens low in calories, they add color to your meals. Chef Galvin suggests, "Adorn stews, soups, and braised dishes with grated vegetables or sauteed leafy greens instead of fat-laden cheese or sour cream."

Grab the cooking spray

When you're sauteing, use nonstick pan coating when sautéing foods instead of butter or oil. A generous spray has a fraction of the 100 to 120 calories per tablespoon of butter or oil.

Plan your meals to cut calories

Plan out weekly menus and cook when you have some extra time. "I carve out a couple of hours every Sunday to make stocks, soups, and weeknight meals," says Chef Galvin. "If you have a plan in place and food that's ready to eat, you won't resort to mindless munching while deciding what to have for dinner--and you'll resist processed, high-calorie convenience foods."

Deliciously substitute high-fat dairy

Chef Galvin suggests switching to rich, thick, and creamy Greek yogurt in recipes instead of heavy cream or sour cream to save up to 45 calories per tablespoon serving.

Resist impulse snacking – but do snack

Buy nuts, oats, and dried fruit in bulk, then package into small reusable containers (no more than 1/2 cup). Chef Galvin recommends putting a week's worth of snacks in the trunk of your car, then take out one serving every day. "If they're in the back of the car, you won't eat a week's worth of snacks during one traffic jam," she adds.

Increase the density in foods

Keep the skin and peel on fruits and vegetables when possible to increase fiber, which will fills you up for few calories. Best yet, fruits and vegetables are a tasty source of fiber, which will curb your hunger so you consume fewer calories.

A few small changes in your cooking habits can add up to a significant savings in calories while still giving you all the mouthwatering dining satisfaction you deserve.

You can find even more healthy eating tips at

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