Whether you have decided to cut down on the calories to fit into your old college jeans, or your doctor has advised that you lose weight to reduce the risk of serious health consequences, learning to cook without the ingredients you are used to can be a daunting task.
If you are like many people, you have been cooking for years using the same techniques you learned from your mother – how can you prepare your favorite dishes using low-calorie cooking techniques without losing all the flavors you love?
There is no need to be discouraged – it is possible to learn how to cut calories without sacrificing great taste. The following tips can help you create healthy and nutritious meals that you and your family will enjoy.
Tips for Preparing Healthy, Low-Calorie Meals
1. Opt for healthy cooking methods.
How you cook your food makes a big difference in the fat content of the final product. Avoid frying (especially deep-frying) and sautéing, where foods are cooked in oil; choose methods such as baking, broiling, grilling, or steaming instead.
2. Cut back on unhealthy fats.
When you do cook with oils, choose heart-healthy products such as olive, canola, or grape seed oil; these fats are low in cholesterol and contain no trans-fats, unlike traditional ingredients such as butter and lard.
Also, whenever possible, substitute fat-free ingredients for oil or butter. Use unsweetened applesauce in place of ½ the fat when baking, and try low-fat chicken or beef broth to add flavor to meats and vegetables. Opt for low-fat or fat free dairy products rather than the full-cream versions.
3. Select lean cuts of meat, and trim the fat.
When shopping for meat products, choose the leanest cuts, such as loin, sirloin, or round. For poultry, use only the white breast meat – the darker meat from the legs and thighs contains plenty of unhealthy fat. Discard the skin from chicken, and trim all visible fat from both meat and poultry before cooking.
4. Cut down on the amount of sugar in recipes.
Refined sugar in baked goods and other sweets is digested quickly, and the glucose that your body cannot use right away ends up stored as fat. In most recipes, you can reduce the sugar by up to ½ of the amount called for and still get good results; your treats will be less sweet, but you can compensate by adding a bit more vanilla, or spice things up with cloves and cinnamon.
5. Don’t skimp on the veggies.
Vegetables add plenty of flavor and color to your dishes without adding a significant amount of calories. Double up on the veggies in soups and stews, and cut back a bit on the meat. Try adding dried beans for extra flavor and protein, and you will feel satisfied without filling up on meats or poultry.
6. Use fresh herbs and other full-flavored ingredients.
In recipes calling for herbs, use fresh instead of dried. A tablespoon or two of fresh thyme or basil adds tremendous flavor without affecting the calories in your meal. Herbs not only taste great but they can also aid in weight-loss.
In recipes calling for cheese, substitute a small amount of Roquefort or aged Parmesan for larger amounts of milder cheeses – you’ll get great taste without adding unnecessary fat.
Learning to cook the low-calorie way takes a bit of adjustment; however, with practice, you will soon find yourself automatically seeking out healthier ingredients and whipping up fantastic, healthful dishes that your family will love. In fact, once you have gotten used to low-cal eating, you may find yourself put off by foods prepared in a more traditional manner. A healthier, leaner lifestyle all begins with what you eat.