Whether you like to follow recipes or try new things in the kitchen, here are some simple tips to help you make healthy, delicious meals.
- Reduce your sodium intake by using herbs, spices or lemon juice to add flavor instead of salt. Experiment with fresh and dried herbs to bring new life to your recipes.
- Choose olive, canola or peanut oil for cooking, all of which are low in saturated fat and trans fatty acids. These oils are also high in monounsaturated fat, which is a good fat that helps lower cholesterol and keep your heart healthy. Although these are healthier oils, remember they still contain high levels of fat and calories, so use them sparingly. An oil mister (found at cooking stores) is helpful to manage the amount used; fill it with oil and use it like a can of cooking spray.
- When buying any ground meat, always be sure to look for a label that indicates 90 percent fat free or higher. Try ground chicken or turkey breast instead of ground beef; opt for sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes. If you are craving a high-fat beef burger with French fries, try a grilled turkey burger with oven-baked sweet potato fries instead.
- When cooking ground beef, use ground round or ground sirloin. To make a healthier meat lasagna or pasta sauce, replace half of the meat with peeled and finely diced eggplant.
- For a creamy sauce for homemade macaroni and cheese, thaw frozen squash, puree it and mix with low-fat shredded cheese.
- Substitute low-fat ingredients in your recipes. For example, you can use sugar-free applesauce for half the oil in a baking recipe; plain low-fat yogurt for sour cream; or two egg whites for one whole egg.
- Plan ahead for those nights when time is an issue. Cook extra food in advance and freeze it for nights when you do not feel like cooking.
- Choose greens with more nutrients than a head of iceberg lettuce. For example, mix a handful of fresh spinach in with your salad.
- Almost anything you would normally fry can be baked, broiled or grilled. Try sautéing or stir frying foods with water or low-sodium chicken broth.
- To get the most out of your vegetables, cut them right before you plan to cook them; this helps preserve their nutrients. Cooking vegetables for a short amount of time — until their color is brighter but they retain their crispness — also preserves and enhances their nutritional value. Tomatoes, for example, lose some of their vitamin C when cooked but are higher in antioxidants, such as lycopene, than when they are raw. Avoid boiling vegetables; this removes nutrients more than other cooking methods. For the best flavor and nutrition, try steaming your fresh vegetables.