It’s certainly possible to eat healthy without spending a lot of time shopping, preparing and cooking. With just a little preparation and forethought, you can enjoy nutritious food and never “diet” again. Using just a few simple strategies, you can enjoy favorite recipes with less fat, sugar and calories… without sacrificing flavor. It’s easier than you might think.
From cooking methods to the type of pans you use, here are a few ideas that will foster a weight-wise culinary experience.
• Prepare to succeed. Plan your meals in advance, eat a healthy snack, and then go shopping to better avoid “impulse” purchases. You’ll have the healthy options you need at hand when you’re hungry and actually start to cook.
• The recipe rule: keep it simple. Avoid recipes with too many steps… and ingredients. A simple grilled, broiled or baked dish without too many components and processes, a fresh vegetable and a starch is your best bet.
• Think lean: buy the leanest cuts of meat and trim all visible fat before cooking. Ground meat should be at least 95-percent lean. Try ground turkey burgers for a change, or replace at least one-third of your ground beef with ground turkey breast. Be sure to buy ground turkey breast, as the alternative variety contains skin and dark meat, making it higher in fat and calories.
• Stick to non-stick: stock up on nonstick pans for baking, grilling, and sautéing, and even for soup. Nonstick pans allow you to avoid using oil in favor of healthier options like cooking spray, wine, water or fruit juice.
• Mission-critical method: bake, broil, grill, poach your proteins. Rather than basting with butter or margarine, cut the saturated and trans fat by basting with flavorful vegetable broth, white wine or orange juice. Avoid recipes with heavy sauces and gravies to keep your menus low fat.
• Crumbs count: Instead of commercial breadcrumbs, usually full of oil and trans fat, substitute a low-sugar crunchy breakfast cereal such as Grape Nuts or organic wheat flakes (avoid cereals with more than 4-6 grams of sugar per serving).
• Dairy do’s: Whole milk contains 1 gram of saturated fat per ounce. Switch all dairy consumption to non-fat or 1 percent, including milk, cheese and yogurt.
• Sweeten naturally. It’s easy to reduce the amount of fat and sugar in your recipes. For example, replace half the oil with applesauce or fruit puree for an equally moist muffin or cake; use one-third less sugar in cakes or cookies and use dried unsweetened fruit such as raisins or diced dates to add natural sweetness to cereal. Experiment with sucralose (Splenda) for baking.
• Just desserts: Keep it sweet, but smartly reduce calories and fat in decadent desserts like cheesecake by substituting low-fat ricotta cheese for whole milk. When a recipe calls for sour cream, try lower fat Greek-style, creamy plain yogurt instead.
About the author
Registered and licensed dietitian Susan Burke March, MS, CDE, is the author of “Making Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally” — a book intended to liberate serial “dieters” and make living healthfully and weight-wise intuitive and instinctual over the long term. She also serves as the Resident Nutrition Expert for www.HealthyWage.com, which empowers healthy living through incentives, social support, goal setting and technology. She may be reached online at www.SusanBurkeMarch.com.