Whether you’re hoping to lose weight, or just want to start eating more healthily, finding ways to cut down on heavy, high calorie ingredients in your cooking, is the obvious way to do so. If you regularly cook with these ingredients, it can seem difficult at first, but knowing that what goes into your body is healthy is a great feeling. There are a number of easy ways to lighten up your cooking.
Replace oil with substitutes
When frying food, you will naturally reach for the bottle of cooking oil. However, there are a number of substitutes that you can choose instead. Most supermarkets will stock a variety of brands of cooking sprays, which enables you to use just as little as you need and keep the calories down. According to a tlc.howstuffworks.com article, you can make your own spray easily by mixing organic vegetable oil with liquid lecithin. Alternatively, you could try sautéing in a low-fat sauce or broth to flavour your food without adding any extra oil at all.
Go easy on the cheese, butter and cream
Many people like to smother dishes like chilli, spaghetti bolognaise and even mashed potato with cheese. Before you do so, try the dish without – it could be a whole new and improved taste experience. If you do want cheese, go for low fat versions and just sprinkle, don’t smother. When cooking dishes that use cream, substitute low fat varieties or try adding a swirl of Greek yoghurt. Ideally though, avoid recipes that include cream – there are plenty of cream-free recipes that you can try instead. Only use butter if you think that it will alter the taste if you don’t.
Turn part-time veggie
If you enjoy your meat, you don’t have to cut it out completely, but you could cut down by experimenting with a few vegetarian dishes. You may find that you don’t even miss meat as much as you thought. A well-flavoured chilli with extra beans and tomatoes instead of meat can be very tasty, for example. Just don’t add extra cheese or sour cream just because you’re saving calories on the meat! When you do eat meat, go for low fat options such as skinless chicken and lean beef and make sure you pack in plenty of vegetables to accompany it.
Find flavour alternatives
For bland dishes that need a little pepping up, you may be tempted to add calorific dressings such as mayonnaise, but even a little can add more fat and calories than you need. Play around with other options, such as a squeeze of lime or lemon over chicken and salads. Alternatively, opt for more low fat sauce-based dishes that don’t need extra additions in the first place, try marinades and add in herbs and spices. If you experiment, you can find the combination that you most enjoy, and hopefully a few other alternatives as well.
Bake when you can
If chicken, or steak with fries is your favourite meal of the week, you don’t need to cut it out, you just need to prepare it differently. Backed chicken and steak doesn’t have to be dry if you watch the cooking time and spray it with a squirt of cooking spray, or marinate it before you bake. Chicken can be cooked with the skin on to retain moistness, but make sure you remove it before eating. Likewise, cut excess fat off steak and other meat. Fries can also be baked. Cut them to size, par-boil, squirt with cooking spray, sprinkle with salt and then cook at around 200 degrees Centigrade for 30 minutes or until cooked to your taste.
Find alternatives for side dishes
When you cook for a family, it can be tempting to add fattening side dishes to every meal to fill people up – onion rings, mashed potato with cream and cheese, or nachos smothered in cheese and sour cream are common choices. If your family refuses to do without side dishes, at least start to serve up healthier options. Experiment with different salads, but go easy on the dressings, and try soups as a starter to fill them up. When it comes to nibbles, cook your own and use low fat alternatives rather than opt for store-bought, so that you can keep an eye on the calories.
Lightening up your cooking is easy if you’re prepared to experiment a little. Hopefully, you will find a whole host of new ideas that will improve your health and that of your family’s too.