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Healthier Lifestyle Cooking Tips

Nina Ghamrawi, MS, RD, CDE
2
March 15, 2022

Healthier cooking does not mean creating bland and boring food. Healthy food can be delicious too - when made with the right ingredients and cooked in a healthier way! Some healthy cooking techniques include: choosing better carbohydrates, swapping the protein, using less fat, and switching up your cooking methods.

Choose Better Carbohydrates

Replace starches low in fiber with high fiber ones

  • Replace white bread with brown rice, quinoa, farro, oats, wheat berries, barley, beans or lentils.
  • Switch out regular pasta with whole wheat, high fiber, or bean-based pasta.

Reduce the amount of sugar

  • In recipes, it can often be cut in half.
  • Avoid dried fruits, as these often have added sugar.
  • Avoid foods sweetened with non-calorie sweetener or honey, as these will increase your cravings for sugar later on.

Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits - they are high in fiber

  • You can replace some low-fiber carbs with starchy vegetables, like squashes, zucchini, or small baby or fingerling potatoes with skins.
  • Add vegetables when stir-frying or to soups.

Swap The Protein

  • Use healthier proteins: Avoid getting sausage, bacon, and heavier, high fat or highly processed meats. Choose fish and lean meats more often. Meats labeled “loin” or “round” are usually leaner.
  • Cut away fat and remove skin from chicken and other poultry when eating.
  • Choose reduced-fat cheeses.
  • Have some meatless meals. Substitute beans, egg whites, tofu, nuts, low fat cheese, or soy protein products for meat

Use Less Fat, and Make The Rest Healthy

All animal meats and animal products will be mostly saturated fat, which is not so great for you, and more likely to render into body fat

  • Select reduced-fat cheese and fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk products.
  • Replace lard, butter, crisco, and stick-margarine in a recipe for olive or avocado oil.
  • If your meat is already higher fat, there’s no need to add extra fat during cooking- skip the butter.
  • Replace whole milk and cream in sauces with fat-free evaporated skim milk.

All fats and oils are high in calories. Use less when possible

  • In baking, cut the amount of oil in half and substitute applesauce or fruit puree for the other half of the fat (this will also help you reduce sugar, too.
  • Flavor with lemon juice or herbs instead of butter, margarine, or oil.
  • Choose reduced-fat salad dressings and limit portion size. Instead of salad dressing, use vinegar or lemon juice with just a small amount of oil.

Replace butter & cream cheese on toast and bagels with avocado, guacamole, or a nut or seed butter for a healthier, plant-based option

Switch Up Your Cooking Methods

  • Sauté foods in a small amount of wine, broth, or tomato sauce or juice instead of using fat or oil.
  • Bake, broil, grill, roast, or stew instead of frying.
  • Place meat on a rack while cooking so a little of the grease will drain off (this doesn’t remove all the fat).
  • Remove fat from cooked ground meat by draining on a rack or using a paper towel to soak up grease.
  • When making stews or soups, refrigerate the broth and skim hardened fat off the top before reheating and serving.
  • Use a nonstick cooking spray instead of butter, margarine, oil, or shortening.
  • Use a nonstick skillet, or for a healthier option, use ceramic-coated pans- oil is usually not necessary to prevent sticking (they really are non-stick).
  • If you can get one, use an air-fryer or slow-cooker when cooking. Food won’t burn or stick, and these are sure methods that don’t require added fat.

Takeaways

Understanding that healthy food can still be mind-blowing and delicious is a mindset, and it takes time to change. If you try to make something healthy, and it doesn’t work out well the first time, don’t give up! We don’t need to sacrifice taste, beauty, or texture of the meal to make it healthy, we just need to learn the right tricks. Regardless of your regional cuisine, there are several tips and tricks during the cooking process to make each of your bites healthier, and just as enjoyable. Ask your Dietitian or health coach for some tips and tricks to help your next attempt get better.