Healthy (And Flavorful) Cooking Tips

 

i love cooking

I love cooking and experimenting in the kitchen.  It’s really my favorite hobby and in a weird way, when I feel the most relaxed.  It’s my opportunity to rely on all 5 of my senses as my guide to creating a delicious meal.  I love the feeling of creating something that I’m excited to eat and knowing that it’s good for my body too!

lady chopping vegetables

I have had many patients over the years tell me how much they hate being on a diet because they get so sick of eating chicken breast and salad or steamed vegetables every night.  My response: “Why on Earth would you eat that all the time?”  Yes, I know chicken breast is very lean and steamed vegetables are good for you but there are so many healthy flavorful meals you can create with a little practice and experimentation!  The possibilities are endless!

I realize that first and foremost, a person needs to know the basics of cooking.  So if you’re just starting out, here is an article to teach you the basics of cooking:

http://www.wikihow.com/Cook

 

 

Here are some of my top tips for creating a healthy, flavorful meal:

Use lean proteins that have flavor.lean proteins

My favorites are: lean ground turkey from Trader Joe’s, chicken sausage from Sprouts (they often have spicy Italian, sweet Italian, chicken and apple, and others in links and out of casings),  tuna or salmon from Sprouts, flank or skirt steak (I usually purchase from the Adams meat shop in Folsom, next to Trader Joe’s).  Of course there are many learn proteins to chose from, these just happen to be my favorites.  I never get the 99% fat free ground meats even though they are less calories because they always turn out dry and flavorless in my opinion, and it’s not worth the savings of calories if I don’t enjoy it.  I do, however, always make sure that any ground meats I purchase are somewhere between 93% and 97% lean because I find them to have a lot more flavor and are usually still pretty low in calories (typically under 160 calories/ 4 ounce serving).

 

Use plenty herbs and seasonings. spices

My husband and I love garlic so I add it to just about anything but you can use garlic, shallots, onion, basil, thyme, rosemary, cilantro or any other herb to enhance the flavor of a dish without adding calories.   Dry herbs are OK but fresh makes a huge difference!  Try starting a small herb garden or grow in small pots in your house if you only use a little at a time and don’t want it to go bad.  You can also freeze most herbs.  Here is an article on how to freeze herbs:

http://www.bhg.com/recipes/how-to/food-storage-safety/freezing-herbs/

I also love to use spices that have a lot of flavor such as chipotle powder, smoked paprika, pepper, and cinnamon.  Condiments such as Dijon mustard, hot sauce, low calorie dressings, vinegars, and citrus juices also add a ton of flavor to an otherwise bland tasting meal.

 

Use the right pans for cooking.  pots-and-pans

This can make all the difference in the world.  I like to use a cast iron pan for most meats or firm fish that I want to get a good sear on.  I most often use a really good non-stick pan for things like eggs, delicate fish, chicken, and sauteed vegetables.  If you have a good non-stick pan, you really never have to use butter or oil with your cooking.   I usually only use a quick spray of a non-stick cooking spray if I feel it’s necessary.

Side note: If you are trying to lose weight by reducing calories, the amount of butter and/or oil you are using with your cooking is extremely important to pay attention to.  One tablespoon of  butter is about 100 calories, and 1 tablespoon of any oil is about 120 calories.  It doesn’t matter which oil you are using.  They may have different health benefits but they do not have any less calories, so need to be used in very small amounts.  As you learn healthier cooking methods you will realize that most of the time it is not even necessary to use any oil in your cooking.

 

Experiment with vegetables:vegetables

Trying different methods of cooking your vegetables is huge if you are accustomed to boring, boiled or steamed vegetables with butter.  Don’t get me wrong, steamed veggies have their place too but there are so many other things you can do with vegetables!  My favorite method is to roast vegetables because it gives them a completely different taste.  It brings out the sweetness and nuttiness of the vegetables and they get a little crispy and charred, which I love. I roast brussels sprout, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, butternut squash, onions, zucchini, eggplant.  Come to think of it, I have roasted just about every vegetable and have never been disappointed.  Here is an article on how to roast vegetables without oil:

http://www.healwithfood.org/recipes/oven-roasting-vegetables-oil.php

 

 

Use gadgets for help.spiralizer

I also often use my spiralizer to turn my vegetables into “noodles” to replace pasta.  This is great for cold noodle salads with cucumber, sauteed noodles with zucchini, or roasted sweet potato “noodles”.  Sometimes just changing the shape of your vegetable can completely transform a meal.

Here is an article on how to use a spiralizer:

http://www.cooksmarts.com/articles/how-to-use-spiralizer-veggie-noodles/

You can also use a mandolin for slicing vegetables extremely thin, or a grater for a shredded or rice-like consistency for your vegetables.   I like to make cauliflower “rice” so I can have the feeling of eating rice for a very small fraction of the calories and carbs.   I often use my food processor for this purpose but it’s not completely necessary if you don’t have one, just more convenient.

Here is a recipe for making cauliflower “rice”:

https://whatscookingamerica.net/Vegetables/CauliflowerRice.htm

 

GET CREATIVE!lady cartoon cooking

I use recipes on Pinterest for inspiration and ideas a lot of the time.  If I know I have defrosted chicken in the fridge and spinach that’s starting to wilt so I want to use it up, I go to Pinterest and type in “recipes with chicken and spinach” and I scroll through the pictures until I find a recipe that looks good and I know I can create some version of using the ingredients I already have at home.  This is why food doesn’t go bad in my house.  A recipe can and should always be altered to your own tastes and the ingredients you have available.  Don’t be afraid to make it your own!   Try new ingredients, new cooking methods, new shapes, new food combinations.  It may not turn out perfectly every time but each time you do something new, you learn and you get better!.