While cooking isn’t an exact science, there are things you can do to make your meals better for your health. If you’re ready to turn a corner in your life and embrace healthier living, here are just a few tips for more nutritional cooking.
1. Say No to Refinement
Refined grains lack the bran of their unrefined counterparts. The next time you’re cooking stews or casseroles that involve rice, switch to brown rice instead of white. You’ll have the exact same dish but with many more health benefits.
2. Understand Fats
In an era where “fat-free” products are flying off the shelves, many people mistakenly assume that all fats are bad. In reality, unsaturated fats can have quite a few positive health benefits when paired with the right foods and consumed in moderation. You just have to know what they are.
3. Sneak in the Vegetables
If your children hate eating vegetables, a simple solution is to sneak them into foods where they won’t notice. For example, there’s a kind of apple cinnamon bread you can make that works zucchini chunks into the bread, but it’s only there for moisture and doesn’t actually have any taste. Your kids won’t even register it.
4. Use More Dairy
Dairy products do have calorie counts you’ll need to watch, but they’re such good sources of calcium and other nutrients that it would be a mistake to cut them out of your diet entirely. Drink your milk and eat your cheese; just do it in moderation.
5. Read the Labels
This is an obvious piece of advice that’s nonetheless ignored by the average consumer. What ingredients are in your groceries? What are their daily percentage values? The answers may shock you, but it’s still better to know than to live in ignorance. Since I’m allergic to food colors, I have to be super careful.
6. Take Cooking Classes
Look for organic or health-focused cooking classes in your area. Not only will they teach you how to make multiple meals without drowning them in high-fructose corn syrup, but companies like Cozymeal will even pair you up with professional chefs.
7. Watch Out for Sodium
Everyone knows that too much salt can ruin a dish, but fewer realize the havoc that salt can wreak on your body. Not only can it result in everything from clogged arteries to poor circulation, but it’ll also retain water weight and make your waistline larger! And Angela has severe heart issues, so I always have to watch her sodium intake. I also tend to only cook with sea salt.
8. Add a Little Zest
Zesty, tangy flavors like citrus and lime can often give the illusion of fullness. This is because you can’t bite into a lemon without knowing it, so you’re aware of every bite. It isn’t like junk food where you can eat an entire bag of chips or cookies without realizing it.
9. Eat Less Meat
Saturated fat strikes again! You’ll find it in all kinds of red meat, so curb your carnivore tendencies whenever you can. Vegetarianism is the smartest way to go, but even if you like cheeseburgers too much to give them up, you can still be smart about the size of cheeseburger you consume.
10. Use Sweeteners Sparingly
If you’re cutting sugar out of your diet, you might be tempted to use sugar substitutes instead. Just know that compounds like aspartame and xylitol come with their own risks. While they’re okay to sprinkle in sparse amounts, they shouldn’t be considered “free” ingredients you can use without consequence.
11. Mind Your Portions
Were you aware that the “average” portion size grows bigger by the year? The next time you’re looking at nutritional facts, take a gander at the officially-recognized serving size. Sometimes it’s only a fraction of the entire thing that you’re eating in one sitting!
12. Embrace Red Wine
Red wine is good for the heart as long as you don’t overdo it, so don’t be afraid to open that bottle during the holidays. If you don’t like the taste of red wine on its own, you can also use it in the kitchen in sauces and special dishes.
13. Know Your Carbs
There are two types of cholesterol. One is low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as the “bad” cholesterol, while the other is the much better high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Instead of avoiding carbs all together, just make sure you’re cooking with HDL instead of LDL.
14. Make Substitutions
The easiest way to commit to a healthy lifestyle is to keep eating what you already eat but with better ingredients. For example, instead of using high-fat, high-calorie salad dressings, buy some balsamic vinegar. You’ll enjoy the same meal but with a healthier bottom line.
These are just a few ways you can cut back on the butter and start cooking healthier meals. There are many more, of course, but these should be enough to get you started on a journey of better nutrition.