More and more, Americans are avoiding the kitchen and relying on the convenient yet fattening fare offered at fast food restaurants and other national chains. While most people are aware that cooking at home is an effective way to save money, many of us ignore the fact that preparing our own meals can be beneficial to our health, as well. When taking steps to prepare meals in the healthiest possible way, you can not only develop a healthy relationship with food, but also probably have a little fun in the process. Most importantly for patients of weight-loss surgery, learning to prepare healthy meals is one of the biggest steps towards meeting long-term weight loss goals and maintaining healthy eating habits. The following tips represent just a sample of the many ways you can make the meals you prepare as healthy as possible.
Remove the Skin and Fat
Whenever you prepare chicken or any other type of meat, you should remove the skin and fat before cooking. Not only will you leave yourself the best-tasting portions, you will be able to avoid plenty of unwanted calories and unhealthy fat.
Cut the Oil in Half
If you prepare your meals from cookbooks or family recipes, add only half the amount of oil listed – or less – to all of your dishes. Though many cooking oils – such as olive, safflower, sesame and canola – contain unsaturated fats that can help lower cholesterol levels, these additives can also pack plenty of calories that can jeopardize your weight loss goals. If you consume these oils in moderation, you will be able to obtain the healthy benefits, retain the taste of your meals and stick to your weight loss goals.
Coat Your Pans with Cooking Spray or Chicken Broth
One of the easiest ways to avoid excess consumption of such cooking oils is to use cooking sprays and chicken broth instead. When sautéing meat or vegetables on the stovetop, coat your pans with a fat-free cooking spray or healthy chicken broth instead of traditional oils. Once you perfect the simple art of healthy sautéing, you will be able to enjoy meals that are not only healthier, but more delicious.
Pour in Skim Milk Instead of Cream
Much like the suggestion to substitute cooking sprays for oils, using skim milk – especially the evaporated variety for weight loss-surgery patients – instead of whole cream can help you trim fat and calories from your meals. People may also be surprised to hear that buttermilk is also naturally low in fat and is available in low fat and non-fat versions in some markets. When shopping for dairy products, you should also stock up on low-fat yogurt to use in lieu of sour cream or mayonnaise and low-fat cheese instead of the standard variety. Thick, creamy fat free or low fat Greek Yogurt serves as a delicious replacement as well.
Use Applesauce in Your Baked Goods
For all of your baked goods recipes, substitute applesauce for any type of cooking oil. However, you should definitely try to limit your consumption of baked goods, especially pastries that incorporate large amounts of sugar.
Cook with Fresh Spices
Rather than dousing your meals with unhealthy amounts of salt, you should also try to learn the art of cooking with fresh spices. Not only will spices add an incredible amount of flavor to your meals, you can season your food without worrying about the potentially dangerous effects of salt. However, be careful of packaged seasoning mixes as many contain excessive amounts of salt, destroying the benefit of using different spices.
Find Healthy Ways to Prepare Your Meals
Even if you follow all of the previous tips, using the wrong cooking methods can ruin the healthy benefits of your meals. As a result, you should avoid such cooking methods as frying. Instead, try steaming your vegetables and cooking your meats on a grill or in the oven. Your microwave also represents a healthy solution, as most foods can be cooked thoroughly without the use of oils or fatty cooking additives.
As you perfect the methods of healthy cooking, you should also try to enjoy the entire process of cooking – from the simple activities to the aromas. You may even want to purchase new pots, pans, utensils or cooking appliances to help you make the most of your healthy meals. Eating should be a relaxing experience and allowing yourself to enjoy cooking will help you develop a healthy lifelong relationship with food. Many people find success by making it a family activity to teach their children how to shop, cook and eat healthy.