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10 Ways to Cook and Eat Healthier

10 Ways to Cook and Eat Healthier

Whether you're hoping to lose weight or just trying to improve your overall health, changing your cooking and eating habits will get you moving in the direction you want and get you closer to the results you're looking for. My wife and I love to cook together and we will be sharing our ideas on how to cook and eat healthier.

10 Ways to Cook and Eat Healthier collage top left picture is baked fish with lemons and peppers on top. top right picture is a selection of bbq meats with condiments surrounding them, bottom picture is baked chicken breast on a wood cutting board garnished with lemons and peppers

Ways to Cook Healthier

Cooking healthier can mean the difference between feeling energetic, and feeling like a sloth. When your body receives the proper nutrients, it feels better, you look better, you think better, you are, in every sense of the word, better!

man pouring oil on a broccoli spear on the grill

You can make small changes to your diet, without having to feel deprived. You will feel more satisfied than when you were eating junk food. You will feel full longer and your cravings for unhealthy foods will not be as strong or as often as they are now. Curbing those cravings combined with eating healthier and a moderate amount of exercise and you have a recipe for greatness. You can do this!

Some people worry that healthy means bland and flavorless. That couldn't be further from the truth. You just need to learn how to bring out the rich flavors of the food you are cooking, in a more natural way rather than masking it with unhealthy salts and sugars and fats. Turn tofu into a delicious stir fry, make chicken breast POP with robust flavor and vegetables that are truly mouth-watering.

There are six easy ways to improve the way that you eat without vowing to deprive yourself of the foods that you want. Yes, you can have healthy flavorful foods nightly. It's just a few simple changes and you will see the difference in your health stats and energy levels!

Choose the Right Cooking Methods

The method that you use to cook your food can play a big role in how healthy your meals are. Some people only focus on calories, or points and never giving credence to healthier cooking options.

Healthy Cooking in the microwave

White kitchen with a silver microwave and silver fridge

Let's start with a big misconception people have about microwaving. We tend to view a microwave as unhealthy, but it's primarily because of the typical foods we put in it are processed, quick, and easy meals. You know those meals that come out of a box or bag, grab and go meals or tv dinners. (showing my age here.)

Is Microwave Cooking Good or Bad for your Health?

HARVARD.EDU

Of course, those aren't healthy for you! They're packed with unrefined grains, fatty meats, and sugars. But if you turn your microwave into a healthy vegetable steamer you will quickly relaize that your microwave can be used for more than just popping corn or nuking leftovers.

Did you know cooking vegetables in water can leach the vitamins from them?

USDA.GOV

Vegetables do best when they're lightly cooked. A fast nuke in the microwave can heat up and soften your vegetables without you having to drain all of the nutrients from them with lengthy cooking methods. Vegetables retain a ton more or their vitamins and nutrients when they are slightly cooked versus cooking them longer.

You can sauté onions and mushrooms without using oils or butter which tend to be loaded with saturated fats. There are many healthier uses for the microwave.

The biggest problem with microwave cooking is that we haven't learned how cook healthy meals in it. They only know how to melt chocolate or blow up a bag of popcorn in it – but now there are tons of books and even videos that teach you how to cook complete meals that are healthy for you in your microwave oven.

How to steam vegetables

Steam rocks and a man holding a plate with hot rocks on it.

Steaming is another great way to cook healthier. Steaming lightly preserves the nutrients of the foods that you're cooking. Timing is everything though try not to steam your veggies until they are soft or mushy because this will have a similar effect as boiling them and they will lose some of their nutrition.

When you steam foods, you don't use oils or fats that give your food its flavor as with other cooking methods. You can learn how to use herbs and seasonings for a natural flavor punch that won't sabotage your health. Follow recipes at first and then doctor them to your tastes. I love playing around with different spices and herb combinations to see what flavor profile I can come up with.

Is Baking healthy for you?

Baked fish with lemons and peppers on a white plate

Baking is healthy if you choose the rights food to put into your oven. Baking is much healthier than frying. When you bake, meats tend to retain it's juiciness and flavor better than when frying. Baked vegetables will have more vitamins and nutrients than boiled ones. You might lose some of the nutrients due to the lengthy heat required to thoroughly cook many foods, but you do get the benefit of not having to add unhealthy fats or oils to your food to cook it.

Is BBQ'ing healthy for you?

bbq meats and vegetables

Grilling is similar to baking in that you do not have to add oils or fats to your dish to cook it. BBQ'ing or grilling is a fantastic way to eat healthier. The flavor that grilling imparts on your food is absolutely amazing! If you are like me and a huge fan of BBQ'ing and smoking then you know what I am talking about. Grilling always reminds me of summertime and going to the park. The smells were always amazing.

Invest in a good grill that will last you a lifetime. I have a grill and a smoker so we have something cooking outside all the time. There are tons of books on how to start, light, or cook whatever meat you are looking to BBQ on the grill. I recommend the BBQ bible as it has a plethora of information. Even if you live in an apt. you can get a little indoor grill and enjoy the flavors of summer 🙂

What effect does Boiling, Frying, Poaching have on nutrients?

poached egg sandwich with tomatoes and whole grain bread

Boiling, frying, and poaching decrease nutrients in the foods that are prepared this way. When you Boil foods you are cooking at such high heat levels that a lot of the vitamins and nutrients are getting lost in the water.

Frying adds oils and fats. Some fats are healthy and some are not. Cooking with healthy fats can increase your level of well being while using unhealthy ones will have the obvious opposite effect.

Even poaching can sometimes drain foods of their nutrients, but it's also healthy to cook some items such as salmon so no cooking method is completely off-limits. Knowing which cooking method will retain the most nutrients and fuel your body is the key to a healthier you.

What is a healthy way to cook meat?

Steaks on a grill

Most people are not vegetarians or vegans, although it is a fast-growing segment of the population. You can certainly add meatless meals to your cooking plans and have a much healthier outcome – but some people like meat and want to continue consuming it, so let's learn how to prepare it healthier.

First, start by choosing organic meats. You want meat that hasn't been fed tons of hormones or feed that isn't healthy for them. The more natural and/or free-roaming the better the quality of the meat and the more nutritious for you. It's a humane issue for many, but even if it's not for you, focus on the fact that free-range animals who have organic feed are healthier for your body.

Organic meats and vegetables tend to cost more. But they are worth it. Think of the incredible benefits you get from consuming organic meats vs the downfall to eating GMO or antibiotic and hormone fed meats. The long term benefits far outweigh the slight price increase now.

Now that we have the right source it is time to talk about choosing the right cuts of meat. Choose cuts that naturally have less fat on them. For beef, a center-cut steak or a filet mignon (sans bacon) is going to be healthier than a New York strip. Inspect the meat you are buying and choose wisely. Less fat and marbling will be healthier for you.

Lean meats – meats that have less marbling – can still be packed with flavor and juices – you just have to learn how to cook them so that they retain their flavor without drying out. I slow cook steaks and roasts that do not have a lot of marbling of fatty tissue. This helps to cook the meat thoroughly and doesn't dry it out. There are tons of tips online about how to keep your meats juicy while cooking them. I follow recipes and then alter them for taste. This has proven to be the best approach for me.

How do I chose healthy ground beef?

Ground beef patty
Ground beef patty

Buying beef like hamburger meat is easy because it will be labeled with the percentage of fat. Look for 95/5 to get the best ground beef. You may have to cook it longer or on a lower heat setting so it doesn't burn as it does not have the fat content of its 80/20 brother. Your burgers will still be flavorful and juicy but with a lot less fat and that is healthier for you.

What is the healthiest part of a chicken?

Chicken on a wood cutting board with veggies

Boneless skinless chicken breast is going to be the healthiest option. If you're buying chicken, look for skinless pieces or remove the skin once you get it home. Most of the fat is stored in and just under the skin. Skinless chicken breasts are a staple in the Smiley household and one of our main sources of protein. Generally, white meat is healthier than dark, but there's new evidence showing dark meat chicken has some health benefits also. Just remember to remove the skin before cooking and you will be well on your way to a healthier you.

Can fried food be healthy?

Yes, you can still have fried foods in moderation. When you are considering frying make sure you are using a healthy oil to create your crispy delicious meal. Some fats are actually good for you! You shouldn't be on a diet that eliminates fats completely. It is good to note that there are good fats, and bad fats – and you want to cook with nonsaturated “good” fats and oils.

olive oil in a glass container

You want to get rid of the artery cloggers. If the fat is hard in its room temperature state, it's not as healthy as a liquid one will be. For example, olive oil (a liquid) is healthier than a stick of butter. Olive and avocado oils are going to give you good fats and add flavor to your recipes. If you are opposed to either of those give safflower or sunflower oils a try, these three contain good fats and are considered heart-healthy.

Select fats that aren't packed with trans fat or saturated fat. Pick corn oils and canola, olive oil, and other oils made from things like sesame or sunflowers. Don't use fats from animals like lard. Not all non-animals fats are healthy. Coconut oil and palm oils have lots of saturated fat in them.

Are whole grains really healthy for you?

Whole grain breads.

When you eat grains, you might be thinking you're eating healthier. Make sure those grains are whole grains, which means you are eating them in their natural state, not refined and processed. If it is refined or processed it won't be as healthy for you.

Wholemeal, wholegrain, multigrain, sourdough, rye, white, high fiber white, low GI, low FODMAP, gluten-free. With so many choices of bread available, how are we to know which is best for our health?

The converstation.com
Whole grains

Try finding bread and beans that are still whole, not processed, and stripped of their nutrients. It can be hard to get used to but try various types to find what tastes best to you. I have tried different bread types and for the most part, I do not mind whole-grain bread. It is nuttier and more flavorful in my opinion. Which brand is best for weight loss? I made a list of the lower point bread according to Weight Watchers. The list is a great guideline even if you are not following the Weight Watchers plans. These loaves of bread tend to be healthier options.

We are finding a slew of new grains to try every day give quinoa a chance and you just may fall in love with it. Try some at a local reastaurant and if you like it buy some and try to make a dish at home.

The internet is filled with recipes that are geared towards keeping you healthy.

Smileyspoints.com

Cooking Vegetables

It's been mentioned before, but the less you cook your vegetables, the better they are for you. Heat depletes them of their vitamins and minerals. So lightly steam or sauté and then eat them.

Eat them RAW! You will get the most from your fruits and veggies by eating them fresh from the garden or right out of the fridge. There are many foods that taste wonderful raw, including baby spinach, turnips, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, apples, oranges, and more. A bonus if you are following the Weight Watchers plans these are all on the zero-point foods list for all three plans. You can't go wrong with raw fruits and veggies.

How do I make a recipe healthier?

You probably have some favorite recipes that are your “go-to” meals for things like special occasions. I have a few recipes, for when I don't feel like cooking, that are quick and easy to make yet still healthy. Start with you easier recipes and go from there. I have a YouTube friend who made has a list of 5 meals you can make in under 30 minutes. Take a look at how you can make each meal healthier. Cut out or substitute the unhealthy ingredients for healthier options. You will find you can still make a great tasting cake using applesauce instead of the oil.

Recipe hacks for a healthier meal

meal served by a shirtless man

If a recipe calls for one egg, use double the measurements – of the egg whites only! If it calls for something like sour cream or cottage cheese, you don't have to lose all of the flavors with a fat-free version but go light or reduced-fat instead. Small little tweaks like these will have long-lasting effects on your health. You don't have to give up flavor to eat healthier.

Seasonings

Use fresh basil or coriander, Try growing your herbs in a small window pot. Try using peppers for added flavor – they're also a great way to kickstart your metabolism! If you do not have a green thumb buying fresh herbs from your local grocery is also an option. being able to use fresh herbs and spices allows you to tweak the flavors. You can make the same dish twice but have it taste completely different just by changing a few spices.

Peppers will spice things up a bit

Adding peppers will add a little spice and kick to your dish. Peppers like jalapenos and habaneros will boost your metabolism and add a bit more fiber and protein to your meal. You can opt for cayenne if you don't want it as spicy but still want a little kick. I have used peppers fresh and dried. My preferred way is fresh of course, but I have found it is easier to measure dried peppers which makes it easier to control the heat in a specific dish.

Bonus: Another great way to cook healthier is by pressure cooking!

PRESSURE COOKING

Instant Pot

Food cooked in a pressure cooker requires very little water and time, which means that vitamins and minerals are kept intact. The pressure cooker seals in steam created by the boiling liquid, which intensifies the flavors. You can place your food on a rack inside the pressure cooker so it is not boiled. This means that you won't need to add any oil or fat for taste or richness. I season the food in a pressure cooker sparingly and the spices are infused into meats and stews very quickly when using this method. Soups and stews that would usually take hours to simmer on the stove or a whole chicken can be ready in 15 minutes, rice in five, and most vegetables in about three. I use a Ninja Foodi or an Instant Pot to create my recipes, I have created the Ultimate guide for the Instant Pot and have made 100's if not 1000's of recipes in it.

Couple cooking in the kitchen

Whatever you decide to do remember to have fun. Enjoy cooking and eat healthily.

smileyspoints.com

No matter what plan you are following Never Give Up!

A low cost path to success.

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7 Hacks for when you don't want to cook

We don't always feel like cooking here are a few hacks that will help you to stay on track and eating healthy even on days like…today :)

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