Healthy Cooking Ideas

Make Your Meals More Healthy

The weekends are a great time to try a new recipe, or two. Typically, the weekends offer a little more downtime so take advantage of it and get creative. Find a recipe you wish to try and go for it! If the recipe isn’t completely healthy, there are ways you can modify any recipe to make it healthier and “Gina Approved”.  Just as important as choosing healthy foods is to your overall success, how you cook your foods and what you add to them is just as important. You can make a healthy food option unhealthy by how you prepare and cook it.Let’s take zucchini, for example. This is a completely healthy food choice, wouldn’t you say?  If it is simply raw, sautéed in a touch of healthy oil (coconut, olive, etc), grilled, baked, or broiled it is completely healthy. Now that same “healthy food” can become unhealthy when it battered and deep fried or lathered in butter and unhealthy cooking oils. What we add to foods and how we prepare them makes all the difference when it comes to cooking.

As you attempt to try a new recipe, it is always a good idea to analyze the ingredients and see how you may be able to shave of unnecessary calories. With a few substitutions, you can significantly reduce the calories, fats, carbs,  and sugars without sacrificing flavor! Look for excess cheese, butter, oils, and sugars.

Here are a few helpful modification tips:

-Sauté with a couple of tablespoons of low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth instead of oil or butter! If you are using oil, go for just a serving of your healthy oils such as coconut or olive oil.

-Say no to skin on proteins and yes to skin on tubers. Three ounces of chicken breast meat with skin has almost 150 calories; three ounces of chicken without the skin has 50 fewer calories. The skin in protein is where most of the unhealthy saturated fat lies whereas the skin on a yam or a sweet potato is where most of the nutrients and fiber resides. If you choose to cook with skin to retain moisture, just be sure to remove the skin before you eat your meal, to save on calories and saturated fat.

-Use citrus. To add flavor without the added calories of butter or oil,  use lime and lemon on steamed veggies, lean protein dishes,  or even as a dressing on a salad.

-Beware of cheese! Cut the serving size of the cheese in half or rather remove it all together, depending on the recipe. If you decide to use the cheese, go for an organic source and try a reduced fat/sodium version. My favorite cheese substitute is Almond Cheese!

-Go Greek. Fat-free Greek yogurt is a great replacement for sour cream, mayo or any other required cream. Try this switch in herbed and spiced dips, tacos, nachos, enchiladas, or throw it in a cooked dish as a thickening agent. You’ll save 45 calories for each 2-tablespoon serving.

-Puree your produce. Add volume to soups and sauces with pureed vegetables instead of heavy cream, butter or cheese. This move will also add fiber and nutrients to your dish with very few calories.

-Cottage cheese is another great replacement for cheeses and creams. Similar to the Greek Yogurt, cottage cheese can be used in dips, to rep ace creams or mayo!

-Add veggies to any dish to pump up the volume and decrease the calories! Veggies can compliment any dish on your menu, adding nutrient-packed bulk to the meal for few calories. When a recipe calls for a certain amount of veggies, simply double or triple that “serving” for a more satisfying and healthy meal!

-Make your own marinade rather than a store bought version. Marinate lean meats in vinegar and citrus combos, with a bit of oil and seasonings, rather than a pre-made oil-based dressing. This will help tenderize meal while adding flavor. You’ll also save on sodium and unnecessary sugars by not using the store-bought varieties!

-Go for the grain! Use whole grain, whole wheat in replace of any white flour! Replace any white with the dark, whole grain version! If a dish calls for white flour, go for oat, quinoa, or whole wheat flours.

-Going Low-Carb or Gluten Free? Try  these flour substitutions:  coconut flour, nut flours (walnut, peanut, almond meal, etc), and flaxseed meal.

-Go for the natural and unprocessed no calorie sweeteners such as Stevia to replace any white sugars! Some recipes call for sugar that don’t necessarily need the added sweetness. You may be able to eliminate sugar all together but if not, definitely go for the healthier, lower calorie, natural version. TIP: often you can use seasonings and spices to give the bit of sweetness you are looking for without the added calories!

-Instead of oils or butter, use applesauce! Applesauce is a great butter and oil substitute in baking. Simple add the same amount of unsweetened apple sauce as the recipe calls for oil or butter and you have shaved off several unnecessary calories!

As you can see, there are endless ways you can enhance the nutrition and reduce the calories and unnecessary fats, carbs and sugars of almost any recipe. This weekend, get creative and experiment in the kitchen. I guarantee, you will find that these new ways of cooking taste just as good, if not better, than the “real” thing! At that point, eating healthy becomes a realistic part of your lifestyle. It is all about being creative and learning  the ways to satisfy your tastebuds while reaching your goals, win-win!

Please share your favorite cooking substitutions on my Facebook Page. I would love to hear from  you!


Gina Aliotti

Gina is Co-Founder of Devotion Nutrition. She is a Professional Figure Competitor, certified personal trainer, certified yoga instructor, CrossFit instructor, nutritionist, and fitness consultant. Her passion is to inspire, motivate and teach people the tools to reach their lifelong fitness goals, in a realistic and fun way.

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