There is normally a love or hate relationship with cooking recipes at home. Either you hate it because it’s daunting, takes up time, or never really works out. Or you love it because it’s nostalgic, you’re good at it, or it’s just fun!
Either way- if you have weight loss goals, that usually means you’re stuck making a lot of your own food. The problem is, you can never make the recipes you love because they aren’t “healthy” or they don’t fit your dietary restrictions. We know Grandma’s mac and cheese recipe is the BEST but that amount of fat and carbs isn’t going to cut it.
What if there were a few things you could do to make recipes healthier so that you still enjoyed your favorite dishes? Don’t worry- we’ve got you covered! With these simple tips, you’ll be whipping up healthy- but delicious – recipes in no time.
1. Change The Cooking Method.
One of the easiest ways to make recipes healthier is to change the cooking methods. For example, instead of frying foods, consider baking, grilling, or broiling them. These methods can help reduce the amount of oil and calories in the dish. Oil is a fat source, and fat is very calorie dense. There are 9 calories per gram of fat. So by skipping a method where you cook the food in a ton of fat, you can save yourself hundreds of calories. While baking, grilling or broiling, be cautious with the amount of oil you use, even if it is olive oil or avocado oil. Just a tablespoon of oil will add 100 calories to your dish. You can use non-stick cookware to help reduce the amount of oil needed for cooking. Or switch to Pam spray rather than drizzling food with oil.
Weight Watchers Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp is a great example. Normally a dish like this is deep fried. And while delicious, just ONE fried coconut shrimp can have as many as 126 calories. By simply switching cooking methods and using an air fryer, one whole serving of coconut shrimp is only 200 calories. Air frying or even toasting it in a pan with pam spray makes this dish much more diet friendly!
2. Swap Ingredients for Healthier Options.
Another way to make recipes healthier is to swap out ingredients for lower-calorie or more nutrient-dense options. For example, replace white flour with whole wheat flour. Whole wheat flour will give you more fiber, vitamins and minerals per serving than white flour will. And it does not cause sugar spikes like white flour does.
Use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. They are very similar in taste, but non-fat greek yogurt will give you protein rather than fat. Protein is much lower in calories per gram than fat is, and it helps keep you full as well.
In a lot of baking dishes, you can use bananas, applesauce or pumpkin puree in place of butter and oil. This gingerbread loaf uses applesauce instead of high-calorie oil or butter. All the comforting flavors from the warm spices come through, but swapping the oil saves you over 100 calories per slice! One slice of our gingerbread loaf is only 140 calories, while Starbucks Gingerbread loaf boasts a whopping 400 calories per slice.
These simple swaps can help reduce calories, fat, and sodium while increasing the nutritional value of the dish.
3. Add More Vegetables.
Adding more vegetables to a recipe is an easy way to boost the nutritional content and make it healthier. Vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. You can add vegetables to soups, stews, casseroles, and pasta dishes. You can also use vegetables as a substitute for some of the meat in dishes like burgers, meatballs, and tacos.
If you don’t like vegetables, trying dishes like The Tastiest Vegan Chicken Nuggets will help you “cover” the veggie taste instead of forcing yourself to just eat a side of veggies. This recipe uses cauliflower, leeks and beans for a heart-healthy alternative to traditional fried chicken nuggets. And it can be done in 5 easy steps- no need to be a kitchen aficionado!
4. Make Protein Focused Dishes.
Protein is almost a “magic” food for weight loss. It can increase satiety but also help to preserve lean muscle mass. If you preserve lean muscle mass while in a weight-loss phase, the weight you lose will be body fat (which is what you want). And because protein increases satiety, it makes it much easier to stick to a healthy eating plan.
It doesn’t all have to be boring, broiled chicken breast though. It can be tasty and healthy. There are several lean protein options other than chicken, such as turkey tenderloin, lean ground beef, lean ground turkey, top sirloin, pork loin, and Canadian bacon. These 21 Stunning Turkey Tenderloin Recipes will get you started on the right path toward a high-protein dinner!
5. Control Portions By Adding Healthy Sides.
Sometimes it’s not the recipe itself that’s super unhealthy- it’s the amount we eat. There’s nothing wrong with a slice of pizza. It’s the 3rd-4th slice that starts adding up. So if you want to make your Grandma’s mac and cheese just how it is, have a portion of it, and round out your meal with a healthy side dish. By adding a healthy side, you’ll be able to feel full and curb those second-helping cravings.
Roasted vegetables make a perfect side for almost any meal. Not only are they packed with flavor from fresh herbs, they help you knock out two of these five tips. You’re controlling portions and adding more veggies to your meal. The variety of vegetables helps you get in a range of vitamins and minerals as well.
If you’re unsure where to start- pick one tip and use it for a week. Once you’re comfortable with it and it becomes a habit, start building in healthy swaps until you feel good and love the way you’re eating.