In order to maintain or lose weight, we can’t eat too many calories every day. Adding exercise can help us reach fitness goals faster, but if excessive amounts of fattening foods are being consumed, we will still gain unwanted pounds.
The good news is that there are many ways to cut calories and fat from our favorite dishes without losing the flavor. By making smart food choices and using cooking techniques that promote lean, healthy meals, it’s easy to create a nutritious, low-calorie menu the whole family can enjoy.
Below are 5 easy ways anyone can reduce the fat or calorie content of favorite foods without losing the taste:
1. Use Reduced Fat Dairy Products—
Many low-fat products replace the missing fat with sugar, which is naturally fat-free, but quickly processed into fat by the body, nullifying the point. But dairy products like light sour cream, skim milk and reduced fat cheese are usually processed without extras.
There will be a change in richness and texture, such as the difference between skim versus whole milk, but at least you’re not drinking additives. Pay special attention to what is added to coffee as well, because rich, high-calorie creamer every morning can add up.
One exception: Many yogurt makers add artificial sweeteners to reduced fat yogurt products. These unnatural chemicals aren’t good for anyone, and most nutritionists will tell you it’s better to eat the full-fat yogurt with wholesome ingredients than to swallow dyes, additives or fake sweeteners in the name of fewer calories.
2. Add Vegetables Whenever Possible—
In addition to being full of vitamins, vegetables are a great way to add fiber and satiety to any meal without high calories.
If you’re making an omelet, add diced vegetables like grilled onions, tomatoes or peppers. If you’re making meatloaf, load it up with mushrooms, finely diced zucchini or beans. Turn the chicken breasts and rice you were planning into a delicious, veggie-filled stir-fry.
By replacing fattening foods with filling, low-calorie vegetables whenever you can, you will automatically lessen your daily caloric intake.
3. Use Lean Cooking Methods—
Obviously fried foods are not on the daily menu for anyone who’s trying to maintain a healthy weight, but there are other ways to prepare food that will make it taste great while still being healthful.
By taking the skin off lean meats and marinating them before cooking to maintain tenderness, you can drastically reduce fat content. Broiling, grilling and baking meat dishes rather than cooking with oil and rich sauces can save calories as well.
Stir-frying or sautéing in a pan or wok works great if minimal oil is used, and steaming vegetables is an extremely low-calorie way to prepare vegetables. This can be done via microwave or saucepan, but a vegetable steamer is a wonderful investment for any kitchen that takes all of the work out of this cooking technique.
4. The Spice of Life—
Adding extra herbs, spices and flavorful vegetables used to season meals such as pepper, paprika, dill, shallots and garlic can really boost low-calorie foods, making up for the missing fat with intense flavor.
Savory seasoning can also help convince family members who are reluctant to make the switch to healthier versions of their favorites (such as exchanging ground beef for leaner ground turkey).
Cooking with basil, garlic and oregano can give a meal a delightful Italian edge. Spices like cumin, coriander and turmeric can add an exotic Middle-Eastern flair to a meal, along with beneficial antioxidants. And don’t forget that while they aren’t officially spices, vinegar and lemon juice can really brighten up a dish.
5. Remove the Visible Fat—
In addition to removing skin from poultry, be sure to trim the fat off the edges of every cut of meat you prepare, and drain the grease or extra oil from anything cooked in a pan before using.
Always select the leanest cuts of meat, and choose ground meats like turkey and beef with the lowest fat ratio available.
If something is grilled or broiled, yet still greasy, use paper towels to gently blot excess oil from the surface before serving. This may seem like a small thing to do, but small things add up to big calorie savings over time.
In addition to helping with weight maintenance, eating less fat can add up to major health benefits like reducing risk for: type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and cancer. Use the low-calorie cooking tips above to help your family stay healthy and happy, while still enjoying all the foods you love to eat.