Healthy Cooking Concepts

Here are some tips for healthier cooking:

  • Always steam or stir-fry your vegetables to preserve all the nutrients. Make sure to avoid cooking at high temperatures or cooking for too long of a time.
  • Try using vinegar, tomatoes, onions, herbs, and fat-free or low-fat salad dressings to add flavor to your salad.
  • Use your time wisely. Make your healthy meals last longer by preparing enough for several other meals. Freeze it and have a healthy dinner the next time you are too tired to cook.
  • Smoothies are simply delicious! Throw a banana, frozen berries, fat-free yogurt or milk, and protein powder into your blender for a quick meal.
  • Replace salt and prepared seasonings with herbs, spices, salt-free seasoning mix, lemon juice, hot chiles, citrus zest, and garlic or onion powder.
  • Make sure to always choose frozen vegetables over canned, processed, and preserved to help lower your salt intake.
  • Lower the fat and calories when making baked goods by using 3 mashed bananas or 1 cup of applesauce in place of butter, shortening, or oil.
  • Replace highly-refined all-purpose flour with whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, whole cornmeal, or flaxseed meal.
  • Use plain, fat-free yogurt, or fat-free or low-fat sour cream in baking recipes. Try to always use lower fat versions of cheeses, salad dressings, and milk.
  • Decrease the amount of fat and calories in your recipes by using fat-free milk or 1% milk instead of whole or 2% milk. Try fat-free, half-and-half, or evaporated skim milk.
  • Use non-stick cooking spray for grilling or sitr-frying. When using oil, select olive or canola oil.
  • Use two egg whites instead of one whole egg or low cholesterol egg products to reduce the fat and cholesterol content of your baked goods.
  • Drain off visible fat while cooking. Blot fried foods on paper towels to absorb extra grease, and allow soups to chill before serving so you can skim the fat off the top.

Supermarket Shopping Strategies

Here are some shopping strategies to help you with your diet:

  • Prepare a list ahead of time. Spend a few minutes writing down what you need. This will save you time and money because, after you get to the store, you might want to buy more items than were part of your original plan or budget.
  • Make sure you shop on a full stomach. Don’t shop when you are hungry. You may not make the best judgement on what to get and may grab any junk food in sight because your body needs to be fed!
  • Shop the perimeter of the store. All your basic staples are there — fresh fruits and vegetables, breads and other grains, raw meats and seafood, and dairy products. All the highly process packaged foods are in the middle aisles.
  • Buy pre-cut and washed fresh fruit or vegetables. Use a bagged salad or slaw mix for a quick salad.
  • Load your freezer with frozen vegetables and fruits. Vegetables can be easily added to soups or sitr-fry’s. Berries can be added to yogurt, smoothies, and breakfast cereals.
  • Instant oatmeal and whole grain cereal make for a quick breakfast or snack. Make sure you choose a plain cereal with less added sugar.
  • Pick up whole wheat pitas, wraps, or English muffins for a change from sandwich bread.
  • Select pre-marinated meat, poultry, fish, vegetable, or shrimp skewers.
  • Add canned beans and lentils to soups, chilis, pasta sauces, or salads. They are healthy alternatives to meat and can save you meal preparation time.
  • Nuts and seeds (without salt) are healthy snacks to help you through a mid-afternoon slump.
  • Check out the deli section of the store for healthy foods like hummus, salsas, roasted chicken (remove the skin), and deli meats. Choose deli meats that are low in fat, like turkey, chicken, and lean roast beef.
  • Yogurt comes in all different sizes and flavors and is a good calcium-rich snack. Cottage cheese and ricotta cheeses are both high in protein and calcium.

Understanding Nutrition Labels

Look for both the serving size and the number of servings in the package. Make sure you measure your portion size to the serving size listed on the label. If you don’t pay attention to this, you are probably eating more calories and fat than you realize!


Find the amount of calories in one serving and the number of calories from fat. If your goal is to lose weight, the lower both of these numbers are, the better.

Evaluate how a certain food fits into your daily food plan by using the % Daily Values (DV). Less than 5% is low. Aim low when looking at total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. More than 20% is high. Aim high when looking at fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Choose foods low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium. This may help reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer.

Get more fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Choose more fruits and vegetables to get these nutrients.

What about carbohydrates? Choose whole-grain breads, cereals, rice, and pasta. Stay away from products that contain refined sugars, such as table sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup.

What do all these product label claims mean?

  • Low calorie – less than 40 calories per serving
  • Low cholesterol – less than 20 mg of cholesterol and 2 g or less of saturated fat per serving
  • Reduced fat – 25% less fat than the usual product
  • Good source of – provides at least 10% of the Daily Value of a particular vitamin or nutrient per serving
  • Calorie free – less than 5 calories per serving
  • Fat free/sugar free – less than 1/2 g of fat or sugar per serving
  • High in – provides 20% or more of the Daily Value of a specified nutrient per serving
  • High fiber – 5 or more grams of fiber per serving

Eating for Exercise

Planning what you need to eat before you exercise can help you maintain a high energy level during your workout. However, this does not mean you should exercise on a full stomach because this can lead to cramping and nausea. You should allow 1-4 hours for digestion, depending on what and how much you have eaten.

If you work out first thing in the morning, you should eat something easily digestible 20-30 minutes before you exercise. A piece of fruit, yogurt, or a shake are all good pre-workout choices.

If you are working out later on in the day, you should have carbohydrate-rich foods, such as whole what bread or crackers, oatmeal, fruit, or an energy bar, at least an hour before you work out. These carbohydrates will be stored in your muscles as glycogen, which will be used for fuel during your workout.

Before your workout, try not to consume simple carbohydrates, such as honey, candy, or sugary drinks. They will not provide you with enough energy to get through your workout.

Avoid any foods that contain a lot of fat because they are slow to digest and will only slow you down and make you feel sluggish during your workout. Stay away from fast food, hot dogs, cookies, cake, ice cream, french fries, chips, and candy bars because they are all high in fat and will remain in the stomach for a long time.

At least one hour before your workout:
Eat complex carbs, such as:

  • whole grains
  • whole wheat bread
  • oatmeal
  • whole grain cereal or crackers
  • whole wheat pasta
  • brown rice.

Immediately after your workout:
Eat more complex carbs with protein, such as:

  • low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese with whole wheat crackers
  • 1 Tbsp peanut butter or 3 egg whites with 1 slice of whole wheat toast
  • 3 oz. chicken or fish with 1/2 cup of brown rice or whole what pasta

What About Water?

Water suppresses the appetite naturally and helps the body metabolize stored fat. Studies have shown that a decrease in water causes fat deposits to increase, while an increase in water can actually reduce fat deposits.

The best treatment for fluid retention is to drink more water. As you drink less water, your body sees this as a threat to survival and will begin to store water in extracellular places (outside the cells). This is when you start to feel “bloated”. If you have a constant problem with water retention, you may be consuming too much salt. The more salt you eat, the more water your body holds on to dilute it.

The more overweight you are, the more water you need. This is because you will have a larger metabolic load. Water gives muscles their natural ability to contract and helps to maintain proper muscle tone.

It also helps to remove and flush out waste from the body.

Water can help with relieving constipation. If the body doesn’t get enough water, it will take it from sources in the body like the colon. If you drink enough water, normal bowel function will return.

How much water should you drink? The average person needs eight 8 oz. glasses every day. An overweight person needs one extra glass for every 25 pounds of excess weight. You should also increase your water intake if you are exercising or if the weather is hot and dry.

Warm water is absorbed into the system more quickly than cold water. Evidence has suggested that your body will actually burn calories in order to warm the water to your body’s natural temperature.

What are the benefits if you drink the proper amount of water your body requires to function at its best level?

  • Stored water is lost, relieving any fluid retention.
  • More fat is used up for energy because the liver’s load becomes lighter.
  • Natural thirst returns.
  • Cravings for carbohydrate foods decrease.

Fabulous Fiber Facts

High fiber foods play a major role in your weight loss program because they fill you up with little to no calories. Fiber expands in your stomach and gives you a greater sense of fullness. You can eat larger portions for fewer calories.

Fiber Facts:

  • Fiber helps to prevent gastrointestinal disorders such as diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, and constipation.
  • Fiber helps to lower cholesterol and triglycerides and improves blood sugar control in diabetes.
  • The recommended daily fiber intake for adults is 35 grams per day.
  • Eating plenty of fiber-containing foods promotes proper bowel function.
  • Diets rich in fiber can help lower blood pressure because the diet natrually becomes lower in fat and calories.

Ways to Increase Fiber:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables – at least 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables a day.
  • Choose high-fiber foods like berries, citrus fruits, oatmeal, beans, dark green vegetables, and whole grain bread and cereal.
  • Keep bags of frozen vegetables in your freezer. Add to soups, sauces, casseroles, or pasta dishes.
  • Serve fish, chicken, or lean meat over a bed of grilled zucchini, sauteed spinach, or sliced onions.
  • Snack on air-pooped popcorn and dry-roasted nuts and seeds.

Portion Distortion

It can sometimes be difficult to estimate proper portion sizes. Here are some visuals that can help you eat less and lose weight!

Handful = 1-2 oz.
Example: 1 oz. nuts = 1 handful; 2 oz. pretzels = 2 handfuls

Fist = 1 cup
Example: 2 servings of pasta or oatmeal

Palm (not including your fingers) = 3 oz.
Example: 1 cooked serving of meat

1 fruit serving = 1/2 cup canned or 1 medium fruit (about the size of a tennis ball)

1 meat, poultry, or fish serving = 3 oz. (about the size of a deck of cards)

1 grain = 1 slice bread, pre-sliced (about the size of a cassette tape) or 1/2 cup pasta (about the size of an adult woman’s palm, stacked 1″ high)

1 dairy serving = 8 oz. (the size of a container of individual yogurt)

1 vegetable seving = 1/2 cup cooked or canned vegetables (about 1/2 a baseball)

1 fat serving = 1 teaspoon (about the size of 4 stacked dimes)

Changing Eating Behaviors

Here are some tips for improving your eating habits:

Eating should be a pure experience.

You should do nothing else while eating. You should taste and enjoy every bite.

Always eat in the same place.

Never eat when you are standing, in front of the TV, at the kitchen counter while cooking, or lying in bed.

Follow an eating schedule.

All meals and snacks should be pre-planned at specific times. This way you don’t have to think about what you are going to eat.

Never skip meals or snacks.

Meal skipping may cause you to overeat at your next meal because your body will be hungry, and your blood sugar will be low.

Know your cravings.

If you want something creamy, sweet, or salty, don’t talk yourself into something else; just eat it. If you don’t go with your craving, you just might end up eating more of something you didn’t even want in the first place.

Try not to clean your plate.

Always leave a little food on your plate after every meal, and you will save tons of calories over time.

Use smaller plates and bowls.

This will help you to eat smaller portions of food.

Slow down your eating pace.

Eating too fast limits the enjoyment of food. Remember: it takes about twenty minutes for your body to realize that it’s full.

Always eat your favorite foods first.

This way you will stop eating if you are full.

Never take a second helping.

Make one plate of food, and after you are finished, don’t add anything else to your plate.

Store trigger foods out of sight.

They will be too tempting to resist if they are around all day.

Get rid of all your clothes that are too big.

This way you will have nothing to wear if you start to gain weight.

Only eat when you are truly hungry.

Ask yourself if you are really hungry or if you are just bored, stressed, tired, anxious, etc.

How to Make Paper – An Illustrated Step-by- Stage Guide

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