Let’s get one thing straight: when it comes to losing weight, the battle is ultimately won in the kitchen. True, it’s a tough pill to swallow and cooking to lose weight is an intimidating task for many, but any exercise or physical activity you work into your routine can easily be derailed by unhealthy, calorie-loaded meals. The good news is you don’t have to be a Michelin star chef to create delicious, nutritious and low calorie meals that will put you on the path to success. All it takes is a commitment to making wiser decisions with ingredients and letting go of any negative preconceptions that come with it.
Aside from dropping pounds faster, learning how to cook for weight loss will also hit the reset button on your taste buds and allow you to savor the natural flavors of your ingredients and lower your cravings for salty and fatty food. The question now is, where do you start? Here are some easy ways to change the way you cook at home for easier weight loss.
Ease Up on the Salt
Before you say goodbye to all salt completely, please know our bodies do need salt as sodium aids in transmitting nerve impulses, balancing the level of fluids in the body, and contracting muscle fibers. With that being said, your body only needs about a tenth of a teaspoon a day to accomplish this. That’s a miniscule amount of less than 1500 mg compared to the 3400mg of salt that most people consume daily. Salt does not prevent weight loss per se, it does slow the process down considerably by retaining too much water.
More importantly, the retained water causes a domino effect of health problems starting with high blood pressure and ending in life threatening organ failure. Instead of relying on salt for flavor, try using spices, fresh or dried herbs and roots like garlic or ginger to bring your dishes to life. Other options include using liquids like citrus, wine or vinegar.
Choose Your Fat Carefully
Not all fats are created equal. If you need to cook with oil, use unsaturated fats like olive oil or grape seed oil instead of saturated fats like butter. You can also cut fat from other meals like breakfast or from your snacks by choosing healthier fats. For example, instead of smothering your toast with butter or margarine in the morning, top your toast with a serving of avocado or pure nut butter. When consumed conservatively or used sparingly in cooking, unsaturated fats play an important role in our daily diet and can help reduce the risk of heart disease or lower cholesterol levels.
At the end of the day, however, fat is fat. Just because you are using unsaturated fat doesn’t mean you should go bananas with it. A teaspoon of olive oil, for example, contains 40 calories, so when cooking for weight loss, it’s best to use as little oil as possible. Don’t forget to avoid cooking spray. Even if the oil used is unsaturated fat, it’s easy to use way too much cooking spray and consume far more calories than you should be.
Opt for Nutrient Dense Ingredients
It should go without saying, but choosing nutrient dense ingredients is a huge factor to successfully cooking to lose weight. For those who aren’t already aware, nutrient dense foods are those that pack tons of nutrients for fewer calories like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. The same concept applies to meat as well. A 100-gram serving of salmon, for example, contains 208 calories and 13 grams of fat, which is preferable to the 250 calories and 15 grams of fat of 100 grams of lean beef.
You may be wondering if it makes much of a difference with vegetables and the short answer is yes. Let’s take kale and Romaine lettuce as an example. While a cup of chopped kale has 33 calories and a cup of chopped Romaine lettuce only has 8 calories, the kale has 2.9 grams of protein versus the 0.6 grams of protein in the lettuce. Yes, the kale has more calories, but because it’s a dense leafy green, it gets you full faster and keeps you full longer.Other easy swaps would be sweet or white potatoes over white rice or eating strawberries (low in sugar) versus grapes (high in sugar).
Experiment with Various Cooking Methods
There’s more to cooking than just frying everything up, and if you’re cooking to lose weight, it’s absolutely essential to experiment with other cooking methods to keep your calorie intake down. Got an oven? Baking is a great way to add flavor to your food while keeping calories, salt, and even the number of dishes to cook, low. Mastering the one-pan meal can also help you prep multiple meals in advance and set you up for even greater success in the future. Blanching, on the other hand, is the perfect cooking method for people who like their vegetables crispy but don’t necessarily want to be eating salads day in and day out.
Blanched asparagus or blanched kalian, for example, are absolutely delicious with a bit of chopped garlic, ginger and just a teeny bit of sesame oil. For those who are fried food addicts, stir-frying is a great way to bridge the gap and bring you over to the healthy cooking side. It’s also a great way to make healthier versions of your favorite Chinese food like lemon chicken or sweet and sour fish.
Losing weight is not easy and if you’re not careful, you could wind up doing yourself more harm than good. Just remember that when it comes to shedding the pounds, making smarter food choices and cooking your meals yourself can make a huge difference. You can cut tons of calories by simply choosing to cook all your meals yourself and by applying the tips stated above. If you’re having a hard time switching over to healthy cooking for weight loss straight away, then take it slow.
Try incorporating the principles above to your routine slowly and testing different flavors until you find something that works for you. Don’t forget to get as creative as you possibly can as well. Experimenting in the kitchen and discovering what healthy flavors make your taste buds sing will help keep you on track and will ensure that you don’t feel deprived during this journey towards a fitter and happier you.