Achieving a good diet depends on nutrition awareness, smart food choices and healthy cooking methods. Take away one of these elements and it can be difficult to maintain or lose weight. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that Americans, in general, ingest too many calories and too high a proportion of salt, sugar, fat and cholesterol. Obesity, heart problems and other chronic diseases are the result. Thanks to public health initiatives, however, things are changing. As the American diet evolves, restaurant chefs and home cooks increasingly create lighter, more nutritious meals. By drawing on a handful of healthy cooking secrets, you can, too.
Replace butter at the table with olive tapenade, nut butter or bean puree, such as hummus. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) notes that flavorful, nutritious spreads make worthy condiments in a good diet. LIVESTRONG.COM: 5 Things You Need to Know About Saturated Fat Intake
Light or low-fat salad dressings have more water and vinegar than oil. Non-fat dressings skip the oil completely and concentrate flavors more intensely. The American Heart Association (AHA) also suggests using these as dips for veggies and marinades for meats.
Cook from scratch to control salt content. The USDA notes that many retail packaged foods have very high salt content, even healthy choices, such as salsa and frozen vegetables. The AHA suggests adding dry mustard or a little diced fresh chile pepper to vegetable dishes instead of salt.
Frying should be your last resort when heating foods. To minimize oil use, stir fry in a wok or saute in a nonstick pan. To lose weight, poach, steam, roast, broil or grill everything you cook. The AHA shares the secret that low-fat, low-sodium broth adds flavor to these healthy cooking methods. LIVESTRONG.COM: Spicy Wok Shrimp Recipe
If you're trying to lose weight, you can still enjoy baked items in a good diet. The oil or butter in muffins and cakes can be replaced with an equal amount of pureed bananas or applesauce, the AHA reports. The ADA recommends adding a handful of nutritious almonds or hazelnuts to baked goods, salads and main dishes for punch. LIVESTRONG.COM: Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins Recipe
If you cook with heavy cream or whole milk, opt for lower-fat dairy products. The USDA relates that these contain the same calcium and vitamin content as high-fat versions
The AHA calls low-fat cottage cheese the sensible secret ingredient in a good diet. To sub for sour cream or heavy cream in recipes, use half unsalted low-fat cottage cheese and half low-fat yogurt. If you're trying to lose weight, use non-fat cheese and yogurt.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture
- American Dietetic Association
- American Heart Association: Healthier Preparation Methods
- American Heart Association: Healthy Cooking Tips
- American Heart Association: Smart Substitutions
Article reviewed by Helen Covington
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