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healthy meal ideas?

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Hi there. Can anyone help me with some suggestions for healthy and nutritious ways of cooking ordinary foods? There are so many resources for this sort of thing on the web, but I just get a case of option paralysis. I just visited DH’s relatives in the south and I was taken aback by how much fat and empty calories are part of a regular diet especially in places like that. So far, I plan on replacing our standard snacks with carrot slices and cherry tomatoes and using whole wheat pasta instead of white and the same for bread. Anymore ideas?

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  1. I assume from your post that you're looking for cooking methods and substitutions, as opposed to actual recipes. Here are a couple:

    When you're making casseroles, pasta dishes, or soups, increase the ratio of vegetables to meat/starch. You'll get the same volume of food for less fat and calories.

    Start your meal with broth-and-veggie-based soup. It'll fill you up, and make sure you get your vitamins.

    Measure out the oil you use for cooking. It's rare you'll need more than a couple teaspoons, but most people use much more by accident.

    For salads, there are a couple things you can do. Either serve the dressing on the side and dip your fork in; or make dressings using a small quantity of highly-flavored oil (like sesame or walnut).

    Substitute nonfat greek yogurt for sour cream, cream, and sometimes cream cheese.

    For meat loaf, tacos, and casseroles, use half meat and half beans or lentils. You'll get more fiber and less fat.

    You might want to go veg one night a week. Check out www.meatlessmondays.org

    Hope this helps!

    2 Replies
    1. re: piccola

      I was really interested in that link, but it said the page expired or something like that. Do you have another option of how to get there?

      1. re: Sweet Pea

        Sorry - I forgot that it changed a while ago to www.meatlessmonday.com

        It's a pretty user-friendly program, though it's not vegetarian (they use fish). And there's a lot of sponsored content.

        Still, a couple things are really worth it. Check out the chili recipes!

    2. Definitely switching to whole wheat pastas, whole grain breads and brown rice will make a big difference in your diet. I would recommend eating one or two vegetarian meals each week -- a great option is black bean chili. You could also substitute veggie burgers or turkey burgers for beef burgers -- great flavors, less fat and cholesterol. Cooking Light magazine has a lot of good recipes that show you how to "lighten" everyday recipes. Trying to incorporate more fish into your diet -- especially salmon -- will also be very heart healthy.

      1. Switch to Natural peanut butter instead of the processed junk that uses hydrogenated oils & added sugars...SO much better peanut flavor! Dijon mustard is a tremendous flavor enhancer without adding fat...try Epicurious' Dijon Fish Fillets recipe at their website (cut the butter in half). I agree with others who suggest using beans for meals once or twice a week; there are tons of great "black-bean-something" recipes out there! Have fun experimenting!

        1. If you're looking to change purely for health reasons (why else?) then don't forget to pay attention to all the fruits, veggies, fish that you're buying and where they came from. "Atlantic" or farm raised salmon contains all kinds of additives and dye, many regular veggies don't have the same amount of vitamins as organic produce, and beef grown without hormones is a great option if you're cooking for kids too.
          A book I've found really interesting and easy to digest is the Great American Detox Diet. It's quite a bit more strict than I could actually live, but it does have some good info on what's really in our foods. Of course, Fast Food Nation, if you haven't already read it will keep you away from convenience food for quite awhile. Good luck and have fun!

          1. Cooking with broth instead of butters and oils, particularly in stir-fries and or mashed items like potatoes.

            Watch out for low or nonfat items laden with sugar to replace the fat taste.

            Egg whites substituted for whole eggs, or eggbeaters. Use all white and one yolk for egg salad with reduced fat mayo.

            Herbs and spices enhance flavor without calories. Grilling is also a great cooking method to impart flavor without calories. I also love using garlic and onions to flavor.