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Dec 29, 2008 02:26 AM

Cooking Healthy

I love food. I eat it almost everyday. But as I get older I find my weight climbing and my energy falling. I consider myself to be a very accomplished home cook but it seems that most of what I make at home calls for cream, butter, cheese, etc...

What do you do to cook healthy meals for your family at home? I am blessed in that I enjoy vegetables, salads, seafood, chicken, and a host of other healthy ingredients so there is practically nothing off limits.

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  1. I've been focusing on choosing recipes that call for olive oil, rather than butter, as the primary cooking fat. And, I often find that I can often cut the cooking fat--whatever it is-- in many recipes by 25%-30%, (it varies, of course)--I find most recipes as written to be too greasy/rich. If a recipe calls for cheese, I use much less of it--often by 50%-70%. Also, I try to use more flavorful, bolder ingredients so I don't miss the fat as much. A little bit of bacon can go a long way and really improve the flavor of a dish (I cook it and keep it in the freezer so I can pull out just a little bit at a time.) I've been emphasizing whole grains, lean cuts of meat, and experimenting with tofu. I've also switched to cooking methods that require less fat, such as poaching and broiling.

    Some books you may consider are Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking, Mayo Clinic's New Cookbook, Sally Schneiders "A New Way to Cook."


    1 Reply
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      I'm with you TDQ poaching/broiling/steaming is a great way to eat what you love in a healthier way and yes, most recipes can be slimmed down to eliminate 1/3 the fat called does take some time for your palate to adjust to the change in something you've made the old way, but it does happen. I also agree about using bolder ingredients, I always used aged cheddar (hate the low fat cheeses) to make a sauce and I can use 1/2 or even 1/3 of what the original recipe called for.

      The layout of our typical dinner plate has also changed. Protein and starch made up at least 2/3 and veggies were a distant protein is 1/4, starch is 1/4 and vege is 1/2 the plate. The key to eating like this is variety (and not smothering said veggies in butter/cheese sauce *wink*). When we want a dip we don't use ranch anymore either, we've switched to hummus and tzatziki (made with lower fat yogurt).

      Two of my fave sources online are (for Cooking Light recipes, not all are "light" by my definition but they're a great resource) and - great blog and she has two books: One Smart Cookie and Grazing; lower fat cookies and snacks.

    2. I try to cook with different foods to replace the fat with new tastes. Thankfully, my husband will eat almost anything, so he's open to different recipes. I try to make my favorite foods a little bit more healthful- if I make pasta I add in a ton of vegetables or I cook smaller portions of steak.

      If you like vegetables, try new ones or new preparations. A lot of vegetarian cookbooks and blogs have great recipes that are pretty healthy. One of my favorites is I make a lot of turnips, cauliflower, and beets into pickles- makes a great snack.

      Also, soup makes a great meal. You can put everything in a pot, let it simmer for a while, and the whole meal is ready at once. I make a vegetable split pea soup a few times a month. Soups are also a great vehicle for dark leafy greens.

      2 Replies
      1. re: cheesecake17

        thanks for the fatfreevegan link - her recipes look tasty.

        I also enjoy - her recipes are 'South Beach Diet' friendly, but generally are healthy recipes.

        1. re: mortini

          kalyn's kitchen looks awesome! I think I'm going to make one of her recipes tonight. Prob the chili with avocado.. if I get around to buying avocado and lime after work.

      2. I second TDQ with the emphasis on whole grains. I've all but cut out processed white flour products, replacing them with multigrain. I use lots of lean fish and fowl, with beef and lamb now and then, lean cuts, and with the meat drained. I rarely fry anymore. When I go onto for recipes, they list the key ingredients... often there are two or three versions of a dish, I select the one using the least amount of cream. Chicken broth is a fridge staple, and I use it when sauteeing (to reduce the amount of olive oil needed), to loosen up sauces and to deglaze sauces.

        I own the CIA Weight Watcher's cookbook, and many other WW books which are great for finding easy, tasty dishes. My friends and family don't even know they are eating a WW recipe when I whip one out during a meal.

        And then, there is always the gym. I'm in there five days a week for an hour and a half so I can eat more!

        2 Replies
        1. re: ideabaker

          I agree that most of the WW cookbooks are pretty good, actually. Often I find I need to double the spice in most recipes, though, as I find them a little bland, as a general rule.


          1. re: ideabaker

            That's a great idea in principal and supported by all the medical information. But when I eat grains -- even healthy whole grains -- I go into my just for carbs phase.

            A friend gave me Peter Reinharts wonderful book "Whole Grain Breads" which addresses this very issue of substituting whole grains for better nutrition. I was making wonderful breads with millet and farro and sprouted berries and exclusively whole grain wheat. And I was consuming massive quantities of it in no time and craving even larger amounts. So, as much as I loved baking it, I just couldn't have it around. At all!

          2. Most important, you might want to make sure that you don't have any physical conditions that might account for less energy/weight gain. For me, personally, I've pretty much cut out red meats (I do occasionally indulge in short ribs...heh!), but I've also learned to crowd my plate with vegetables, make my overall portions smaller and use less processed food products. I agree with what has already been said about whole grains...if you cut out trashy white flour and sugars, that's a great step to take. I use olive oil if searing chicken or roasting veggies in the oven; I just avoid recipes that call for cream sauces and just use those for special occasions (holiday dinners that include potatoes au gratin, etc.) We also go meatless 2 days a week now; I substitute in beans, lentils and tofu as non-meat protein. You might want to switch to brown rice only if you haven't already. I also try to exercise each day, even if it means just taking a fast walk around the block.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Val

              substitutions are good - these days you can get greek yogurt (fage is one brand) pretty easily - depending on the recipe, it can be a decent replacement for cream (or sour cream, or probably other stuff). I used it last time I made squash soup, and it was pretty tasty (although, the recipe I use only uses 1 cup of cream for 4 servings). I used it as a substitute for buttermilk when making biscuits - the biscuits were lighter & fluffier than with buttermilk. Although, YMMV.

              As with anything, it has to do with moderation. I'm not so great at self-moderation, so I tend to omit stuff. I only use real butter, though, but I don't really like butter on bread and whatnot, so it's pretty easy for me to moderate with it.

            2. You might find that you feel much better if you lighten up your diet and eat less over all. There are SO many resources - here are some of my favorites:

              Eating Well Magazine and their associated cookbooks
              Cookling Light Magazine
              The American Heart Ass'n. cookbooks
              Everyday Food Magazine (some recipes are not so light, but you can lighten 'em up and they're all simple)

              I don't like the Weight Watchers cookbooks - too bland.

              For nights when we need "fast food," we often buy pre-chopped lettuce and chicken breasts - spice up the breast in some way, cut up some tomatoes, peppers, etc. and throw the chicken on top - use pre-made light dressing (we use Newman's Own) and it's as fast as a pizza w/o the fat and calories.

              Good luck!