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Help! Healthy Food that Doesn't Taste Like It

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Alright, so long story short, I need to lose weight. I am not looking for a quick fix, or to do it ridiculously fast. I've tried the "eat healthy" but it's boring. I have no interest in eating plain grilled chicken and salad for the rest of my life. I like flavor, and color, and richness to my food. I like to enjoy every meal. But, losing weight needs to happen sadly. So, I need help! I am also learning how to cook for myself as I am moving into my first apartment this fall. So, I have the summer to get a set of dishes that I can make easily so that I do not fall into the trap of fast food. I have no campus meal plan so I can't fall back on that either. Basically, I am forcing myself to make changes. I've done Weight Watchers, dieted, etc, and have interest in doing so ever again. I want to eat enjoyable food, but not feel like I am missing out when my friends are eating junk food whenever they want. Please help! What do you make that is healthy, but tastes good? I love spices, any kind of meat, tofu, vegetables, fruits, grains of all sorts, and I have no allergies. I eat foreign food and local food. I am not picky! (Which is probably how I got to this weight...) Can you help?

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  1. Congrats!

    *EDIT--oh gosh, I forgot you said EASY. None of these are super hard, but some are more time consuming than others. I'll asterisk the easiest ones:

    *I love to roast a chicken for the week. Beer can chicken stays surprisingly moist and is healthy if you peel off the skin. Or, try this method: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7178...

    *Ooh! And Ottolenghi's wild rice salad:
    http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/recipes/w...

    *I like this quinoa salad (you can add in a small amount of toasted chopped almonds or slivers of roast chicken if you want to make it more of a main), but follow the cooking directions on the quinoa package, not the weird steaming directions epicurious gives you: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

    *Crock-pot beans (see post #10) http://community.cookinglight.com/sho... Eat as a side or make your own little bean burritos.

    *Also, if you like crock pot cooking, this beef stew one is good. Make sure to trim the beef. Use whole wheat noodles. http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/rec...

    *Here's a crock pot chicken that is good:
    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

    *I love Peter Berley's tofu with lemon and white wine. I cut way back on the butter, though, or use just a couple of teaspoons of Canola oil: http://nowthatsgoodeatin.blogspot.com...

    These recipes from Berley are good too, especially the polenta one (cut out or cut back the amount of butter, though), as long as you reduce the amount of fat a little: http://www.nextnc.com/content/view/16...

    Here's my favorite quinoa recipe. I use fat free cheese, but most people would probably prefer low fat cheese. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4733...

    *Gio's bison chipotle meatloaf:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5268...

    Oven baked Cornflake chicken instead of fried chicken: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4733...

    Gourmet's portobello bison burgers:
    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

    Grilled lean pork or lean beef or chicken bun salad bowls:
    http://vietworldkitchen.typepad.com/b...

    Black bean tamales
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5177...

    Ottolenghi's crushed potatoes (ease up on the quantity of olive oil).
    http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/recipes/c...

    *Tandoori chicken with the skin removed (I always skip the food color):
    http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/indian-...

    ~TDQ

    5 Replies
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      Wow!!! Thank you so much! These look delicious!!! I am already loving the sound of the bison chipotle meatloaf, the beans, the chicken (all of them look good!!).... This definitely helps. My plan is to print them all off and keep them in a binder, so these are really appreciated!

      1. re: milkyway4679

        You're welcome, and good luck! Also, you might learn how to broil some fish, such as salmon. Super easy, quick, and healthy. You can even do it in a toaster oven if you're just cooking for one or two.

        If you can keep a bag of shrimp in your freezer, it's easy to defrost a handful and toss into some vegetables for a quick stir fry. Serve over whole wheat noodles, quinoa, or brown rice and you've got a pretty wholesome meal.

        ~TDQ

        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          cooking fish en papillote is another simple, healthy and delicious option - and sometimes a safer method than broiling for a newbie because it's less likely to overcook with all that steam and moisture trapped in there!

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            I love fish en papillote. Super simple and flexible. And great for entertaining, too, because most people don't know how easy it is. Plus, it's like having a little present on your plate that you get to open.

            http://www.marthastewart.com/article/...

            ~TDQ

        2. re: milkyway4679

          I love love love fresh cooked beans with tons of fresh black pepper, some salt and a spoon, that's it. You almost don't even need bread to sop it up!

      2. The one thing I can recommend above all else is to eat a lot of vegetables. I've found that the library is the best way to figure out which cookbooks have my favorite vegetable preparations. One of my faves is Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and bear in mind that I'm not a vegetarian! Most of her recipes are healthful as long as you use portion control, and aren't on a lowfat or otherwise restricted diet for special needs, which it sounds like you aren't.

        Don't be afraid of fat, as long as it's monounsaturated (raw nuts, avocados, vegetable oils like canola, olive, etc. ) or in small amounts polyunsaturated (sesame, sunflower, etc.) A little fat goes a long way toward satisfaction and also helps you absorb nutrients.

        Come back to the Home Cooking board for healthy preparations of foods you buy regularly and enjoy. There are some seriously good cooks here, and they won't lead you astray. Goodhealthgourmet has lots of good ideas for tasty, appealing and healthful dishes. People whose recipes you like here, follow them on your profile, and you'll soon find yourself with lots of new recipes and ideas.

        Okay, so onto specifics--a tofu salad my family has been enjoying this summer, simple to make: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... When they refer to Asian sesame oil in the ingredients list, use the toasted sesame oil, the dark variety. A little bottle with last you a long time, and it really punches up the flavor of many dishes when used to finish a dish (after cooking, so heat doesn't cook out the deliciousness.) I use both white and black sesame seeds, so that it's more eye appealing on the plate. Most Asian groceries will have them. While you're over at Epicurious, check out their healthy recipes on the left hand menu at the home page. That site is useful as heck for a new cook, very searchable. You can enter whatever ingredients you have, and it will pull up options.

        I eat a lot of cold soba noodles in the summertime. If you get the kind that have more buckwheat, they have a higher fiber content, and are chewier and nuttier. Be sure to rinse them well under cold water, using your hands to massage off the extra starch. That little extra step makes them ever so much tastier and springier. They are great with a sesame seed dressing and some sliced cucumber, fresh corn, a little seaweed, some cold poached chicken, and scallions. Simple, quick, and delicious.

        I also cook four portions of brown rice at a time, and store the extra in the fridge for quick meals. It's easy to scramble an egg, take it out of the pan, add a little more oil and cook diced vegetables on high, then throw in the brown rice, add a little water or broth or even sake to steam the rice back to life a minute or two, then, top with scallions and toasted sesame oil. Filling and easy when I'm tired and hungry.

        Grill a bunch of veggies at once--asparagus, summer squash, peppers, mushrooms, whatever you like--dress with a favorite olive oil, salt and pepper, and cool to room temperature before storing in the fridge. You can put these in pasta salad, on sandwiches, with whole grains like rice or quinoa or barley, or eat them in an omelet for breakfast with a little cheese. The high heat of the grill concentrates the flavors and subtle smokiness enhances many applications. If you don't have a grill, just roast them in the oven after the sun goes down so as not to heat the kitchen.

        I also want to mention pickles. All kinds of pickles make a great snack food when your friends are pulling out the potato chips. Okra pickles, giardineira, dill spears, pickled carrots and radishes, are all good alternatives to fried snack foods, and you can put them on burgers or sandwiches to add flavor. You can also snack on low sugar high fiber cereals. When I was a student, I ate a lot of cereal, to be honest. It's fast and filling, but unfortunately no longer as cheap as it was back then. I use an unsweetened almond milk, but the natural sugars in milk may not be a concern for you.

        Let us know how you're doing!

        4 Replies
        1. re: amyzan

          amyzan has a lot of fabulous recommendations (naturally!). I second her recommendation to search epicurious for "healthy" recipes. In addition to searching on "healthy", I always sort my results on user ratings so the highest-rated ones come up first. And, if there are a lot of comments, I try to read through as sometimes there are some good tips in the comments.

          I also second her rec for soba (buckwheat) noodles (and I like to try to get the 100% buckwheat ones if I can)! Soba noodles would be another thing that make a great bed or side-dish for stir fry.

          And, amyzan's tofu salad reminds me of David Chang's (of Momofuku), "Cherry Tomato & Tofu Salad" recipe in Alice Waters "Into the Green Kitchen," though I haven't had a chance to try it yet. Seems like it would be wonderful in mid-to-late summer when tomatoes are at their peak: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

          Also great for summer, Nigella's watermelon and feta salad (just make sure to not overdo the feta): chttp://www.nigella.com/recipe/recipe_detail....
          Conversions: http://www.nigella.com/recipe/equival...
          Some additional comments on this recipe: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4169...

          Also, speaking of Nigella, Thai crumbled beef in lettuce wraps http://www.nigella.com/recipe/recipe_... Use lean ground beef or bison or even ground turkey. Use a little more fish sauce than Nigella calls for.

          ~TDQ

          1. re: amyzan

            These are all great ideas that I definitely can use. They are all really easy, and seem quite affordable for a college student haha! Thank you so much for your suggestions. I am going to borrow the Vegetarian cook book from the library, and hopefully find some yummy recipes in there!! :) Thank you so much amyzan!

            1. re: milkyway4679

              if you want another online source for terrific, healthy recipes in addition to Epicurious, check out the Eating Well website:
              http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus

              1. re: milkyway4679

                The library is a fantastic idea! Vegetarian for Everyone was cookbook of the month awhile back.

                Here is the master thread from that month:

                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5343...

                ~TDQ

            2. An easy way to add flavor healthfully is to make all kinds of fresh salsas...vegetables, fruits...low in fat, can be spicy or not...a plain chicken breast or broiled fish fillet can be dressed up. Or in my husband's case, completely covered!
              Increasing your fiber (fruits, veg, grain) will help with weight management, since it will make you feel full and regulate your blood sugar levels.

              2 Replies
              1. re: BeeZee

                Ooo I do like the idea of a fruit salsa! Do you have any favorite recipes? And do you use them on meat or something else?

                1. re: milkyway4679

                  fruit salsas usually work well with chicken, pork & fish. here are some threads to get you started:
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/528713
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/497745
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/716075
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/633117
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/407435

              2. my problem is healthy snacking because I can do a nice tasty meal and keep it under control but I love to snack soooooo.......
                1)went to a party once and hubby made that knorrs veg soup dip but with low fat cottage cheese (in the blender) and no one knew, everyone loved it.
                2) hummus hummus hummus and even edamame hummus
                3) my own pita chips, seasoned up using those low carb pita pockets that you can't use as a pocket anyway because they are too thin - I also used these like a soft taco
                4) popcorn is a great snacker if you get the low fat one, I just got a great Lime Popcorn (awesome)
                5) love jazzing up a coleslaw mix with nuts and fruit for a nice side salad
                6) just a great salad with lemon juice, olive oil and a protein on top (spices really do make a big diff) - last night I tossed some shrimp in a lil honey, bbq, lime and srirachi before grilling - omg fantastic! We just had veggies and hummus on the side.

                Have fun, good luck and don't forget portion control - when I have a craving for something like buffelo wings I give in and only eat half. Also, take the things you love and try them healthier - for example those wings, do shrimp instead or bake oysters instead of fried if you love that.

                1 Reply
                1. re: lexpatti

                  Ooo I do love that knorrs soup dip! I will most definitely be trying it with the low fat cottage cheese :) By your own pita chips, do you mean that you make your own? How do you do that?

                  Yeah, the portion control is definitely something I need to work on! I say "one more" and then have 5 more...hahaha.

                  Thanks for the advice! I appreciate it! :)

                2. I adore the NYT Recipes for Health. So easy, so good. http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/he...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: relizabeth

                    I took one look and bookmarked it! I am definitely going to have to look through those recipes!! I like the way they organize it as well. It will be fantastic will all the produce right now, so that is awesome!! Thank you so much!

                  2. Ina Garten's gazpacho recipe is great. It is easy to make, lasts for several days, and actually gets better after a day. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in... (I actually only add about 1/2 the amount of olive oil the recipe calls for.)The gazpacho is good as a main, a side, or just as a quick snack. I sometimes add fresh crab meat (taken from a crab leg purchased at Costco) for protein. I've never tried it, but I bet some firm tofu would work also.

                    I also do a version of a cassoulet, substituting duck or turkey bacon for regular bacon, chicken or turkey sausage for pork sausage, and chicken thighs for duck. After rendering the fat from the bacon, sausage, and chicken, I pour a lot of the excess fat off. I also add onions, carrots, and celery along with the white beans. The final dish is mainly beans and veggies with one chicken thigh (which can have the skin removed before serving) and a little sausage and bacon, so I think it wuold be fairly low calorie.

                    A single roast chicken also is a fall-back. I make a mix of garlic, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, and a little bit of bread crumbs with a small amount of olive oil, and stuff it under the skin. That keeps the meat extremely moist. I do like to cook the chicken in a roasting pan with carrots, pearl onions, garlic cloves, and either parsnip or squash underneath, but that means the vegetables pick up some of the chicken fat.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Jwsel

                      Mmmm, I am definitely going to try the cassoulet! That sounds divine, and still pretty healthy! :) I also am going to try the other recipes...as they both sound delicious and healthy! :) Thank you so much!!

                    2. As an aside to the recipes in this thread-
                      Keep in mind that just eating healthier may not result in weight loss, especially if you don't have a lot to lose. It takes a defect of 3500 calories to burn 1lb of bodyfat- that means that you have to consume 3500 less calories a week than you need to burn just ONE lb (and probably not 3500 less than you're eating now but 3500 less that you regularly burn through your basal metabolic rate and your daily activities.) Unless you're eating REALLY terrible food now, simply switching to wholewheat pasta and tofu salads isn't going to necessarily give you any measurable results on a week to week basis...and if you're like me, it might be hard to stick with it unless you see some "real" results reasonably quickly. To do this, you've got to be mindful of the calories you're consuming and the amount you're working out. Its REALLY easy to overeat on healthy foods (not so much on fresh veggies and fruits, but on basically everything else) because in the beginning you may not feel satisfied or full as fast...and 500 calories of wholewheat pasta and 500 calories of fried chicken are the same 500 calories (nutritional data aside) even though the pasta might leave you feeling hungry afterwards.

                      My point is that there's more involved than just changing food choices. There's virtually no way around some sort of calorie counting, even if its through a program that makes it seem "easier" (like most commercial diets do.) The good news is that once you power through it and do learn the positive habits, its basically second nature and you won't feel like you're "counting" anymore.

                      Good luck and dont give up!

                      Sincerely yours,
                      -She who lost 40 lbs 4 years ago and is trying to save you some of the headache I had ;)

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: CarmenR

                        Portion control is so important. Nigella's feta watermelon salad (that I linked above) is healthful, but the recipe calls for 8 ounces of cheese. But, that is also for 8 servings. So, if you're just eat one serving, the once ounce of cheese is perfectly fine. But, if you were to eat 3-4 servings in one sitting, well, that's not a weight-loss inducing amount of cheese to eat in one sitting. If you wanted to eat a lot of watermelon, great, but watch your quantities of cheese (and olive oil).

                        As a general rule, I find that, ounce for ounce, whole grains (quinoa, barley, wild rice, brown rice), 100% whole wheat pasta, and sweet potatoes more satisfying than their "white" counterparts. You can't eat unlimited quantities of them, but you might feel more satisfied if you eat the whole grain versions.

                        And, again, you can't eat unlimited quantities of lean protein, but ounce for ounce, they are a better "deal" calorie-wise than their less lean counterparts.

                        Also, drink plenty of liquids and don't cut out fat completely. Your body needs at least a couple of teaspoons of fat--I try for olive oil or Canola oil-- per day.

                        ~TDQ

                        1. re: CarmenR

                          CarmenR, I completely get where you're coming from, being a 41 year old woman. But, the OP is young, and she says she's not interested in dieting. I take that to mean she'd rather change her lifestyle habits (intake, exercise, etc.) than count calories or points, or otherwise track intake. It's possible to lose weight by changing intake and increasing activity without necessarily counting that intake. One just has to have some method of holding oneself accountable, which can be accomplished without tallying. It's not necessarily the case that one has to count calories, as much as keep track by some method. Just watching portions at every meal and snack has the same effect without being onerous. The math can happen without one's having to be on top of the numbers, is what I'm saying. Certainly, if things go astray, being on top of the numbers can help a person to gain awareness where the missteps are happening.

                          I believe there's a registry run by several universities nationwide that found the three commonalities of people who've lost weight and kept it off are these: 1--They eat breakfast 2--They are accountable regularly, i.e. they weigh themselves. 3--They exercise regularly. Many people will count calories, yes, but the OP may find otherwise. Certainly, if she's not getting the results she wants in a few months, it could be time to reassess her methods but let's meet her where she is now.

                          1. re: amyzan

                            I wrote that post because I was 22 when I lose 40lbs. I tried for a year prior to "casually" lose weight by making "healthier" choices but, truth be told, I didn't eat a bunch of crappy food- I've always eaten nutritious foods, I just ate too much (and took some meds for 18 months that caused me to pack on 30 lbs which I couldn't seem to get off.)

                            I wanted to share my experience with her- once I started really paying attention, weighing my food, looking up the calories in things (is a 100cal oreo snackpack as fulfilling as two laughing cow light wedges and 5 celery sticks?) and tracking my exercise, the pounds melted off of me. A lot of people don't realize what a portion actually IS until they get out the scale and the measuring cups for a few weeks. Good intentions aren't usually enough, especially in our culture where a "serving" at a restaurant is 5x bigger than a serving on a nutrition label...

                            1. re: CarmenR

                              Your experience is quite valuable! I just don't think she has to "diet" if she works other ways of tracking into her new lifestyle habits. She is asking for recipes, and it sounds like she's a new cook, so I think we should help her with what she's asking for directly. New habits, like label reading and portioning, can result in the deficits you describe, without her tallying up calories expended or denied each week. I think we're saying the same thing, only achieved by different methods.

                        2. protein and fiber dense foods will help fill you up and keep you satisfied...

                          i made something interesting tonight--
                          Roasted Garbanzos with Sliced Shallots, Garlic Cloves, Fennel Seeds, Bay Leaves, S & P - spread in a Pam sprayed foil and roasted at 350 for about 40-45 minutes, stirred every few minutes. was going to serve over wilted swiss chard, but ran out of time.

                          i will micro=steam veggies, then slice. then put on a lower rung in the oven on a Pam-sprayed foil sheet, sprinkled with salt and pepper (and herbs), then roast them til they get golden on the bottom -- the goldening adds a yummy rich flavor.

                          Veggie Custard Pie - cook veggies of choice (i love broc and onion), mix one egg with whites and almond milk (1 egg + 2 whites + 1 cup almond milk (unsweetenened) or some multiple thereof), 1/4-1/3 tsp salt, some ground pepper, a little less than 1/8 tsp nutmeg... mix in as much veggies as you like. i use a lot so it's very dense. then optionally stir in 1/2 - 1 cup grated parm. bake in a long rectangular pan, such that it basically has a depth of 1 1/2 inches or so. 350 degrees F for 35-45 minutes until set. simple and so amazing.

                          make healthy mini-crustless quiches with almond or rice milk and egg whites, and sprinkle the bottom of muffin cups with a dusting of cornmeal for a tiny bite/crunch. a plethora of options -- my recent specialty was fire-roasted corn, roasted garlic and green chiles.

                          ...not too hard to eat healthy and super tastily.

                          1. Don't be afraid of fat. Yes, that means animal fat. Cook with butter, coconut oils, nut oils, and lard from pastured pigs if you can find it (don't use lard you can buy in a grocery store, it's been hydrogenated). Eggs are awesome and versatile, a gazillion recipes are out there. Same for meat. Contrary to popular belief red meat's not bad for you so have a steak or a burger. Veggies are fine but watch fruits other than berries or small peaches, the rest have too much sugar. Avoid starchy and sugary things. Dairy (full fat please) is a judgment call. Drink a glass of milk or eat some cottage cheese and see how you react. Tofu = soy = a lot of stuff that's being found out that eating too much really isn't good for you. Accept the fact that there are some things you will only be able to eat once in a while--as in "two or three times a year" once in a while--and the worst thing you can do is try to find or create substitutes for them.

                            Bottom line--when in doubt, eat meat and salad. Or eggs and bacon if it's breakfast. :D