I am life long vegetarian since my birth, but that does not mean I eat healthy. Occasionally I tend to eat junk food sometimes, especially when I am stressed out, or extremely busy in other things. As part of finding balance between heart and mind of six areas, eating and being healthy is one of the important thing in my life as it is for many of you. Cooking and eating is important for anyone because we are what we eat, and we are what we think of ourselves.
Here are a few Tips for Healthy Cooking:
Some of the people I know think cooking is complicated and hard so they tend to get take out or eat out. When they eat something at home it is almost always frozen meals heated up. Other people are opposite cooking great 7 course meals on weekdays like Martha Stewart’s shows. I fall somewhere in between, I generally love cooking but occasionally I go through times where we simply eat Khichadi or Bread and Milk for dinner.
Here are some of the ways I have learned over the years, so cooking is not complicated. Cook healthy at home with these simple tips.
- 95% fat free does not “eat 95% more”. It still has 5% fat, which is not 0%.
- Also zero percent fat, is also misleading. See always calories before consuming extra food. I am now skeptic of all no fat, low fat, claims. Some low fat and no fat actually have known to more calories compared to full fat counter part. Check it for yourself, you’ll know.
- Being Vegetarian does not mean, you’re eating healthy. I know that my own experience, in college I have eaten and lived on only cold pizza, chips and soda. That is Vegetarian diet but not healthy one.
- When buying food such as bread, grains, read label. If the first ingredient is not whole wheat or whole grain it might be not healthy enough.
- Always eat colorful fruits and vegetables such as eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, cantaloupe, watermelon and so on. It will bring out vitamin and nutrients more.
- Add more dried beans, dried lentils, tofu and nuts for protein sources. It is best for Vegan and Vegetarian. Even if you’re meat eater, these will work with your diet as well.
- Broil, boil, bake or steam food instead of deep frying or sauteing in oil. As it will have less fat and more healthier.
- Eat more fiber hero food for better digestive system such as brown rice, oatmeal, rye, quinoa, barley.
- When looking for re-fried beans, you can make it at home easily or look for low fat, no lard added refried beans from super market. It will have less fat and less calories.
- If you buy canned fruits, make sure that canned fruits are packed in its own juice rather than sugar and syrup.
- Same as above for vegetables and beans, make sure no extra salt is added or always rinse canned beans to get rid of access of extra salt. extra salt does not help with Blood pressure.
- For sugary food, check labels to see names that you can not pronounce, that always rings true for me. If I can not pronounce or know ingredients that means to usually be careful.
- If you read labels and it says it comes form natural sources, some ingredients such as chemical, artificial flavors also, comes from natural sources too. Do not go by advertizement or what it says, follow your gut feeling.
- Give up or reduce meat. If your meat eater, go one day meat free.
- If you are Vegetarian, eat healthy, not chips or soda. Eat Vegetables.
- Skip rich sauces made from cheese. Try instead to use lemon, orange juice, salsa, vinegar, garlic, herb and spices to flavor the food.
- Use hard anodized or cast iron cookware so you can cook without much or no oil. I would recommend not to use Teflon coating nonstick pans and they tend to peel and Teflon is chemical you do not want to mix with your food.
- Many of us waste food, myself included when we buy too much or cook too much. Learn to either share it with friends, neighbors, family or homeless shelter. You can also learn how to preserve food to make it last longer.
- If you’re cooking in cast iron pan, take out the food after cooking to avoid discoloration due to metal reacting to food.
- Eat healthy and filling salads, with veggies, bread, pasta and beans. Who says salad has be only greens? You can add more stuff to make it filling and rich with nutrients.
- Use whole grains whenever possible and avoid refined flours and food.
- Some fat are supposed to be good for you such as olive oil, avocado, corn oil, soybean oil and canola oil. Still use it sparingly.
- You can use cooked and pureed potatoes, cauliflowers for thickener in soup and sauces instead of corn starch or other thickeners.
- You can saute food in little water instead of oil sometimes. Or use little oil.
- You can replace high fat cheese in recipe such as ricotta to low fat cottage cheese. I have done it and people have hardly noticed. In similar way, I use tofu instead of Paneer (Indian Cheese) to make stews and curries. You can tell the difference in taste a little but it still comes out great.
- Key to cooking with tofu is to marinate the tofu for 3 hours to over night. Otherwise tofu is so bland and does not taste good. When tofu has absorbed the flavor it will be liked by all, including kids.
- We do not use eggs, so when I bake or cook any recipe that calls for egg, I use vegan egg replacer, which is healthier, lower fat, socially feels right.
- Eating and cooking at home does not need to be fancy or expensive, there are a few ways you can make 99 cents noodles look and taste like a gourmet meal.
- You can replace high fat sour cream and mayo with low fat or no fat yogurt in soup, dip or sauces.
- Whenever possible cook at home from scratch. It will be more healthier and some of the food can be cooked around 30 minutes. If you’re looking for ideas check out cookbooks for fast cooking ideas.
- If you’re short on time like I am sometimes, I get help from grocery store which I call semi-home made cooked food. This where I get some ingredient prepared from store but I do some cooking or addition to make food like what we like. For example, I get frozen pizza dough or frozen pizza shell then all I have to add is sauce, veggies and cheese.
- If you eat out follow these 20 tips when you eat out so you can be kind to your waist and your wallet.
- We have stopped eating at fast food places, except a few one such as Quiznos and In and Out Burger that we like and we could not be happier and bit healthier.
- Try out some new food that you have never tried, be it new fruits or new ethnic food. You might be surprised and like it. There are many ethnic food such as Thai, Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Indian (including popular Italian, Chinese, Mexican) restaurant have many vegetarian, vegan choices.
- Last but not least, walk and exercise by doing simple things such as parking a car in little further from your office or school. Taking stairs instead of elevator. Dance silly with kids for fun. Think happy healthy thoughts!
I am sure, there are more ways to eat healthy that does not feel like climbing mountain or so hard. Do you have your favorite to share?