People struggling with their weight or those considering a diet, often have a misconception about the foods that they can and cannot eat. Dieting not necessarily means giving up your favourite foods, and living on salads or soup, but rather adjusting to a healthier meal plan and making more informed decisions when picking out cooking ingredients.
Many diets will use alternatives in their recipes so their followers can still eat the foods they love. They will also use a few tricks to make the transition easier and help increase weight loss. For instance, using non-stick frying pans reduces the need for cooking oil, and steaming vegetables instead of boiling them will increase their nutritional value, thus keeping you healthier.
- Minimize fats – Lose weight by reducing your fat intake and eliminating ‘hidden fats,’ especially those in processed foods. Whenever you can, stick with lean meats and reduced fat dairy products. The dietary fats your body needs can come from foods like nuts, seeds, fish, soy, olives and avocado. Modify your recipes that require deep frying or sautéing and use non-stick cookware.
- Adjust your cooking - Steam, bake, grill, braise, or microwave your foods. Boiling is recommended to a certain degree; it can reduce nutritional values.
- Inspect ingredient – Read food labels, thoroughly wash your fresh fruits and vegetables and remove the skin from chicken. The skin is high in fat.
- Watch what you eat – consume more fresh vegetables, legumes and fish. Fish is high in protein, low in fats and full of essential omega-3 fatty acids.
- Reduce salt – Do not add salt to food as it is cooking
Low fat cooking suggestions
- Use cooking sprays or apply a slight coat of oil with a pastry brush.
- Instead of using oil, cook in liquids like stock, non-fat, low-sodium broth, lemon or fruit juice, vinegar or water.
- Replace cream with low fat yoghurt, evaporated skim milk, low fat soymilk, or cornstarch. They also work as a thickener.
- To brown vegetables, cook them first in the microwave, and then briefly crisp them on the grill.
- Spice up meat, fish or baked potatoes with pesto, salsas, chutneys and vinegars instead of butter, creamy sauces, or sour cream.
Water soluble vitamins can easily be destroyed during preparation. Retain their value by:
- Don’t peel vegetables, but scrub them. Many valuable nutrients are found near the skin.
- Steam or microwave vegetables rather than boiling them. If you prefer boiling, use little water and limit the boiling time.
- Mix your diet with lots of stir-fry recipes. Stir-fried veggies cook quickly and offer a variety of nutrients.
Medical studies show diets with a high salt content contribute to a range of serious health problems and weight gain. Reduce salt usage by:
- Taste your food before adding salt.
- A splash of lemon juice or olive oil on cooked vegetables works magic. Herbs, spices, vinegar or lemon juice can replace salt in many recipes.
- Buy fresh or frozen produce. Canned or pickled vegetables tend to be loaded with salt.
- Avoid salty processed meats like salami, corned beef, bacon, ham, smoked salmon, or wieners, as well as salt-laden processed foods and snacks.
- Breads and cereals are a key source of salt in a diet. Buy those with reduced less salt.
- There are different types of salt -iodized salt is best. Eating fish once a week reduces the need for iodised salt.
- Use ‘no added salt’ margarine and butter and eat lower salt cheese varieties.
- High levels of salt are also found in soy sauce, canned tomato sauce, processed sauces and condiments like mayonnaise, ketchup and most salad dressings.
Use more herbs
Herbs not only add flavour to foods, but they can also stop cravings, burn fat and increase your energy level when dieting. Their benefits include:
- Dried or fresh, they add delicious flavours to any recipe
- They can be used in meat dishes, soups, breads, salad dressings, desserts and even drinks.
- Vegetable-based stir-fries taste extraordinary with herbs like coriander, ginger, garlic, chili and lemongrass.
Create healthy sandwiches by:
- Switching to reduced salt or wholegrain bread
- Avoiding butter, especially if you have tasty ingredients. You can also add lettuce, tomato or slices of a hardboiled egg.
- Replacing high saturated fat spreads such as butter and cream cheese with a thin layer of peanut butter, hummus, avocado, or low fat cheese or mayonnaise.
- Switching from processed meats to fish, such as salmon, tuna or sardines. Use water-based products if fish is canned.
Things to remember
- In many cases, favourite recipes can be modified to suit your diet. If you like the food you eat your cravings will stop and you will lose weight.
- Eat in moderation and stick to a meal plan.
- Create shopping lists
- Use calorie counter and other tools to monitor your progress. Before you know it, you will not only have reached your perfect weight, but will also have created a healthy lifestyle.
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