Gaining a Bit Around the Middle? Tips for Lightening Up Your Meals

Have you experienced the 4:00 pm dilemma "what to make for dinner?' Ordering from a restaurant seems easier and faster than cooking, but that isn't always true.  But, when you try to make one of your family favorite recipes you find yourself preparing dishes that are packed with hundreds of calories!  There are many benefits to cooking at home and it may be easier, tastier and more nutritious than you thought.

Research shows that when families dine together, they tend to eat more vegetables and fruits -- and fewer fried foods, soda, and foods with trans fats. This doesn't mean you have to discard all your favorite recipes, but perhaps a few insignificant changes may turn them into nutrient powerful recipes.  Here are a few tips to get your started.  Happy cooking!

Alternatives to Frying and Tips for Using Oil

  • Try baking, grilling or boiling instead of frying meat or vegetables.
  • Use fresh herbs, spices, lemon juice or vinegar for seasoning meats and vegetables.
  • Use vegetable oil such as canola oil or olive oil instead of shortening or lard whenever possible.

Tasty Seasoning Suggestions

  • Use cinnamon for vegetables (such as sweet potatoes), cereals, and hot beverages
  • Use fresh lemon juice with a teaspoon of olive oil for salads (my favorite!), fish, beef and poultry
  • Cook rice in fat free broth
  • Use more garlic, onion, or cilantro to flavor a dish, instead of oil

Sauces Made Healthy

  • Limit the amount of oil and if needed, use no more than 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • Make cream-based sauces with reduced fat milk or fat free cream
  • Use tomato base sauces and flavor them with fresh herbs, hot peppers, green peppers, garlic, parsley, or cilantro, instead of oil

Trimming the Fat

  • Trim the fat from the meat and throw it away before preparing it (beef, lamb or pork)
  • Choose extra lean cuts
  • Refrigerate soups or stews after cooking, then spoon the hard fat that is on top after a couple of hours
  • Switch whole milk to reduced fat or fat free milk
  • Go easy on the cheese or use no-fat or low-fat versions of your favorites

Trimming the Calories

  • Satisfy your sweet tooth for decadent desserts by switching condensed milk for skim or fat-free condensed milk, or use egg substitute for whole eggs when baking
  • Prepare your favorite desserts with 2% milk or evaporated fat free milk
  • Go easy on salty snacks as they are usually higher in fat
  • Go ahead and enjoy your favorite desserts and beverages, but be mindful of your portions. You don't have to cut them out of your diet entirely, just eat or drink them with moderation or switch to zero calorie beverages.
  • Prepare your favorite coffee or hot chocolate with reduced fat milk and go easy on the sugar or use no-calorie sweeteners

Bring on the Tropical Fruits

  • Include tropical fruits, which are packed with essential vitamins and minerals, like kiwis, mango, pineapple or passion fruit, to name a few.

Eat Vegetables with Every Meal

  • Try cooked different vegetables (such as nopales) that are not only low in calories but also rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene
  • Try root vegetables such as pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes and carrots for an excellent source of fiber and complex carbohydrates
  • Avoid boiling vegetables for an extended period as this depletes them of their nutrients

Exercise Portion Control

  • Check your servings and try to eat half of a hearty portion - a serving of meat the size of your hand palm is plenty;   fill your plate with grilled vegetables.
  • Serve from the kitchen instead of placing all the foods on the table.
  • Make the person who requests seconds serve themselves.


Substitutions to Cut Calories

When Cooking calls for this:

Use this:

Sour cream

Fat free sour cream or plain low fat yogurt or Greek yogurt

Whipped cream

Heavy cream

Nondairy whipped topping

Non fat evaporated milk

Cream

Fat free evaporated milk or fat free half & half

Whole milk

Fat free, 1% or 2% milk

Regular cheese

Low fat, part skim milk cheese or cheese with less than 5 grams fat per ounce

Ice cream

Low fat or fat free ice cream or fat free, low fat frozen yogurt or sorbet

Ground beef

95% lean beef, or ground turkey or chicken

Bacon

Canadian bacon, lean ham or vegetarian imitation bacon

Sausage

Lean ground turkey, or 95% fat free sausage

Whole eggs

Two egg whites or ¼ cup egg substitute

Mayonnaise

Low fat, reduced, fat free mayonnaise,  whipped salad dressing or plain fat free yogurt

Salad dressings

Low fat, fat free or homemade salad dressings with vinegar and less oil

Cream soups

Defatted broths, broth based soups or fat free milk based soup

Butter, lard, margarine

No trans fat margarine

Sugar (as sweetener)

Citrus juices, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger or non calorie sweeteners

Pork

Meat substitutes or chicken or turkey


French fries

Baked sweet potato fries

Peanut butter

Soy butter or almond butter, if not allergic to almonds

Bread crumbs

Wheat germ

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