10 Tips to Get You Started with Healthy Cooking
For most of us, the path to getting healthier begins at home – particularly in terms of eating. Cooking your own meals allows you to control what ingredients you’re putting in your body and can make sticking to your goals that much easier. But what if you’re new to this type of cooking? Thankfully, with the right strategies in place, you don’t have to be a master chef to prepare delicious, nutritious home-cooked meals that the whole family will love. Here are 10 tips to get you started in the right direction.
Gather up some good recipes. The quickest way to fall off the healthy eating wagon is to get stuck in a rut of eating the same bland, boring dishes over and over. Before you even begin on this journey, find some reliable resources for recipes. Ask your friends to share their favorite cookbooks or websites, or spend a little time surfing the internet (our recipe section is a great place to start). When you come across something that looks interesting, bookmark it for future reference.
Start simple. Learning how to cook doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, practice and patience. Start out with a few simple recipes – preferably ones that include just a handful of ingredients and don’t take a ton of time and effort to prepare. Once you’ve perfected a few of these more basic recipes, start experimenting with more challenging ones. Remember – cooking should be fun, so relax and enjoy!
Expand your horizons. The best way to avoid healthy-eating boredom is to be willing to try new things once in a while. It’s fine to stick to the recipes that contain ingredients you already know and love, but consider spicing things up from time to time by trying your hand at a new recipe that contains something unique (even if it’s just a different type of grain or a veggie you haven’t tried yet). You might be pleasantly surprised.
Learn about substitutions. The beauty of cooking for yourself is that you have the ability to make an otherwise unhealthy meal much better for you. This typically starts with some simple substitutions. For instance, instead of using sour cream in that casserole you’re making, swap it out for some 2% Greek yogurt. Or, replace high-carb grains with healthier alternatives, like riced cauliflower. Best of all, with the right approach, you’ll never be able to notice the difference in taste or texture!
Keep a list at the ready. Nothing puts a damper on that great recipe you’ve been wanting to try quite like realizing half-way through preparing it that you’re missing a key ingredient. To avoid this (and the subsequent temptation to pick up the phone and order takeout) keep a running grocery list handy as you’re planning your meals. That way you won’t run the risk of forgetting something important while you’re shopping.
Stock your freezer with healthy essentials. Fresh produce is great, but if you don’t use it right away, you could end up in a bind when it comes time to cook. Keeping frozen veggies in your freezer will save the day, especially on those busy nights when you want to prepare a quick, healthy meal but don’t have time to hit the produce aisle. As an added bonus, you can stock up on sale items to save money and eat healthier. It’s a win-win!
Get creative. Unlike baking, most meal recipes do not require precision. In other words, it’s perfectly ok to tweak a particular recipe based on your tastes or preferences. For example, you may decide to omit onions or add some fresh garlic to adjust the flavor to your liking. Recipes should be viewed as a guide. That’s why it’s always a good idea to taste test what you’re cooking while you’re preparing it, rather than ending up disappointed by the time it reaches the table.
Make it a family affair. Let’s face it. Sometimes cooking can be a drag – especially when there’s a lot of prep work involved. You can ease the burden and make it more enjoyable by turning it into a group activity. Not only will your kids learn valuable lessons on how to cook, but you’ll also demonstrate to them how to make healthier food choices. And, of course, it’ll provide a great opportunity to connect and bond with one another.
Learn a new skill. If you really want to bring your cooking skills to the next level, why not consider enrolling in a culinary class? You will learn new techniques and become a better, safer and faster cook. As an added bonus, you’ll have the opportunity to show off your newly acquired skills by cooking for your family or friends.
Plan ahead. If you’re really feeling overwhelmed or you simply don’t have the time to devote to planning healthy dishes from scratch, you may want to consider signing up for a weekly meal planning service. There are plenty of options to choose from, including some that are geared toward newbie cooks as well as those that can be customized based on dietary preferences.
Cooking healthy doesn’t have to be a chore. The 10 tips above should help you develop your skills and make nutritious meals as fun to prepare as they are delicious to eat.