I’ve posted before about whether or not cooking was important when losing weight and the majority of you said it was. And in my podcast about fast food, and posts about fast foods, I have talked about why those types of meals are less than desirable for weight loss as well. And, as you can imagine, I do a lot of cooking so I kinda, really, know what I’m talking about!
As a follow up on those two older posts, I wanted to talk about one of my favorite pastimes – cooking. I used to hate cooking but learned to love it as I was losing weight and have continued that love of it for years.
Cooking is important for weight loss. It just is. Because after all, if you aren’t cooking foods that help you drop the extra pounds you are carrying around, then why are you cooking at all?
It is a bold statement to make.
Cook foods that move you forward in your weight loss effort or don’t cook at all.
Well, that statement is bold and of course you need to cook regardless of whether the foods will help you, but I want you to think about it. If you are truly 100 percent committed to losing weight, then cooking should be something that moves you toward, not away from, that goal.
When I first learned to cook a main course rather than cookies or cake, I thought that heating up a frozen entree from the grocery store, or adding water to a boxed meal counted as real cooking. I honestly did not know the first thing about cooking real food.
Fortunately, I learned.
As I lost weight, I read books, asked friends for recipes, and gained an impressive recipe collection. I stopped using convenience products and leaned more heavily on real foods.
I had to develop skills in the kitchen that I never had before. I learned new ways to prepare foods, how to flavor foods in a healthy way, and how to stretch my dollar so we had good food that didn’t break the budget.
This was a radically different philosophy than the one I used to follow and quite frankly, I wasn’t great at it at first.
At first I overcooked meats, let the water burn off from the rice, undercooked breads, and served my share of strange concoctions. But over time, I figured it out.
Here are some skills and strategies I use to cook healthier meals for my family, save money, and put meals on the table almost 365 days a year. After all, I’ve got seven kids – six who live at home and one who eats with us quite frequently. Add boyfriends and fiancees to that and you know I’ve got to cook!
1. Learn To Cook Healthier
Frying anything in a bunch of oil isn’t a great idea for weight loss or for health, although I am a fan of pan searing chicken or meat and then finishing it in the oven. Learn how to roast, poach, sauté, grill, and bake meats and vegetables.
2. Shop Wisely
When you are planning your menu, take a few minutes to see what your local grocery stores have on sale. I always look for deals on staples like grains, beans, and even meats. When I can, I buy in bulk and freeze or store the foods for later.
3. Substitute Smartly
When I first started losing weight, one of the first cooking changes I made was substituting healthy ingredients for unhealthy ones. For example, I ditched the breaded and fried chicken from the salad and replaced it with grilled chicken. I learned to cook without adding tons of butter, sauces, dressings, shortening, and salt to my foods and ate food that was closer to its original state. These substitutions all helped me enjoy foods similar to what I had enjoyed as an obese person but shed pounds by reducing the calories.
4. Experiment with Flavors
Healthy meals that are good for weight loss do not have to be bland. In fact, they should not be bland! Experiment with flavor combinations using herbs, adding fat free homemade buttermilk instead of regular milk for healthier baked goods, and explore vinegars, homemade salsa combinations, and aromatics in cooking.
5. Plan Your Meals
This one is pretty obvious, but cooking for health and weight loss does take planning. After all, it is almost impossible to eat healthy meals every day if you have no clue what you are going to have! Here’s a meal planning worksheet if you need one to get started.
Smart cooking for weight loss is not hard. It can definitely help you make delicious and nutritious meals that help you (and not hinder you) lose weight.
How strategic a cook are you? What strategies do you use to make healthier meals? Diane