Smart Cooking Strategies for Weight Loss and Beyond

Cooking for Weight Loss

I’ve written 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, I discussed why fast food meals are not the best idea when you are losing weight (or maintaining weight for that matter.)

As a follow up on those two older posts, I wanted to spend some time talking about cooking. Because after all, if you aren’t cooking foods that help you in your weight loss journey, then why are you cooking at all?

It’s kind of a bold statement isn’t it? Cook foods that help you or don’t bother. Well, perhaps it is a bit bold, but in a way it is true. If you are trying to get to a healthier weight, you have to be committed, know what plan you are going to follow, exercise if your doctor allows, and be aware of the ingredients and calories in the foods you cook at home or eat in a restaurant.

When I first learned to cook a meal rather than just brownies, I relied heavily on frozen entrees, boxed meals, and convenience foods because I didn’t really know how to cook. As I began to lose weight, I realized that those convenience foods weren’t a lot better for me and my family than the restaurant foods or processed foods I used to rely on.

I had to develop the skills to become a conscious cook. A person who pays attention to food preparation techniques, a cook who cares about flavor, and a cook who chooses good ingredients.

This was a radically different philosophy than the one I used to follow and quite frankly, I wasn’t great at it at first.

I burned things, I overcooked foods, I undercooked foods, I served strange combinations, and throughout the whole process, my family was supportive. That was a tremendous blessing.

I think about cooking for weight loss a lot because I’ve got seven kids and I do a lot of cooking. I have learned after 17 years of weight maintenance that the best way to prepare for weight maintenance is to practice conscious cooking when you are losing weight. Think about it. If you develop a repertoire of good recipes and learn good cooking techniques that help you lose weight, why not keep using those same recipes and techniques when you are done with the weight loss process?

Those skills can help you for years to come. I’ve put together a list of some things that a conscious cook might do to feed his or her family healthy meals night after night.

1. Learn Healthier Preparation Methods

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 Smart

When you are shopping, look for deals on items you know you will eat such as beans, rice, or even meat. I buy beans in bulk and cook three or four batches at a time. They freeze well and make it easy to put a minestrone soup or other bean dish together.

3. Make Smart Substitutions

When I first started losing weight, the very first conscious decisions I made in regards to my cooking was substituting healthy ingredients for unhealthy ones. For example, I left off the fried chicken from the salad and replaced it with grilled chicken. I learned to cook without adding tons of butter, shortening, and salt to my foods and ate more food in its natural 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 to healthier baked goods, and explore vinegars, homemade salsa combinations, and aromatics in cooking.

5. Plan Your Meals

This one is pretty obvious, but being a conscious cook involves planning. After all, it is hard to eat healthy meals every day of the week if you have no idea what you are going to have! Here’s a meal planning worksheet if you need one to get started.

Conscious cooking isn’t hard and it doesn’t have to be complicated, but it can help you make delicious meals that fit within your own personal weight loss plan.

How conscious a cook are you? What strategies do you use to make healthier meals? Diane

5 thoughts on “Smart Cooking Strategies for Weight Loss and Beyond

  1. L says:

    This conscious cooking is a skill I have been learning for a while now. It helps!

    Our family loves roasted veggies much more than canned or boiled vegetables. It takes more prep time to roast veggies, but you can roast enough for multiple days at one time, and after sitting for a day in the frig they taste even better. Yum!!!

  2. Kerstin says:

    I’m on my 4th attempt in ten years to lose my excess weight why now amounts to 80+ lbs. This time round I’m focusing on creating good habits that are supportive of my health goals and cooking is right there at the top of the list! I love eating but I’ve always been a reluctant cook. What actually made me realize that I really need to embrace cooking was one of your posts on the subject as well as another blogger’s post pretty much saying the same thing. So for the last few weeks I’ve been planning, shopping and cooking! One of the things, in addition to what you list above, that I find really helpful is to prepare all my ingredients. Before I would chop and measure as I went along and always ended up feeling rushed and stressed and burning and overlooking things . So now I prep everything, put it into bowls and then I start cooking. And I am beginning to enjoy it so much more because I am feeling less stressed. Thanks for this timely article!

  3. Karen P says:

    Cooking is the cornerstone of my weight maintenance plan. I cook about 98% of my meals. Proteins, Veggies with good, low inflammatory oils.

    If cooking habits (and shopping and cleaning up after cooking) are not developed, then I fear many regain the weight. Cooking (not baking) is key, as our blogging friend Vickie likes to remind us. 🙂 Karen P

  4. Maria says:

    True post, you have to cook (or have someone cook for you) in order to incorporate healthy foods otherwise, you’re relying on restaurants or packaged foods which both contain tons of ingredients you may not know are even in the food you are eating.

    There’s something to be said for cooking your own foods, you appreciate food in a different way. I’m not the best cook, but I try my best and that’s what counts. Thanks Diane.

  5. Nadia says:

    It’s actually pretty difficult for me to consistently eat healthy, so I just try to pick up active hobbies as much as possible! http://www.ufcgym.com has amazing kickboxing classes for women, and other great cardio, dance, and training programs as well! 🙂

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