How to Make Everyday Food Healthier Slideshow
January 12, 2012
A few little swaps can make your everyday meals better for you
Swap Out the Meat
Protein is an extremely important part of our diets because it provides us with energy to keep full and focused all day, and it's responsible for the upkeep (growth, maintenance, repair) of our bodies' cells. One of the most widely known and easily accepted sources of protein is meat. Unfortunately, meat also contains a high amount of saturated fat, especially in fatty beef, lamb, pork, and poultry eaten with the skin. Saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood, possibly leading to heart disease, weight gain, and leaving you at high risk for a stroke. Simply selecting lean cuts of meat and peeling the skin off of your meats are easy ways to consume healthy protein. Swap a meal or two a week for a seafood dish, and make red meat dishes a treat rather than a weekly occurrence.
Skip the Deep-Fry
While frying chicken in oil or pads of butter may taste delicious, this style of cooking is definitely the antithesis of healthy eating. There absolutely are healthy types of oil you can use and real butter is far better than the processed stuff, but cooking with both of these adds fat to your meal. Using nonstick grills and cooking surfaces is an easy way to eliminate these fattening elements from your everyday meals.
Opt for Whole Grains
In truth, all complex carbs are good and essential for a healthy diet. When it comes to carb-loaded foods, however, the general consensus is that brown is better. White flour is highly processed and lacks the two most nutritious and fiber-rich parts of the seed — the bran and germ. Those who consume white bread regularly are actually eating the bleached grains of wheat. Aside from the risks you expose yourself to from the chemicals, white grains leave you feeling constipated, malnourished, sluggish, and more susceptible to illness. The good news? There is a wheat alternative to all breads, pastas, and rice that we generally consume with little to no difference in taste.
Some sugars are necessary for maintaining a healthy diet, like the ones that come from fruits and vegetables. As there is some form of sugar in most of the foods we regularly enjoy, avoiding processed sugar seems near to impossible. Fear not! There are sweeteners, like Stevia and plant extracts of Luo Han Guo, that are multiple times sweeter than sugar or aspartame and can easily be incorporated into your diet. Try carrying packets of healthy sugar alternatives and staying within your own personal recommended daily sugar intake.
Ditch Processed Foods
Most commercial foods are processed to keep a longer shelf life. If it is bagged, canned, boxed, or jarred with a long list of ingredients and nutrition facts, it is generally considered processed. These foods are filled with additives, and swapping them out of your daily diet can quickly improve your health. How to do it? Invest time in your kitchen. Try purchasing the basics for most of the things you need and make them at home. While admittedly this may be easier said than done, making at least half of the foods in your home from scratch from natural ingredients is a way to significantly improve your regular food health.
Put the Frying Pan Away
While some foods beg to be fried, resist the urge to do so on a regular basis. Frying food generally promotes the use of oils, butter, and fattening breading, and while there are alternatives to all of these ingredients, the healthiest choice is to opt to bake your next dish. Peel the skin away from the chicken, rub it with herbs, and let it bake in a dish of low-sodium broth for a tasty alternative to fried cutlets. Or enjoy flaky fish away from the stove top, drizzled with naturally sweet honey for a delicious dinner — there are endless ways to switch your favorite foods from pan to oven rack.
Use Safe Ingredients
It isn't necessary to eat foods that are only from the farmers market or have just been harvested, but it is important that you are aware of the pesticide residue left on foods and choose the ones that are healthiest for you.
Use Lower-Fat Dairy Products
When it comes to milk, drinking three glasses a day will generally lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. However, consider drinking low-fat or non-fat milk and trying other reduced-fat dairy products to improve the health value of your daily dishes.
Cut the Condiments
Proud of yourself for making the decision to enjoy a fresh salad rather than that sandwich? Don't kill the good intentions by overusing condiments. While they do enhance food, condiments can pack on the calories and fats if not chosen correctly. Often, these flavorful additives are globbed on before a bite has even been taken and are unnecessarily used. Additions like mayonnaise, processed salad dressings, and even too much ketchup create situations where calories, sugar, and fat are piled high on to your dishes. Opt for mustard, natural condiments, or low-fat versions of mayonnaise if you're really craving it.