Top 10 tips for Healthifying your kitchen, your cooking, and menu items! Where to cut some fat, some sugar, and some salt and calories….. and heck—– how did it get there in the first place?
SO: YOU NEED TO BECOME A LABEL READER if you intend to become a healthy eater that shops at grocery stores. Commercial food brands like Betty Crocker, Kraft, Oscar Meyer, and Kelloggs are NOT in your corner for health. Sorry folks, they are not in it for your life span, they are in it for the money. They hire professional food scientists to chemically alter foods, and make up compounds that “enhance” foods’ taste…. ya I know. Weird. But true. So the nutritional value? Ya, that’s pretty much NOT what we’re looking for in these brands…. sorry folks.
Making something healthier, requires that you understand a few things about what is NOT healthy.
Here are a few tips to look for on nutrition labels of boxed and pre-made foods:
SODIUM content… if the serving size is 2 Tbsp and it has over 300% DV of your sodium… put it down and walk away. If the serving size is 1/2 cup and the sodium is over 500% of your sodium…. put it down and walk away. Sodium makes you retain water, ups your blood pressure, and has massive affects on the health of your gut and heart.
SUGAR content…. um, lets just say, the LESS there is, the better. If your spaghetti sauce has more than 10 grams in a 1/2 cup serving…. put it down and walk away. If your jarred SALSA— yes, SALSA of all things and Ketchup have more than 3-5 grams… you got it. WALK AWAY…. PEOPLE these shelf stable (at the store) items are LOADED with salt and sugar.
And these things are to look for ALL the time as NO-NO’s (85% of the time 😉 )—— trans fats, 0 fiber, 0 sugars, 0 calories (what?), 0 carbs. Yes my friends, you are MADE of carbon = you need carbs, a few sugars, and um…. yes, CALORIES… they are these little things called units of energy. You kinda need them to live.
So WHY do so many foods lack fiber and have so much sugar and sodium? Because no one cooks anymore. Really, that is it. If we took the time to simmer our tomatoes for hours and hours (and simply grind the skins in), and cook REAL chicken stock for hours and hours, and mash our berries and cook them down a bit— the flavor intensity just POPS after reducing the natural liquid of these things, giving you intense flavor with out adding any salt or sugar, and leaving the nutrients in the “sauce”!Yes, the sugars are concentrated, but you use sooooo much less! Ever wondered why only 1 Tbsp of tomato paste is all you need for a whole batch of Chili? YA! Because its super condensed tomatoes! The flavor is INTENSE! Commercial bouillon is mainly chicken fat and cooked chicken powder mixed with garlic, onion and you got it—- SALT. REAL chicken stock doesn’t have hardly any salt, if any at all! I know, because I went to culinary school, and you didn’t make anything “fake.” We boiled them bones and used these things called herbs and spices to flavor our foods. 🙂 Have you heard of them? Ya. Totally UNDER used these days. Here is a book I highly recommend to learn how to use herbs and spices. One of my FAVS! Culinary Artistry.
SO— how to combat these bad things— read labels, and find the GOOD stuff.
Believe it or not, there are some good commercial food makers. And they are (sorry to admit it, but its true) are more expensive 85% of the time.
If you have a favorite sauce or condiment or food or recipe, please send it my way and as a FREE gift to you, I’ll see if there are some simple ways to “healthify” it. 🙂
Here are my TOP 10 tips for Healthifying Recipes:
#1. Fat in your baking…. What is the “fat” that is being used? Can it be changed, lessened, or halved? If its butter in cookies, thats a toughie. Cookies were conceived from butter and sugar…… hard to undo the science behind that one. But in breads? TOTALLY. Use half applesauce in almost any quick bread recipe (a quick bread has no yeast) for at least 1/2 the fat if not all of it. Unsweetened applesauce does the trick. You can also sub coconut oil into almost any recipe as well! the calories are still there, but the qualities of the fat and health benefits are WAY further up on the scale of health than butter or heaven forbid— shortening. Shortening is the worst of them all. So find ANY way to get that OUT of your kitchen. But, I admit I have some. I use it for greasing pans and a tablespoon here and there in my baking when I KNOW the integrity of my product depends on the stiffness of the fat. 🙂 So— cornbread, banana bread, muffins, all those “quick breads” do NOT need the butter/oil/shortening most of the time.
#2. Sugar in your baking. Can the sugar be taken out? Of course! Use honey- and use LESS than what the sugar content called for was. Since honey is liquid, you can use less. If my recipe calls for 1/2 white sugar, I use 1/3 honey. Not ALL the time— but again, in breads and sweet sauces, honey is amazing! Still has “sugars” but its not refined white sugar that is so hard for our bodies to break down and use for good! And honey, if un heated has many healthy enzymes and micronutrients to take advantage of as well. But again—– in cookies there are some you can sub, but many were born from the refined stuff, so just make your cookies, and commit to just having one, and giving the rest to the neighborhood kids. 🙂
#3. Meat. Use less red meat all around. The cholesterol and fats that come from red meat are not the best kind to ingest and red meats also have inflammatory effects on our bodies. Google it. 🙂 We eat read meat in our house, about every 6 weeks if that. Not very often. And when we do, its a LOT less than we used to. Try it! Make those meatballs that much smaller. Use 3/4 lb instead of 1 lb in your recipes and people…………. ditch the Hamburger Helper. PLEASE. That stuff does NOTHING but put some nasty fuel in the tank that has all kinds of bad health effects on your systems. Like putting bad gas or dirty oil in your car. NOT worth it. Just ditch it. PLEASE! I don’t care if you have 100 coupons for it. There is a reason. 😉 So— eat more BEANS/Lentils for your protein. Eat more FISH and CHICKEN and TURKEY. Beans have protein AND fiber. Two key ingredients that just SHOUT health!
#4. Dairy. Use less all around. Be sure to look for varieties that are WHOLE… reduced fat items always—- 90% of the time have more sugar and more salt…. the fat, gives it FLAVOR! So use less of the whole item, than having to have MORE of the nasty refined and defatted version. Use plain greek yogurt for sour cream. Use the plain mixed with a bit of honey or berries for your kids or for flavored yogurt recipes. Ditch the dang Danimals and Go-gurts. They are LOADED with sugar!!! NOT a great snack choice for anyone. Butter is a natural FAT so its the best option for your toast and corn on the cob, but still is loaded with fat and saturated fat, but a few teaspoons of that is WAY better than any margarine (hello TRANS fat) or soy filled product. So go WHOLE and NATURAL with your daily dairy. And if its a cheese/cream based recipe— simply use less! I slowly just use less each time I make a meal that is dairy based- so see how it turns out. And so far, I am using almost 1/2 of what many of my recipes (lasagne, cream soups, casseroles) call for, and they still taste amazing! now, if its Cheesecake, that is just one of those things you make NOT often. 🙂 And when you eat some, have a small slice and savor it! One of my loves. Don’t cheat yourself on a good piece of cheesecake… I’ve seen and even made “healthier” versions, and no. They are NOT worthy to be called cheesecake…. On your tacos and pizza? Buy the lower fat cheeses, and use LESS! Its amazing how many calories you can cut out by simply NOT over doing it with high calorie high fat items.
#5. Soups. Filling up on SOUPS is an excellent way to get your belly full and not over eat. Load them up with veggies and GOOD starches like whole grain pastas, beans, and squashes/sweet potatoes. Add a side of fresh fruit and some air popped popcorn later and you have the perfect evening.
#6. Bread. For the most part, ditch the “extra” breads. The buns, the breadsticks, the rolls, the cinnamon rolls, the cornbread, the fry bread, ect. These are “fun” items to have a few times a year— but if you find yourself eating them weekly or multi-weekly, I can tell you right now— its going to add up to a small tire around your belly button. That is what empty carbs (like white flour, and white sugar) do. So find a good hearty whole grain bread, with lots of fiber and low sugar, that has less than 6 ingredients and only have a few slices a week at most. Again, the calories you will cut from breads alone is staggering! Take them off the regular menu. 🙂 You’ll survive.
#7. Water. ONLY water to drink. No juice (unless your doctor tells you to of course. There is a TIME for juice… but DAILY is NOT it… even weekly.) no SODA, do I have to go over that one? Soda is the worst thing that ever happened to this world of ours. Ok, maybe beer, tobacco, gambling and drug legalization are… but Soda has NOTHING for you. NOTHING. Zilch. Nada. ZERO fun. NOTHING. DO not consume it. And energy drinks? Um… I hope you know they slowly KILL you….. is that enough for you on that? So ya. Only drink water for thirst. Our bodies are around 60-75% water. You cannot get the hydration you need from juice/sports drinks filled with sodium and sugar most of the time, or heaven forbid—- splenda or aspartame…. YIKES. And soda does NOT quench thirst. It makes your throat wet, but the sugar and sodium content will SUCK the water from your cells withint hours. Crystal light and other “fake” and “diet” drinks are silent killers as well. So when you drink…. make it water please. Even MILK— has sugars and can have fat— so just drink WATER. Coconut water (not milk) is one thing I will suggest if you like the stuff. The properties of coconut water are amazing! Drink up! But still…….. the other 7 cups of liquid….. make it WATER.
#8. Condiments. Mayo—- Kraft thankfully now offers one that is made with olive oil and has only a 1/3 of the fat that traditional mayo has. So we use that, but one jar lasts us many months since we don’t do salads with it, and only have sandwiches maybe every two weeks? Ketchup- find the lowest sugar one, and use LESS. BBQ sauce— find the lowest sugar one, and the lowest salt one— one with whole ingredients and you’re set! There are some GOOD tasting ones out there! Mustard- go right ahead. No qualms there. As a rule of thumb with condiments— just realize that you CAN find lower fat and lower sugar/salt varieties. Just become a label reader. Reduced salt soy sauce is also a great find that flavors many things.
#9. For ice cream and smoothies. Frozen bananas blended up make a creamy texture similar to an ice cream smoothing or shake. So using frozen bananas, and some milk blended up is WAY better for you than ice cream and milk blended up. 🙂 I know— some things are obvious, but we gotta tell ya anyway. And a ton of ice cubes blended up with a little milk also is yummy with some berries, honey, greek yogurt, vanilla extract, cocoa powder…… natural pb…. or pb2……. mmmmmmm. LOVE my frozen concoctions! If you love ice cream treats, you may want to invest in a good blender. Frozen bananas and all sorts of fruit with REAL v8 fruit/veggie juice is a fun treat every now and then too!
#10. For all intents and purposed, allow yourself a good fatty, sugary treat every NOW AND THEN…. like once a week at MOST, and keep it moderate. If you are going to eat a huge peice of your mom’s fatty lasagne, then go ahead. But no ice cream that night! Be smart. I have found through my few years of health coaching, that deep down—- people REALLY do know what is healthier than another in whole foods…. they KNOW that celery is healthier than a twinkie…… you know? Or that an apple, is better than a twix. But the food addictions we create, also take a toll on our decision making and we just would rather have the sugar high, and deal with the “spare tire” than learn to curb our addictions to high sugar and salt content.
So the next time you go to make a recipe, look and see what the ingredients are, and if any of them can be simply cut out, lessened or substituted at all. Chances are, they CAN!!! Send me your favs as a COMMEnt below, and I’ll comment back the changes you could possibly make!
So the bottom line: if you’re gonna have a treat, something you KNOW is fatty, sugary, salty and its just that way===> then just have ONE…. and if its Thanksgiving, and you just gotta try all 8 of those pies? Then get a baby fork, and try one BITE of each one. Thats what I do…. 🙂
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