How to Cook Healthy Foods With Less Fat and Calories

Simple Tricks, Tools, and Tips to Make Healthy Cooking Easier

cut calories when baking
Dorling Kindersley: Charlotte Tolhurst / Getty Images

If you want to cut fat and cut calories from your diet, your best bet is to cook at home. By preparing your own foods, you control the type of ingredients in your food and the portion sizes of each meal. But even home-cooked meals can be fattening if you're not careful.

If you're serious about getting healthy with good nutrition, it's smart to invest a little bit of time and energy into learning techniques that make lean meats, vitamin-packed veggies, and good-for-you-grains not only delicious but simple to cook. If your go-to meal is both satisfying and savory, you're more likely to eat moderate portions and still get the energy you need to stay active all day.

Use these healthy cooking tips to prepare meals that will help you keep your weight loss plan on track. Here are some tips.

How to Cook Healthy Foods— Essential Tools

Nutritious low-calorie foods are easier to prepare in less time if your kitchen is equipped with a few essential tools. These key items that will allow you to make low-fat meals in a snap. If the items aren't in your budget right now, keep them in mind and add them to your gift list during the holidays.

​​Non-Stick Pans 

One of the best weight-loss tips is to prepare recipes with non-stick pans. Much of the fat used in the preparation of meals serves to prevent sticking during the cooking process. By using non-stick pans, you can add a small amount of olive oil or other healthy fat to complement the taste of your food, but you will cut out unnecessary fat.
Non-stick saute pans, grilling pans and saucepans also make the cleanup process faster and easier. If you can save time in the kitchen, you're going to be more likely to continue the habit of healthy cooking at home.

Kitchen Scale

A digital kitchen scale is a great way to measure portion sizes and ingredients. During the cooking process, you can cut calories and fat by using exact portions of each ingredient. Measuring with cups and spoons leaves room for error. A digital scale, however, will help you to measure your items with precision.

An inexpensive kitchen scale will also help you determine portion sizes after the meal is prepared. Food-tracking systems are most accurate if you provide the exact amount of food you've eaten. With a kitchen scale, getting the right measurement is simple and easy.

Single-Serving Containers

One of the most important weight-loss tips is to control portion size. Many cooks will prepare a large recipe, then store the meal in the pot in which it was prepared. While this saves time in the short run, it may mean that you eat more than you need at mealtime. When you're hungry, it is easy to load up your plate if you are serving yourself from a huge container of food.

Make your healthy-cooking efforts pay off throughout the week. Divide a large pot of food into reasonable portions neatly packaged in single-serving containers. The mini-meals you create will be easy to access when you're in a hurry and are much healthier for you. They are also more likely to be lower in calories and lower in sodium than the single-serving meals that you purchase in the freezer section of your grocery store.

Good Blender

Buying a good blender is a smart investment. Of course, a blender will help you whip up that morning smoothie, but there are so many more foods that your blender can prepare. For example, creamy soups are a snap when you have a blender that has a pre-set soup setting. Simply toss your favorite steamed vegetables in the jar, add chicken or vegetable stock, a small amount of fat (or beans...see below!) and hit the button. Within minutes you have creamy, delicious and satisfying soup to pour into single serving containers and save for lunch during the week. Advanced blenders by brands like Blendtec also allow you to make protein-rich frozen desserts, dips without additives or preservatives, and a wide variety of other healthy recipes.

Countertop Induction Oven

Sometimes you don't have the energy (or the time!) to preheat your oven for a family dinner. Or maybe you're not quite motivated to prepare a big meal and clean the myriad of dishes that are required for the veggies, the potatoes and the meal. A space-saving, counter-top induction oven like the one made by Panasonic allows for rapid heat increase and precise cooking. And the best news is that you can make a complete meal for a family of four with one grill pan. Grill foods or get them perfectly browned or crisped using little to no fat. The pre-set menu options make it super simple and super quick.

How to Cook Healthy Foods— Savvy Swap and Tips

Once your kitchen is equipped, use these smart swaps to cut calories and fat from your food without sacrificing taste.

  • Applesauce. Baking your own cookies and treats is generally healthier than purchasing pre-packaged varieties in the store. Many store-bought baked goods contain trans fats that add calories and contribute to high cholesterol and heart disease. But even the home-baked varieties can be full of fat. For healthier cooking, try substituting applesauce for oil or butter.Swapping applesauce for oil will cut fat and cut calories, but it can also change the texture of your finished product. The substitution generally works best in muffins, bars or cake recipes. Some cookie recipes may also work, but they may require some experimentation. To begin, swap equal amount of applesauce for oil. Make adjustments as needed. Look for low-sugar varieties of applesauce for best results.
  • Chicken stock. In savory recipes, chicken stock is a great substitute for oil, cream or butter. Stock helps keep foods moist and prevents food from sticking. For example, when preparing sauteed vegetables, a restaurant chef might add olive oil or butter to the pan to add flavor and aid in the cooking process. But by using chicken stock instead, you cut fat and cut calories.You'll also find that chicken stock will help give your starches a creamy texture. For instance, hold the cream and butter when preparing mashed potatoes and add low-salt chicken broth instead. Whip the potatoes and add salt to taste. Making hummus? A healthy cooking tip is to skip the tahini which is loaded with calories. Instead, add a small amount of olive oil and chicken stock to get a creamy spreadable consistency.
  • White beans. One of my favorite weight-loss tips is to use white beans. Creamy soup recipes often call for cream or whole milk to achieve the thick texture that diners enjoy. But pureed white beans can do the same thing without adding significant calories or fat.The next time you prepare your favorite cream soup, such as squash, carrot or potato, prepare the recipe as indicated in the original recipe. At the end of the cooking process, when the cream is added, take one can of white beans and puree the beans using a food processor or blender. Add small amounts of the puree to your soup until it meets the consistency you desire. This healthy-cooking tip will help cut fat and calories while adding healthy protein to your soup.

Cook Healthy Foods in Bulk

Cooking in bulk saves time. You can complete a week's worth of cooking in the same time it takes to prepare a day's worth of meals. But often, storing the food in large containers can lead to overeating. If you're starving at mealtime and need to scoop a serving of soup out of a large pot, it's easy to take too much.

Avoid that scenario altogether by dividing the large recipe into single servings when you finish cooking it. Then, assemble the items into complete, low-calorie meals. For example, cook a pot of healthy, creamy soup, along with a batch of sauteed vegetables and a low-fat baked treat. Divide each recipe so that a single serving of each is neatly packaged and stored together in your refrigerator. At mealtime, take only the packages you need. It's easy, convenient and quick.

A Word From Verywell

It may seem like a lot of work to practice healthy cooking at home. But these weight loss tips will help you cut fat and calories from each of your meals. As you get used to these tips for cooking, you'll learn to save time, you'll feel better about the food you eat and you'll find greater success on your weight-loss program.

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