Just getting dinner on the table can be a challenge at the end of some busy days, but if you’re going to make the effort, it’s smart to make something healthy, whether you’re cooking for just you or the whole family. Healthy cooking may sound like it’s complicated and time consuming, but once you master a few healthy cooking secrets, you can whip up a healthy meal with minimal hassle.
Make Meat the Co-Star
When you’re planning meals, focus on vegetables and whole grains and use meat as an accent instead of the main ingredient on the plate, recommends Cary Neff, former executive chef at Arizona’s Miraval spa and author of “Conscious Cuisine” in “O” magazine. Instead of making pork chops and rice, for instance, make fried rice with brown rice, lots of veggies and a little bit of pork, or use half the regular amount of meat in your favorite spaghetti sauce recipe and use chopped vegetables to fill in for the missing meat.
Don’t Fear Fat
A little fat isn’t a bad thing — and real fats, like butter or vegetable oil, are better for you than processed alternatives, says Roberto Santibanez, chef for The Taco Truck, on Rodale.com. Santibanez, who serves healthy takes on classic Mexican food, says that the key is to use a little of the real stuff –he warns that you don’t need more than 1 tbsp. of fat to cook one chicken breast.
Be a Blender
Sauces enliven meats, vegetables and pasta, but they can also be a prime way of boosting your food’s fat quotient. To get the creamy goodness without the calories and fat, use pureed vegetables and fruits instead of butter or meat juices, recommends chef Juan-Carlos Cruz, the TV Food Network’s Calorie Commando, in “Shape” magazine. Blend root vegetables and garlic with a tiny amount of chicken broth or water to make a creamy, healthy sauce.
Boost the Flavor
Lots of flavor boosting ingredients are virtually no-calorie, says Santibanez. Take advantage of flavoring agents like fresh herbs, spices, mustard, vinegar and chile peppers to make your healthy meals flavor-packed without adding extra fat or salt.