Do you know what types of diet books are the bestsellers on any bestseller list? If you guessed that diet meal cookbooks top the list, you’d be right. One of the hardest things to do when you’re heading for your goal weight is learning how to cook healthier, tastier foods. That’s why some of the best-selling weight loss plans of all time include a “lifestyle” or “maintenance” eating plan that you’ll use for the rest of your life.
Many of those recipes call for ingredients that are expensive and hard to find, and the recipes can be time consuming. Really, who can afford to eat salmon with lemon-dill sauce three times a week? The trick to maintaining your health new body after you reach your weight loss goal is to learn how to cook healthy, nutritious meals on your own, using the ingredients you find in your own kitchen. Of course, it helps if you know how to stock your kitchen for cooking low-fat, nutritious, low-calories and healthy meals. Stock up on these foods when you get a chance, and you’ll always have what you need to whip up healthy snacks and meals without a special trip to the grocery store.
The current dietary guidelines recommend that you get about 45% of your daily calories from healthy carbohydrates, with a heavy emphasis on whole grains. Brown rice is a given – it’s packed full of fiber and healthy nutrients, and has a nutty flavor that really shines when you mix it with fresh veggies. It’s only one of many whole grains you can enjoy, however. Stock up on more exotic grains like couscous, bulgur, quinoa and good old-fashioned rolled oats or steel cut oats. While brown rice takes about 40 minutes to cook, the others take no more time than cooking up a pot full of pasta, and they’re a lot healthier for you.
Black beans, kidney beans and lentils pack a powerful double-punch of protein and fiber with almost no fat. They’re also far easier to cook than you’d think. Lentils – particularly yellow and red lentils – cook up in about 20 minutes. Add them to soup and tomato sauce to add extra protein to your meals, or toss cooked lentils with olive oil, rice and spices for a filling, low calorie dinner. Black beans and kidney beans take a little longer to cook, but are just as easy. Cover with water and bring to a rolling boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Take the pot off the fire and let them sit for an hour, then drain, rinse and refill the pot with water. Let the beans simmer in the new water for about an hour and enjoy.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are another powerhouse source of protein with an extra helping of healthy fat. A sprinkle of sunflower seeds or toasted sesame seeds can give your fruit salad an extra punch and make your brown rice taste even better. Top a toasted cheese sandwich with sesame seeds or toasted sunflower seeds, or mix a spoonful into a cup of yogurt and fruit.
Sun-dried fruits provide a lot of the minerals and vitamins found in fresh fruit, but are more concentrated and sweeter. Add them to hot cereal or munch them in snack mixes – but keep in mind that they have a lot of calories. Enjoy in moderation and you’ll be fine. Be sure to check the labels of dried pineapple, dried apple rings, raisins, prunes, dried apricots and dried goji berries to make sure they’re not processed with added sugars.
Canned beans are a great addition for quick meals, but read labels carefully to make sure they’re not cooked with sugar and salt. Keep a few cans of black beans, red kidney beans and chick peas on hand to mix in with rice or spice up for a quick evening meal when you’re too tired to cook.
Eggs are a healthy food that contains a whopping helping of protein – and they’re one of the quickest and easiest foods to prepare when you need a quick, delicious meal. Keep a couple boiled and peeled, ready to eat in a jar of water for quick snacks on the go, and learn to whip up a quick omelet with chopped herbs for a surprisingly luxurious meal.
Drinking milk helps your body lose weight, according to the USDA. Keep a gallon of 1% milk in the fridge if you can tolerate dairy and drink one to two glasses a day. Use 1% milk in fruit smoothies to add a little extra protein to your morning drink or mid-afternoon snack.
Keep an assortment of fresh fruits in your refrigerator for easy snacking. If you know you won’t eat whole fruits or take the time to slice them up, spend a few extra dollars to buy fresh fruit cut up and readily snackable.
Unsweetened applesauce is one of the most versatile and delicious ingredients to keep on hand. Keep a jar of it in the refrigerator to stir into plain yogurt, plop on whole wheat pancakes or substitute for oil in desserts and cake mixes.
In addition to being delicious mixed with fruit or on its own, plain yogurt is a great substitute for sour cream or mayonnaise. Choose low-fat Greek style yogurt to get the most protein and healthy nutrients.
Stock your freezer with an assortment of fresh-frozen vegetables – but avoid anything that’s seasoned or has sauces added. For just a few dollars, you can stock up on mixed vegetables cut for stew, stir-fry and other meals. They’ll steam quickly for fast meals on the nights you don’t have time to cook and are tempted to order takeout.
Frozen Berries and Melon
Whole frozen berries are a delicious treat on a hot day – just eat them straight out of the bag. They’re better than a frozen juice bar. You can also drop half a dozen strawberries, blueberries and raspberries into a blender with half a cup of yogurt and some skim milk to make a delicious and nutritious fruit smoothie to start you day off right.
Flash Frozen Chicken Breasts and Fish
Keep individually frozen chicken breasts and fish in your freezer to pull out for healthy meals. It’s easy to pull out just enough for one meal without defrosting a whole package. Just read the label to make sure that the meat hasn’t been pumped up with flavorings or added water or broth.
As you get used to cooking quick, nutritious meals, you’ll start adding your own ingredients that you use often. Check out the list of great spices to use with your veggies, grains and meat – many of them add a lot more than flavor to your meal.