Updated: Feb 17, 2020
Top 10 tips for Healthifying your kitchen: Where to cut some fat, some sugar, and some salt and calories..... and heck----- how did it get there in the first place?!
Let's teach some basics about our industrialized foods FIRST:
YOU NEED TO BECOME A LABEL READER if you intend to become a healthy eater that shops at grocery stores. As you read labels, you'll find the healthy brands. The brands that truly want to nourish you, not just feed the hunger you feel. Yes... there really are brands that are not out to help your body. These hire professional food scientists to chemically alter foods, and make up compounds that "enhance" foods' taste. Sounds crazy- but it is true. (Read the book "Salt, Sugar, Fat" by Micheal Mollen) We live in a day of information my friends. There is NO reason that we can't start reading labels and start making good nutritional choices. :)
Making something healthier shopping choices, requires that you understand a few things about reading labels. Its not a one sentence explanation, but its is VITAL so bear with me:
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 and brain.
SUGAR content.... um, lets just say, the LESS, the better. If your spaghetti sauce (yep, spaghetti sauce has sugar if its shelf stable) has more than 10 grams in a 1/2 cup serving.... put it down and look at the next one. Look for around 4-6 grams in a serving. If your jarred SALSA--- yes, SALSA of all things and Ketchup have more than 3-5 grams... you got it--> put it down. My friends, shelf stable items can be loaded with salt and sugar- especially if the ingredients the manufacturers started with were low quality (not ripe, second hand, poor farming, etc). You will find that some of the more expensive brands (and people- we are talking cents here- maybe a dollar) really are more healthy for your body. Their ingredients are better = nutritional value to your body is better = your energy and digestion is better = worth it. So think about bad health prevention and your energy and your overall health before simply buying the cheapest thing most of the time.
Things to look for ALL the time with extreme caution ------> labels that include trans fats, 0 fiber, 0 sugars, 0 calories (what?), 0 carbs. Yes my friends, 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. If you choose a lot of Zero Calorie foods your body WILL show up to the party in NEED in the form of diabetes, energy crashes, extreme cravings, mental fuzziness, and even depression.
So WHY do so many foods lack fiber and have so much sugar and sodium? We DEMAND IT. Yep. Its our collective fault. One of the biggest reasons is our our lack of cooking our own fresh food. 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 is incredible. We wouldn't need half the salt that pre-made, shelf stable, commercial and restaurant foods offer. On example: Commercial chicken soup stock/broth or bouillon is mainly chicken fat and cooked chicken powder mixed with garlic, onion and----> SALT. REAL chicken stock doesn't have hardly any salt, if any at all! When I was working to get my Culinary degree in college (yep, I'm a proud culinary grad) you didn't make anything "fake." We boiled those 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.
*If you have a favorite sauce or condiment or food or recipe, I invite you to email it to me at email@example.com SUBJECT LINE: "Help me make this healthy!" and as a FREE gift to you, I'll share with you what to do to make it healthier or a brand that I know to be healthy that you can easily swap out!
Here are my TOP 10 tips for Healthifying your recipes and kitchen:
#1. A simple calorie cut---- buy changing the Fat in your baking and cooking. What is the "fat" that is being used? Can it be changed, lessened, or halved? If it's butter in cookies, thats a toughie. Cookies were conceived from butter and sugar...... hard to undo the science behind that one. But in quick 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- especially when needing fat for soups, casseroles, root veggies, etc! 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, or at least not on the regular rotation of fats being used. But, I admit I have some. I use it for homemade yeast breads, rolls, an the occasional pie. But those fast breads- like 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 or lessened? Most of the time- YES! And in a lot of recipes, honey can be used and almost always LESS than what the recipe called for. Since honey is liquid (condensed sugars), you can use less. If my recipe calls for 1/2 white sugar, I use 1/3 honey. I dont' swap sugar for honey ALL the time--- but again, in quick breads and sweet sauces, honey is amazing! Honey still has "sugars" but its not refined white sugar that is so hard for our bodies to break down and use- many times resulting in storing it as excess fat. And honey, if un- heated and raw has many healthy enzymes and micronutrients and anti- bacterial properties to take advantage of as well. But again----- in some desserts there are some you can sub, but many were born from the refined white and brown sugars, so just make your cookies, and commit to just having one, and giving the rest to the neighborhood kids. :) I also use Stevia packets to sweeten my oatmeal, drinks, and greek yogurt creations with great success.
#3. Animal Meats. Use less 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, it's a LOT less than we used to. Try simply reducing your recipes and taking up the veggie sides to satisfy your belly! Make those meatballs a bit smaller. Use 3/4 lb instead of 1 lb in your recipes and can I just put this little declaration here? Ditch the Hamburger Helper and any other "Dinner 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 it's cheap. And that reason isn't so you have a healthy body. So--- eat more BEANS/Lentils for your protein. Eat more FISH and poultry. 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 90% of the time have more sugar and more salt because the fat gives it FLAVOR! You'll find that you'll use less of the whole flavorful item, than having to use MORE of the nasty refined and defatted versions. Use plain greek yogurt for sour cream. Use the plain greek yogur mixed with a bit of honey, stevia or berries for a snack or for flavored yogurt recipes. Ditch the YoPlait, 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 and tastes better than any margarine (hello TRANS fat). So go WHOLE and NATURAL with your daily dairy choices. 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 how my family likes it. 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 need to plan to NOT regularly make or bring to the house or order off the menu often. And when you do eat some daily filled item, have a small slice and savor it! (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 lol!) On your tacos and pizza? Buy the lower fat cheeses or more flavorful cheese like Goat cheese and use LESS! It's amazing how many calories you can cut out by simply NOT over doing it with high sugar and high calorie dairy items.
#5. Soups. Filling up on SOUPS is an excellent way to get your belly full and not over eat. Liquid is heavy and will signal your belly you are full fast. Put soup on your weekly family menu once or twice every week! Load up your soups and stews and chilis with veggies and complex carbs like whole grain quinoa or brown rice pastas, any and all beans, and squashes/sweet potatoes. Add a side of fresh fruit and you'll feel satisfied and full for the evening.
#6. Breads. Breads are pure carbohydrates for the most part. They are a great source of quick energy. But also---- are a very quick and concentrated does of carbs. Something Americans are obsessed with. As such, learn to ditch them when they are "extra." Extra carbs are like: the buns at the burger joint- hello! The fries and sauces have enough carbs for the both of us already. If you MUST have that bun... just eat half of it. Another one- the breadsticks at a pasta joint. My goodness. WHY do we serve bread with pasta??? Hello sugar rush from empty carbohydrates on overdrive. Or the toast with a serving of fries with brisket- what is that all about? The cornbread with a bbq sandwich? What the heck? Learn to recognize that you only need 1 source of complex carb in a meal. Not 2, or 3 or 4... Ok. Enough on that. Bread at home: Toast for breakfast or for a sandwich at lunch? Great. Make it whole grain- look for 4+ grams of fiber on the label and more protein than sugars and you are heading in the right direction! One thing to note, is that a sure sign you are over-eating carbs, is that "spare tire" around the middle of your body. This is where excess carbs are stored. So if you struggle with a muffin top, or a big belly or bottom or both- look at your carb intake from breads and drinks. The calories you will cut from taking out the "extra" breads alone is staggering! Take them off the regular dinner time menu. :) You'll survive.
#7. Water. ONLY water to drink. No juice, no soda, (do I have to go over that one or can we all just catch up with the times)? Soda is the worst thing that ever happened to this world of ours. Ok, maybe beer, tobacco, gambling, porn and drug legalization are... but Soda has NOTHING for you. NOTHING. Zilch. Nada. ZERO. NOTHING for your nourishment. And energy drinks? Um... I hope you know they slowly KILL you..... is that enough for you on that? Google the horror stories of the affects of energy drinks on minors. So ya. Only drink water. Our bodies are around 60-75% water. You cannot get the hydration you need from juice/sports drinks filled with sodium and sugar 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 within hours, making you crave more. 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! Drink about half your weight in ounces per day. If you weigh 200 lbs, look to drink 100 oz a day. Your skin alone will tell the tale of your water consumption within a month! That glow people have from hydrofacials is real- DRINK that water!
#8. Condiments. Mayo---- Kraft thankfully now offers one that is made with olive oil or avocado and has only a 1/3 of the fat that traditional mayo has. We use that. One jar lasts us many months since we don't do salads with it, and rarely do sandwiches. On 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 (or you can try Liquid Aminos) is also a great find that flavors many things.
#9. For ice cream and smoothie treats. 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. Google "Nice Cream" recipes. If you love ice cream treats, you may want to invest in a good blender or food processor.
#10. Eat more veggies. Just add in more veggies for every time you sit to eat. You'll find as you add veggies you will naturally eat less of the others options. Veggies help EVERYTHING health related. They are always "allowed". Swap them for your carbs- spaghetti squash for pasta. Zoodles (spiraled zucchini) for noodles, "cauli-rice" instead of rice (find it in the freezer section of your store or google how to make it), etc.
A note on "The Foods you just LOVE".
Like pizza, ice cream, cookies, cakes, wine, beer, coffee flavors and creamers, bagels, and pasta...... just plan for those. Drink 16 oz of liquid before you eat/drink and you'll eat less. Be smart. The info is out there my friends. I have found through my years of health coaching and my own journey, that deep down---- people REALLY do know what is healthier than another.... 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 through eating too much food including addictive substances (yes, those are everywhere) that give real emotional comfort also take a toll on our decision making and we just would rather suffer the consequences of too many treats, and deal with the "spare tire" than learn to curb our addictions to high sugar and salt content and believe our tastes will change.
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- go for it! Chances are, they CAN and will be just fine!!!
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 a bite to taste and savor it! Or if its not a dessert item, just PLAN for it and be SMART. And if it's Thanksgiving, and you just gotta try all 8 of those pies? Then get a spoon and put a spoonful of each one on your plate instead of a piece and try one BITE of each one. We teach a LOT of principles to help with over eating, emotional eating and the mindset change that goes along with this article in our 90 Day Emotional Eating pathway program under our Programs and Courses tab. :)
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