Spring Clean your Cooking: How to Cook Healthier and Smarter

Your home isn’t the only thing that could use some cleaning this spring! If you’re looking to eliminate the junk from your diet and start eating smarter, here are 4 of our best tips:

1. Cook more at home (You can do it!) and use simple tips to cook/assemble food Research shows that just by cooking at home, we can cut down on calorie intake and increase nutrient content. That is because eating out means in-taking larger portion sizes  of food laden with fat and calories and we tend to overeat. In the other hand cooking allows us to control portion, and eat better. But, just because you’ve made your way back from the grocery store with the RIGHT ingredients in hand, doesn’t mean you’re home safe. All the vegetables in the world won’t do you any good if they’re battered and fried or covered in butter. Try sautéing or grilling your vegetables and proteins – all you need is a small amount of oil and some salt and pepper to bring out the best flavors. You can also use a slow cooker and throw in the right mix of ingredients, set it and forget it! Check out these great book from our friend Kathy Hester on simple vegan slow-cooker recipes. The more you cook, the more you will become comfortable with these simple techniques. 2. Cut down on time, calories, and add nutrients to cook smarter The simplest meals are the ones that require no cooking at all. On days that I am running out of time, I put together quick salads, smoothies, and sandwiches that are equally nutritious by using produce that I have on hand and some of these pantry fridge items. Check out this Blender Girl Cookbook by our friend, Tess Masters for easy, healthy blender recipes. Believe it or not, keeping your pantry and fridge stocked with certain items can help you save time, calories and allow you to add nutrients quickly. Here's a helpful list:
Item name Use to save (time, T/calories, C, add fiber/nutrients N)
pesto pasta, sandwich (T)
canned tomatoes, pumpkin puree soup, pasta (T, C, N)
canned beans, dense leafy greens such as kale salad, slow-cooker recipes (T, N, C)
avocados and low-fat yogurt base for crema for topping salad and soft tacos (C,N)
vinegar,  olive oil, mustard, relish, nut butter, hot sauce salad dressings, cooking, sandwich (T)
nuts  dried fruits, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, flax seeds add to salads, cereals, smoothies (N)
3. Pay attention to labels Of course, the most nutritious foods tend to be ones that don’t have nutrition labels like fruits and vegetables but partially-processed foods help save time and add flavor quickly so we are a fan. But not all jarred sauces and packaged foods are created equal. a. Read the ingredients: Do you recognize most of them? A good test to tell whether a jarred item if highly processed is to see whether you can replicate its using ingredients from your grocery store. If not, then don't use it. b. Read the nutrition facts carefully. Ingredients are listed in order of weight on a label so the order is important but sometimes facts could be hidden. For instance, a strawberry jam may have: 40% strawberries, 35% high fructose corn syrup, 20% corn syrup, 4% fructose, 1% glucose but out of the 5 ingredients, 4 of them add up to a whopping 60% sugar in this product. The only way to tell this is to look at the nutritional facts where the sugar will be listed as %DV. 4. Fill up on Fiber and Protein That bag of chips isn’t going to do you much good – in fact you’ll probably be hungry in  an hour or so. That’s because the chips don’t provide much nutritional value! They are filled with empty calories, meaning they are made of solid fats and/or added sugars that add calories to the food with no nutrients. Calorie for calorie, foods that are naturally high in fiber and protein provide nutrients that your body needs to function well, thereby keeping you satiated. For example, choose low-calorie options like low-fat milk, boneless, skinless chicken and unsweetened applesauce. A good resource to find more information on how to eat healthier is www.choosmyplate.gov. We hope that you will take a few of these steps to cook smarter and healthier this spring.

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