(BlackDoctor.org) — Does the idea of healthy eating stress you out? Choosing healthy foods is an important part of eating right, but cooking them in a healthy way is also a huge part. The best kind of diet is one you can stick to — and that means finding ways to lighten up and add nutrition to your favorite recipes, instead of abandoning them.
The first step to healthier cooking is to take recipes as suggestions. Before you start chopping and mixing, scan the recipe to see if there are any unnecessary calories. Look for excess cheese, butter and oils, as well as sugars.
Here are some tasty, healthy ideas to help you makeover your favorite recipes:
1. Sauté—the skinny way!
A couple of tablespoons of low-sodium vegetable broth can be used instead of oil or butter in your stir fry or as the basis for a sauce. This method will add a nice flavor to your dish as well as a little moisture—and you’ll save calories to use elsewhere. To get rid of unsaturated fats, serve your broth-sautéed veggies with a side salad, and pour an olive oil-based dressing over the top.
2. Say no to skin.
Three ounces of chicken breast meat with skin has almost 150 calories; three ounces of chicken without the skin has 50 fewer calories. Tasty as it might be, the skin contains mostly heart-unhealthy saturated fat. You can cook with the skin on to retain moisture (add fresh herbs or citrus zest underneath it to really bake in some flavor), but be sure to remove the skin before you enjoy your meal to save on calories and saturated fat.
3. Squeeze on the citrus.
To add a powerful flavor punch with minimal added calories, use citrus on steamed veggies instead of butter or over a salad instead of a dressing. It’s even great on fruit salad in place of sugar and adds some zip when squeezed onto a pasta salad. Don’t forget to use the flavorful zest of citrus fruits as well! Wash a lemon, orange or lime, then use a zester or grater to add the zest to dishes such as baked seafood.
4. Be choosy about cheese.
When using a mildly flavored cheese, such as Monterey Jack, you need more cheese to taste it. But when you choose a cheese with intense flavor, you can use less and still get the desired effect. Try a reduced-sodium feta, sharp Cheddar or aged Parmesan next time. Light cheese wedges such as The Laughing Cow brand are useful when you’re watching fat and calories, too. Try mixing one of these soft cheeses into your scrambled eggs or noodle dishes instead of loading on the shredded mozzarella.
5. Go low on sweet.
Recipes for treats like cookies, muffins and cakes tend to contain more than enough sweetness. In general, you can cut about a quarter of the sugar from most baked good recipes without affecting the overall results. As you skimp on sugar, play with calorie-free flavorings like