Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Low Calorie Cooking at Home

One of the first steps that I took in my weight loss initiative was to limit the amount of times I went out to eat.  Five years later this is still the first thing I do when I start to see the pounds creeping back on to the scale.  Let’s face it, the only way we truly know what we are eating is if we make it ourselves.

A Men’s Health online article from a few years ago stated that “The U.S. food industry has declared war on your waistline”. They proceeded to defend that statement by listing some horrifying calorie counts for dishes at popular U.S. restaurants. Everyone can guess that a fried onion appetizer from Chili’s is bad for you (2,710 calories), but here are some of the more surprising numbers:

  1. Macaroni Grill Spaghetti and Meatballs with Meat Sauce: 2,430 calories, 128 grams of fat
  2. P.F. Chang’s Pork Lo Mein: 1,820 calories, 127 grams of fat
  3. Quizno’s Classic Italian Sandwich: 1,370 calories, 86 grams of fat
  4. On the Border Grande Taco Salad with Beef: 1,450 calories, 102 grams of fat
  5. Uno Chicago Grill Classic Deep Dish Pizza (personal size): 2,310 calories, 162 grams of fat
Some people think that as long as they stay clear of restaurant chains they will be safe, but I assure you that your local restaurants are adding their fair share of butter, cream, sugar and bacon grease to “enhance” the flavors in your meal.  Last week I was eating at an Indian restaurant and I watched the cook walk over to the buffet and pour at least a cup of melted butter into a dish to decrease its viscosity.  I also once witnessed my own mother put an entire stick of butter into a dish of sweet potatoes.  Like I said before, the only way we truly know what we are eating is if we cook it ourselves.

I try to limit the amount of times I eat out to 1-2 times per week.  Things like eating lunch in the cafeteria, going to a dinner party (think of my mom’s sweet potatoes) and picking up breakfast at a coffee shop, all count as eating out.  Limiting these behaviors will be hard at first, but eventually cooking will become part of your routine.  The best part is, you can burn 100+ calories while cooking your evening meal.

Eventually I will have a recipes section on this blog, but for now I suggest that you take a look at www.cookinglight.com.  I get a lot of cooking tips and recipes from that site.  Here are a few low calorie cooking techniques to get you started:


  1. Use cooking spray instead of fat (oil, butter) to prevent sticking
  2. Choose lower calorie cuts of meat
      1. Poultry
        1. Skinless breasts
      2. Beef (grass-fed)
        1. Round roast/steak
        2. Sirloin steak
        3. 95% lean ground beef
      3. Pork
        1. Tenderloin
      4. Seafood
        1. White fish (cod, halibut)
        2. Shrimp
        3. Scallops
        4. Crab
        5. Clams
  3. Add flavor to dishes by using citrus, vinegar, hot sauce, garlic, broths, fresh herbs and spices. These are good low calorie alternatives to cream, butter, oil and sugar.
  4. Add extra vegetables to your recipes
  5. Use non or low-fat dairy products instead of full fat
  6. Roast vegetables to bring out their natural sugars
  7. Grill or broil meats that have a higher fat content
  8. Minimize the use of cheese
  9. Try baking instead of frying
  10. Substitute non-fat Greek yogurt for mayo and/or sour cream
  11. Replace potatoes with rutabagas, parsnips, turnips and/or winter squash
  12. Replace some (or all) of the meat in a dish with vegetables, beans, whole grains or tofu

Bon App
étit!

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