Cooking can often get a bad rep when there are so many ways to get meals delivered directly to your door lately, but trust us – it’s a lot of fun! If you cook at home, you will be able to make delicious meals that are also healthy, so long as you have the right guidance.
While cooking is a lot of fun and comes with many different benefits, it’s also a challenge at first. You may not know the difference between your crock pot and a stock pot! The terminology in recipes can be confusing, and it can also be hard to know where to start with making certain recipes.
Well, we all have to start somewhere when it comes to learning all about healthy home cooking! Luckily for you, you’ve come to the ideal place to learn more. Here’s everything you need to know about healthy home cooking and some simple ways to make it a cinch for you!
Benefits of Healthy Home Cooking
You may think ‘wait, why not save some time and pop out to my local restaurant for some food?’ or ‘why shouldn’t I just eat a ready meal from my local grocery store?’ Sure, both of these options will save you some time, but they aren’t necessarily the healthiest choices. They can also cost a lot of money in the long run.
Cooking your own healthy home cooked meals is massively beneficial for a wide variety of reasons. Here are just a few of them.
You Get To Control Exactly What Goes Into Your Body
This means no hidden chemicals, additives or preservatives.
This is actually pretty important, because chemicals, preservatives and additives are bad for your health for a few reasons. First off, you’re putting things into your body and you have absolutely no idea what effect they could have on you.
Secondly, many people believe that eating processed foods can sometimes result in weight gain, in part because of these additives. When you stick to food you have cooked yourself at home, you know exactly what ingredients you are using.
As a result, you can eradicate artificial ingredients, or reduce the amount of them in your diet at the very least.
You’re Eating Fresh Produce
which means you’re eating more fibre, vitamins and minerals than if you were to buy pre-packaged food.
When you cook your own meals, you are completely in control over the ingredients that you use. That means that you also dictate the nutritional value that you get from your meals.
You’re Saving Money!
Healthy home cooking can often seem like a poor option from a financial perspective – some healthy ingredients can certainly cost quite a bit of money. With that being said though, it’s important to note that while the ingredients may cost more on their own than a meal at McDonalds, you can often create several meals from the ingredients.
This is ideal if you are feeding a family or you want to prepare your meals for a few days. In the long run, cooking at home will save you a lot more money. You’ll likely feel better for it too.
It’s Great For Family Bonding
Fast food and meals in restaurants are fun, but neither of these options bring the family together quite like a home cooked meal does. A homemade meal gives you and your family the opportunity to gather, which is good for the mental health of family members and friends.
Not only that, but you could also get the family to help you in the kitchen. Perhaps the children could help you to peel the vegetables, or you could show them how to cook the meal if they are old enough. They could help you to find recipes – the possibilities for bonding are endless.
It’s Good For People With Food Allergies
If you have an allergy to something, chances are you’ve found yourself in situations where you’ve had to avoid certain foods. This isn’t always possible when eating out, as there are so many different types of food available.
However, when you cook your own meals at home, you can ensure that you are able to eat everything without having to worry about any potential allergens.
You Can Be Confident About Food Safety
When you are in charge of what goes on when meals are prepared, you can feel confident that there aren’t any health risks that can arise from improper food hygiene.
When you eat out, there’s always a risk that perhaps the establishment you are visiting isn’t following the food safety standards that it should be following. With this, you can risk issues with food poisoning. Not fun! You can avoid this issue when you cook at home.
As you can see there are numerous benefits to cooking healthy meals at home! With all of that out of the way, here are our tips to make it work for you!
10 Ways To Hack Healthy Home Cooking
Shop Fresh And Frozen
When you are trying to eat healthier, you may be inclined to buy the freshest ingredients. Fresh ingredients are always great, since they generally have good nutritional value. Fresh meat and vegetables in particular are always good for a meal. With that being said, you don’t have to keep everything fresh.
Buying frozen ingredients is a great way to save yourself money when you are cooking that a lot of people discount. Frozen food is sometimes given a bad name – people may believe that it’s unhealthy, but this certainly isn’t true.
It’s definitely worth your while to buy a bag of frozen vegetables or fish to cook later on. It’ll save waste if for instance you find yourself unable to eat an entire head of fresh broccoli in one week.
It’s worth noting that a lot of people think that nutrients are lost when you freeze food. This actually is not the case. Most of the time, food is flash frozen immediately after it has been harvested. This means that the food in question does not lose any of the nutrients thanks to the freezing process. Frozen food is actually incredibly healthy
In truth, your home freezer may be one of your biggest allies when it comes to healthy home cooking. You can use the freezer to store ingredients that need to stay refrigerated until you are ready to use them. For example, you might freeze fruits and vegetables that you plan to use later in the week. Frozen fruit and vegetables can last up to two months.
You can also use the freezer to store meats that you plan to grill later. Grilling meats is one of the best ways to add flavor to your meals. The process of grilling adds a lot of flavor to the meat itself. So, freezing it beforehand will allow you to enjoy grilled meat whenever you want.
Of course, don’t get it twisted – frozen food can be a big asset in the kitchen, but fresh food should also be incorporated into your diet too. Some recipes are much better suited to fresh ingredients than others.
Likewise, if you just want a quick snack then some vegetables and fruits are better bought fresh, such as berries and celery. It’s all about creating a balance, though frozen food is a good choice if you do want to save a little bit of money.
For the best results and the highest savings, it’s usually best to use a combination of frozen and fresh food. For your fresh food budget, it’s generally best to buy dark leafy greens, certain meats and fish. You can also check the recipes that you need to use in advance in order to help you to work out which foods will be better off fresh.
So, in summary, what ingredients are better bought frozen? Here are a few.
Frozen vegetables are very beneficial when it comes to healthy home cooking. Broccoli in particular is better bought frozen, and it tastes just as good when cooked. If you buy frozen vegetables then it means that you are less likely to waste any leftover vegetables, since vegetables can often go bad in the refrigerator pretty quickly when they are bought fresh.
In most cases, all you need to do is cook them from frozen too – very little preparation time is required when it comes to cooking frozen vegetables.
Of course, you should take note – there are some vegetables that you should avoid freezing. For instance, it’s best to avoid freezing vegetables like cabbage, watercress, lettuce, cucumber and radish. These vegetables do not do well when they are frozen.
Fish is better off bought frozen in many cases, especially things like salmon and shrimp. Both of these ingredients can be incredibly expensive when bought fresh, so you’ll save some money buying it frozen. In addition to that, buying it frozen means that you won’t have to eat it immediately, which can be a huge asset.
Meat (Beef, Chicken, Pork)
Meat is another ingredient that is often cheaper to buy frozen. This is because it doesn’t take long to defrost, and tastes just as good. So, you’re not wasting any time by buying it frozen. Check the recipe you are cooking first though, since some recipes will call for fresh meat rather than frozen.
Fruits (Apples, Pears, Berries)
Frozen fruits are a great option for those who don’t have much space in their fridge. Berries are a particularly good ingredient to have in your freezer, particularly if you are a big fan of smoothies or making cooked desserts like fruit crumbles.
Stock Your Pantry Wisely
Your pantry will also be your best friend when you are cooking healthy meals at home. Not everything you eat or cook needs to come from your fridge or freezer. Take advantage of the ingredients in your cupboards too!
Basically, make sure that you are stocking your pantry wisely. Make sure that you have plenty of healthy snacks, such as nuts and seeds, whole grains and dried beans. These items are all inexpensive and easy to keep on hand. They’ll give you lots of options when you’re looking for something quick and simple to eat.
As far as cooking goes, it’s a good idea to make sure that your cupboards are stocked with ingredients like lentils, quinoa and chia seeds. These can be used in lots of different recipes and they’re usually pretty easy to whip up into a meal if you have the right ingredients on hand.
Likewise, you can also keep things like coconut milk in your pantry – it’s handy for when you’ve run out of cow’s milk! Some ready cooked meals can help too – not all of them need to be stored in the cupboard or refrigerator. Pasta can go in the pantry, alongside tinned fish like salmon and tuna.
Pay Attention To Oils
You’re also going to need oils for your cooking endeavors. Olive oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, peanut oil, etc. are all cheap and versatile. If you want to make salad dressings, sauces or marinades, then olive oil is probably the most useful one. It has a nice flavor, but it’s also relatively neutral. That way, you can add other flavors to it without overpowering the taste.
If you want to make pasta sauce, you might want to consider using sunflower oil instead. Sunflower oil has a slightly nutty flavor that works well with tomato based dishes. You could even use it for sautéing veggies before adding them to a dish. The same goes for salad dressings.
In most cases, olive oil is a safe bet for most cooking projects – it comes with a bunch of health benefits too, for instance it contains plenty of antioxidants. If you’re cooking on low heat then opt for virgin olive oil, since the smoke point is higher than it is with extra virgin. If you’re cooking on high heats then avocado oil can also work wonders.
Steam Or Stir-Fry
If you’re going to be cooking vegetables, then stir frying or steaming them is the best thing to do. There are a lot of benefits to steaming vegetables, like the fact that they retain more nutrients than boiling them. In addition to this they tend to stay crunchy longer than boiled ones, they take less time to prepare, and there’s little risk of overcooking them if you steam them correctly.
It is vital that you don’t over steam the vegetables, however. If you oversteam your vegetables they can become mushy, which doesn’t always give the best taste! You can add some additional flavor to your steamed veggies by adding in some salt and a little bit of olive oil.
Alternatively, stir fry is another great option for those who prefer meals they can cook fast. This method involves heating a small amount of oil in a wok or pan until hot. Then you throw in whatever vegetable you’d like to cook and let it simmer for a few minutes. After this, you’ll quickly toss in any spices you’d like to use.
The advantage of this method is that you get to control how much spice you put in each batch. For example, you can add more ginger if you’d like, or garlic if you’d like. You can also add in some soy sauce or rice wine vinegar if you’d like.
Another benefit of stir fries is that they’re often cheaper than other methods of cooking. They’re quick to prepare, so you won’t have to spend as long in the kitchen. Also, because they’re usually made from inexpensive ingredients, they’re also easy on the wallet.
Focus On Healthy Fats And Lean Proteins
Fats don’t tend to have the best reputation in the media. When we think of ‘fatty foods,’ we think of things like fast food or food that are full of saturated fats, which certainly aren’t great for you when they are eaten in large amounts.
When we talk about “healthy” fats, what we really mean is unsaturated fats. These include things like avocados, nuts, seeds, olives, and coconut oil. When you eat these foods, you’re getting lots of good stuff into your body.
For starters, healthy fats tend to anti inflammatory features that are really good for your overall wellbeing. It’s also worth focusing on fatty fish too, like trout or salmon. They’re riddled with omega-3 which is important for the health of your heart.
Unsaturated fats are important because they help keep our bodies running smoothly. They provide us with energy, they help keep our skin looking young, and they help prevent heart disease. The trick is eating them in moderation.
Lean proteins are also an essential part of a healthy diet. Protein helps build muscle, keeps our bones strong, and provides us with energy. It’s especially important for athletes and people who exercise regularly.
When you are looking for the right protein to eat, you should ideally try to stick to grass fed meats and things like fish or chicken. Minimize the amount of red meats that you are consuming, though you can certainly enjoy them every once in a while. Make sure that the food you are consuming is organic too. There are vegetarian proteins that you can eat too, like tofu.
In summary, when you’re thinking about making food, focus first on healthy fats and lean protein.
Eat Enough Fibre For Your Gut Health
Fibre is one of the most important things for a healthy diet. It’s found naturally in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, and nuts.
Fiber is incredibly important for keeping our digestive system working optimally. If you’re not getting enough fibre in your diet, then you may experience constipation, bloating, gas, indigestion, and even diarrhea. This is why it’s important to make sure that you are including plenty of fibre in your meals.
To make sure that you are getting plenty of fiber into your diet, start by increasing your vegetable intake. There are also a lot of grains that contain high amounts of fiber, so ensure that you are getting these grains into your diet too.
You should make sure that your kitchen is constantly stocked with items that contain a lot of fiber to keep your digestive tract healthy.
Try to avoid processed foods as much as possible. Processed foods often lack ample fiber and other nutrients. Instead, opt for wholefood ingredients whenever you can.
Pay Attention To Portion And Plate Ratio
We all do it – perhaps out of boredom, or for any other reason. We start to raid the fridge or the pantry and end up being confused later on when you have a limited amount of food in your home. We get it – snacking is fun, but it’s not the ideal thing to do if you want to have a healthy diet.
Portion control is really important for your wellbeing, but it isn’t always easy, especially when we’re surrounded by temptations everywhere we look.
So how do you manage portion and plate ratio issues? The best thing to do is to prepare in advance by batch cooking. If you batch cook, you will then need to put the remaining leftovers into containers ready for freezing or refrigeration. If you do this, then you will have the perfect portion size ready for your next meal, minimizing the risks of overeating.
Getting smaller plates can also help you with portion control. When you use small plates, you’ll be less likely to eat more than necessary.
If you don’t think that you can resist temptation, then consider using a set of measuring cups instead. These can help you measure out portions accurately. A kitchen scale can also help.
Try not to eat right from the container when you’re cooking too! You may be tempted to eat some of your handiwork, but this can easily lead to overeating.
Think about your plate ratio when serving a meal. In an ideal scenario, you should have a plate that is made up of 50% vegetables, 25% protein and then finally, the last quarter is best reserved for your healthy grains. Your healthy fats can be made up of things like olive oil during the cooking process.
Double-up On Veggies
Fruit and vegetables are the staple of any healthy meal. If you feel like your meal is looking a little lackluster, then it’s time to incorporate a few more vegetables. Vegetables are packed full of vitamins and minerals which are essential for good health. They also provide us with a wide variety of different tastes and textures, making them a great addition to every dish.
Now, that doesn’t mean that your diet needs to consist solely of salads. There are many ways that you can get more vegetables into your meals. For example, try adding a handful of broccoli florets to your pasta sauce; or add cauliflower to your stir fry.
If you find yourself craving something sweet, why not go for fruit instead? Apples, pears, berries and bananas are just a few examples of delicious fruits that you can enjoy throughout the day.
Of course, what you add will also depend on the meal in question. Perhaps a bunch of raspberries may not be the best choice for your pasta bake, after all!
It is worthwhile to get creative though. For instance, you can add some peppers on top of your homemade pizza to give it a little extra crunch. You can add more onions to your soups or burgers.
How else can you add more fruit vegetables to your meals?
Make Some Smoothies
Smoothies are one of the easiest ways to increase your intake of fruit and vegetables. This is because they are so quick to make and you can pack them with loads of nutrients.
Try blending frozen fruit and yoghurt together for a tasty treat. Or blend fresh fruit with milk and ice cubes for a refreshing drink. Alternatively, you can also create vegetable smoothies.
Use Your Veggies As Side Dishes
Another easy way to include more vegetables in a meal is by using them as side dishes. Instead of having potatoes as your main starch, opt for other options such as rice, couscous or quinoa. These starchy carbohydrates are much better than potatoes at keeping you feeling fuller for longer.
You could even swap out your usual meat option for beans or lentils. Both these types of legumes are high in fibre and protein, meaning that they keep you feeling satisfied for longer.
Make Vegetable Soups
Soups are another great way to sneak in lots of vegetables. A simple tomato soup is a fantastic starter for dinner. However, if you want to really impress people, then you need to think outside the box.
For example, you can combine carrots, celery, leeks and garlic with stock and spices to make a creamy carrot soup. Or you can use tomatoes, zucchini, spinach and basil to make a vibrant tomato soup.
Whatever you choose, you’ll soon have an amazing new recipe to share with friends and family. Soups are also a great choice since they can be batch cooked, so you can have more meals for later in the week.
Swap Pasta For Veggie Noodles
Pasta is undoubtedly one of our favourite foods, but unfortunately it isn’t always the most nutritious. Most pastas contain large amounts of refined flour, which means that they’re low in fibre and nutrient dense.
However, there is no reason why you can’t swap pasta for veggie noodles. If you do this, you’ll still be getting plenty of vitamins and minerals from your food. Plus, you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything. In fact, you might actually prefer the taste.
There are a number of ways that you can make veggie noodles – put them in a spiralizer, shred them, cut them or just slice them using a mandoline.
Other things that you can do include swapping dough for cauliflower bases for your pizzas. You can also add fruits and vegetables to your sauces, and so much more.
Roast Your Dinner On One Sheet Pan
Roast dinners are delicious, but it can be easy to go overboard on the oil if you aren’t careful, especially if you are cooking through frying or sauteing the food.
It’s understandable that you will likely need at least a little bit of oil for your cooking, but you can minimize the amount that you use by cooking the whole roast in one sheet pan.
It saves you from having to do additional dishes too! It’s the ideal way to minimize the calories in your meal and save yourself some time.
If you don’t have enough space on the one sheet pan for every food item that you are going to be using, opt for methods like steaming or boiling instead of frying. This will help to reduce the amount of calories in the meal.
There are also other things that you can do to make your roasts healthier. Make sure you’re stocking up on plenty of greens, and focus more on lean meats than red meats. When it’s time for the dessert, opt for fruit based options instead of ice cream and cakes.
Consider Baking With Oat Flour
Ordinary baking flour is jam packed with calories. In comparison to other kinds of flour, it also isn’t as good in regards to nutritional value either.
On the flip side, something like oat flour is ideal for a number of reasons. It’s jam packed with fiber and other important nutrients. It’s also perfect for people with gluten sensitivities since it doesn’t contain any gluten. It can be used as a substitute in a wide range of different recipes.
It may be possible to buy oat flour directly from your local grocery store. If you are unable to get the flour from your local store though, you need not fear. It’s actually possible to make your own.
First of all, get a bag of oats ready. This could be rolled cut oats or other kinds of oats. Rolled oats are generally the better option though.
When you have got your oats, you will then need to get your blender and put the right amount of oats into it. For instance, if you want a cup of oat flour then you’re going to need roughly one and a quarter cups or oats. Put these oats into the blender, and start blending accordingly.
Oat flour is versatile and can be used in so many different recipes. For instance, a favorite of ours is oat pancakes! You make them in a similar way to regular pancakes, except you use oat flour rather than regular flour.
It’s a healthier option that will go down a treat with the entire family. For this recipe, adding things like chopped berries on top of the pancakes can really bring out the flavor.
Healthy cooking can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be!
In fact, you will likely find that with a little bit of patience, practice and the right recipes, healthy home cooking may be one of your new favorite things to do.
Remember, if you are new to home cooking then starting with the basics first can be beneficial. Simple recipes work best for you, because they tend to be easier to follow. You can then move onto more complicated recipes as you go.
In most cases, healthy home cooking is just a matter of making substitutes for your usual favorites. For instance, you could swap fatty beef burgers for some lean turkey burgers instead. You can experiment with vegetable based dishes – the possibilities are truly endless.