I posted last week about whether or not cooking was important when losing weight and the majority of you said it was. And in my podcast about fast food, I discussed why fast food meals are not the best idea when you are losing weight (or maintaining weight for that matter.)
As a follow up on those two posts, I wanted to spend some time talking about cooking. Because after all, if you aren’t cooking foods that help you in your weight loss journey, then why are you cooking at all?
It’s kind of a bold statement isn’t it? Cook foods that help you or don’t bother. Well, perhaps it is a bit bold, but in a way it is true. If you are trying to get to a healthier weight, you have to be committed, know what plan you are going to follow, exercise if your doctor allows, and be aware of the ingredients and calories in the foods you cook at home or eat in a restaurant.
When I first learned to cook a meal rather than brownies, I relied heavily on frozen entrees, boxed meals, and convenience foods because I didn’t really know how to cook. As I began to lose weight, I realized that those convenience foods weren’t a lot better for me and my family than the restaurant foods or processed foods I used to rely on.
I had to develop the skills to become a conscious cook. A person who pays attention to food preparation techniques, a cook who cares about flavor, and a cook who chooses good ingredients.
This was a radically different philosophy than the one I used to follow and quite frankly, I wasn’t great at it at first.
I burned things, I overcooked foods, I undercooked foods, I served strange combinations, and throughout the whole process, my family was supportive. That was a tremendous blessing.
I think about cooking for weight loss a lot because I’ve got seven kids and I do a lot of cooking. I have learned after 15 years of weight maintenance that the best way to prepare for weight maintenance is to practice conscious cooking when you are losing weight. Think about it. If you develop a repertoire of good recipes and learn good cooking techniques that help you lose weight, why not keep using those same recipes and techniques when you are done with the weight loss process?
Those skills can help you for years to come. I’ve put together a list of some things that a conscious cook might do to feed his or her family healthy meals night after night.
1. Learn Healthier Preparation Methods
Frying anything in a bunch of oil isn’t a great idea for weight loss or for health, although I am a fan of pan searing chicken or meat and then finishing it in the oven. Learn how to roast, poach, sauté, grill, and bake meats and vegetables.
2. Shop Smart
When you are shopping, look for deals on items you know you will eat such as beans, rice, or even meat. I buy beans in bulk and cook three or four batches at a time. They freeze well and make it easy to put a minestrone soup or other bean dish together.
3. Make Smart Substitutions
When I first started losing weight, the very first conscious decisions I made in regards to my cooking was substituting healthy ingredients for unhealthy ones. For example, I left off the fried chicken from the salad and replaced it with grilled chicken. I learned to cook without adding tons of butter, shortening, and salt to my foods and ate more food in its natural state. These substitutions all helped me enjoy foods similar to what I had enjoyed as an obese person but shed pounds by reducing the calories.
4. Experiment with Flavors
Healthy meals that are good for weight loss do not have to be bland. In fact, they should not be bland! Experiment with flavor combinations using herbs, adding fat free homemade buttermilk instead of regular milk to healthier baked goods, and explore vinegars, homemade salsa combinations, and aromatics in cooking.
5. Plan Your Meals
This one is pretty obvious, but being a conscious cook involves planning. After all, it is hard to eat healthy meals every day of the week if you have no idea what you are going to have! Here’s a meal planning worksheet if you need one to get started.
Conscious cooking isn’t hard and it doesn’t have to be complicated, but it can help you make delicious meals that fit within your own personal weight loss plan.
How conscious a cook are you? What strategies do you use to make healthier meals? Diane