With the world such an unsettled place at the moment, many of us probably haven’t thought much about new year’s resolutions this year. If previous years are anything to go by, though, ‘lose weight and eat more healthily’ would be high on many people’s lists if they had one! Apparently it’s the number one UK resolution, and therefore then one most often broken.
Completely changing your diet and way of eating can be too much, especially when there’s so much else going on, so we thought we’d put together a list of quick tips that you could incorporate into your everyday cooking. They’ll not only help you trim off a few calories but generally make meals healthier without compromising ease and practicality. It’s not a diet as such, but it is something you’ll be able to keep up long term.
Bake creatively. When making sponge cakes or scones, swap out up to half of the fat (butter or margarine) for the same quantity of pureed cooking apple instead. Use fresh apples rather than a bought puree as then you can be sure there’s no added sugar in the mix. Peel and chop the apples and put them in a pan with a tablespoon of water and simmer until soft and pulpy. Let them cool a little before adding them to the cake mixture. Any leftovers can be frozen ready for next time.
Continue to make the batter as usual – you can also normally reduce the sugar levels a little when using fruit instead of fat. For some recipes you can also use mashed bananas or pureed pineapple.
Ditch deep frying. It’s messy and smelly anyway, so why not edit it out apart from special occasions? Make quick oven chips by washing jacket spuds and cutting into chunky wedges. Put them in a bowl and pour over a tablespoon on olive oil. Grind some sea salt over then cover the bowl with clingfilm and give it a good shake to make sure the potatoes are evenly coated.
Tip it out onto a baking tray and bake at 200 degrees C for 30 – 40 minutes, depending on the size of the wedges. This method allow works well for other chunky roasted veg such as parsnips, beetroot and carrots.
Experiment with grains. These days, you can get a bewildering array of grains from most supermarkets – couscous, spelt, quinoa, barley and more. Many of us skip over them because we’re not really sure what they are or how to cook them, and stick to rice or pasta instead. Different grains have different textures and properties and generally make a meal much more interesting, though, so it’s worth learning a bit about them.
Some (such as couscous) only need soaking in boiling water. Most others can be cooked by simmering in boiling water, although some may also require pre-soaking so check the instructions first if you’re in a hurry. Many can be substituted for rice in recipes – for example, risotto made with pearl barley. Pre-cooked couscous mixed with roasted peppers, chopped spring onions, crumbled feta cheese and vinaigrette is a great last-minute lunch option if you pre-cook the peppers.
Meat your match! There’s a lot of focus during January on eating less meat, and it can be a healthier option. Although there’s lots of choice in the supermarket for meat substitutes such as soya burgers, try making meals that are naturally meat free such as chunky vegetable soups, winter salads, vegetable casseroles with vegetarian dumplings and risotto or pasta dishes. On other days, swap fish or chicken for red meat.
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