10 Easy Hacks for Healthier Cooking

healthy-cooking-hacks

Learning to cook healthier isn’t as easy as it seems, especially for those who have been cooking a certain way for years and years.

My mother is a prime example, she cooks the way her mother did, my grandma cooked the way her mother did, and so on…

Although, they all made delicious food, it wasn’t exactly the healthiest.

I, on the other hand, love to cook healthy food and a lot of my experience comes from trial & error and research since my mom couldn’t teach me much more than how to make a delicious casserole complete with Velveeta, cream of mushroom soup, and topped with crushed Ritz Crackers… I’m not joking either.

Here are some of my favorite healthier cooking hacks I’ve developed over the years.

My Top 10 Healthy Cooking Hacks

1. Cauliflower Mash

I love mashed potatoes! But all that starch, butter, and milk equals a lot of calories. I still eat mashed potatoes, but the majority of the time I now use cauliflower instead.

Here’s my easy recipe:

  • Boil 1 head of cauliflower until tender.
  • Drain water, add salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon of Quinoa flour and a tablespoon of real butter.
  • Mash using a stick blender or hand mixer until creamy.
  • Add a little more Quinoa flour if not thick enough. Serve.

The Difference?

1 cup of mashed potatoes = 237 calories

1 cup of cauliflower mash = 85 calories

2. Peanut Butter Milk Shake

Who doesn’t love a milkshake on a hot day or as a creamy treat? Who loves 800+ calories in one drink? Not me!

Here’s my recipe for a peanut butter milkshake that’s guilt-free.

(I use a Ninja Blender to make mine but any good blender will do.)

  • In a blender cup: Place one medium, very ripe frozen banana (I keep a bag in the freezer), 1 tablespoon of all natural salted peanut butter, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, 2 ice cubes and then fill (about 1 cup) with the milk of your choice. (I use reduced sugar almond milk.)
  • Blend until creamy.
  • Serve.

The Difference?

16 fluid ounce traditional peanut butter milkshake = 800-900 calories

My 16 fluid ounce peanut butter milkshake = 240 calories

3. Scrambled Eggs

Instead of eating scrambled eggs the traditional way with toast and bacon, this hack will turn them into a highly nutritious way to start your day.

Here’s what to do.

    • Sauté about 3 cups of your favorite vegetables in 1 teaspoon of olive or coconut oil; I use veggies like mini sweet peppers, onion, mushrooms, yellow squash, cherry tomatoes, and kale. Mix it up each day for variety.
    • Season with garlic salt and pepper.
    • Scramble in 3 large eggs and cook until eggs are set.
    • Serve.

The Difference?

Scrambled eggs with 3 eggs, 2 slices of whole wheat toast, and 3 strips of bacon = 610 calories

Scrambled eggs with 3 eggs, 1 cup of kale, 1/2 cup peppers, 1/2 cup onion, 1 cup mushrooms = 374 calories + a lot more vitamins and minerals!

Also see my recipe for Power Eggs

4. Kale & Spinach

kale-spinach

Boost the nutrition of many recipes by adding chopped kale or spinach to them.

Quick kale tip: De-stem your kale first. This makes kale easier to eat and cuts down on the gas sometimes associated with this nutritious green leaf. I prefer lacinato kale.

Add to Suggestions:

  • Chili
  • Hamburger patties
  • Lasagna
  • Soups
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Salads
  • Marinara sauce
  • Stir Fry

The Difference?

1 cup of kale adds: Fiber calcium, potassium, iron, 133% RDA Vitamin A, 133% RDA Vitamin C, and much more.

1 cup of spinach adds: Calcium, iron, 56% RDA Vitamin A, 14% RDA Vitamin C and much more. 

5. Wild Blueberries

wild-blueberries
Blueberries can boost the nutrition of a lot of foods, from smoothies to brownies.

BUT, did you know that by simply using frozen wild blueberries instead of the cultivated variety adds even more antioxidants?

Plus, they have a lot more flavor.

The difference?

100g of Cultivated Blueberries contain an ORAC rating of 4469.

100g of Wild Blueberries contain an ORAC rating of 9621, which is almost double!

I buy the brand Wyman’s.

6. Raw Almonds

raw-almonds
Raw almonds make a great snack, but did you know they can also be used to make healthier and more nutritious thick sauces?

I use them to make an Alfredo sauce like so:

  • Using a high speed blender (again, I use a Ninja) blend a 1/2 cup of raw almonds and 1/2 cup water until it forms a thick white paste.
  • Add 2 cloves of fresh garlic and 1 cup water and blend again.
  • Pour sauce into a sauce pan, then add 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese and salt to taste.
  • Cook over medium heat until it thickens. (If it gets too thick add more water.)
  • Serve over your favorite pasta.

The Difference?

1 cup of traditional Alfredo sauce = 900 calories

1 cup of raw almond Alfredo = 260 calories.

See my detailed Pasta Alfredo recipe here.

7. Pasta

spaghetti-squash
I love pasta, but it is packed with calories. The majority of the time I use these pasta alternatives.

  • Spaghetti squash – Cut in half, Bake at 375 in the oven face down in a shallow pan of water for 45 minutes. Remove flesh with a fork.
  • Zuccini Squash – Use a spiral slicer to cut the squash into pasta ribbons and boil for about 5 minutes until tender.
  • Sweet Potato – Use a spiral slicer to cut the sweet potato into pasta ribbons and then boil for about 5 minutes until tender.

The Difference?

1 cup of traditional spaghetti pasta cooked = 200 calories

1 cup of spaghetti squash = 42 calories

8. Chia Seed Pudding

chia
Love pudding type desserts? This one is easy, nutritious, and delicious.

  • Combine 1 cup almond milk, 1 medium mashed ripe banana, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 tablespoons chia seeds.
  • Stir, cover, and refrigerate over night.
  • Stir and serve.

The Difference?

1 cup traditional vanilla pudding = 260 calories

1 cup chia seed pudding = 130 calories plus chia seeds are very nutritious.

9. Turkey

Using ground turkey instead of ground beef saves a lot of calories and still delivers the protein you need. It can be swapped for beef in most recipes.

Suggestions:

  • Chili
  • Tacos
  • Hamburgers
  • Stuffed peppers
  • Casseroles
  • Meatballs
  • Meatloaf

The Difference?

A quarter pound beef patty = 307 calories, 20 grams of fat

A quarter pound turkey patty = 153 calories, 11 grams of fat

10. Greek Yogurt

greek-yogurt
Some of the most tasty recipes call for sour cream, but you can replace the sour cream with plain Greek yogurt and the dish will be equally as delicious.

Suggestions:

  • Dips
  • Salad dressings
  • Tacos, fajitas, and all Mexican food
  • Baked Potatoes
  • Chili topping
  • Creamy soups
  • Mashed potatoes or Cauliflower Mash featured above.

The Difference?

1 cup of sour cream = 492 Calories

1 cup Greek Yogurt (full fat) = 190 Calories

See my spinach dip recipe using Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.

Just making small changes to your cooking habits on a daily basis can have a big impact on your daily calorie intake and your increased intake of vital vitamins and minerals.

What’s great about these hacks is that your portion size isn’t changing, but your calorie amounts are!

Over the course of the year, cutting just 300 calories per day equates to 109,500 calories a year or 31 pounds of fat.

Do you have any healthy Cooking hacks to share?

Calorie amounts provided by CalorieKing.com

12 Comments

  1. Jami

    I make a similar peanut butter smoothie recipe and throw in about 5 leaves of fresh mint. Tastes delicious and aids in digestion!

    Reply
    • JamesF

      Peanut Butter + Mint is not a combination I’ve come across… but then mint works well with lots of things (like blended strawberries + ice).

      Reply
    • Ted

      yes, that is an interesting combination. Cool!

      Reply
  2. spectra311

    I make spaghetti squash “pasta” dishes quite often–my husband can’t even tell the difference. I have also stopped buying pasta sauce and just roast tomatoes and blend them up to make a puree and use that. It’s a lot lower in sodium than the jarred stuff.

    Reply
    • JamesF

      Yes, simmering down tomatoes is great for a sauce!

      Reply
    • Ted

      That’s a great idea especially since tomatoes are in abundance this time of year.

      Reply
  3. Daniel Wagle

    I saw something on Youtube about making cheese from cashews. This is sort of similar to using almonds as a sauce base. It was on happycow.com

    Reply
    • Ted

      That does sound interesting. I’ll have to look it up.

      Reply
  4. Ryan

    Cutting 300 calories begins an initial weight loss of ~0.6 lb/wk, but it will slow down as bodyweight (and therefore energy expenditure) decreases. The real amount of loss over a year is more like 15 lbs and another 5 lbs in the second year.

    Reply
    • Ted

      Very true: there are definitely other factors involved with fat loss, but I was just trying to illustrate that small changes make a big difference over time.

      Reply
  5. JamesF

    Using almonds as a sauce base is a great idea.

    Reply
    • Ted

      I guess it’s similar to using almond flour as a thickener, but this is more of a whole food approach.

      Reply