In a world of fast food drive-thrus, microwave dinners, and oven pizza, cooking healthy dinners can often be pushed to the wayside. Picking up fast food or a pizza is easier, but it takes a toll on our bodies (and waistline). However, even amidst hectic schedules, a healthy meal can be made quickly at home with the right ingredients and tools. All it takes are a few simple and easy changes that don’t sacrifice flavor and will actually help you live a leaner, healthier lifestyle.
Here are the 5 most effective tips to ensure that your dinner is healthy and fitness-friendly:
1. Use High-Quality Ingredients High-quality ingredients are the building blocks of a healthy meal. Choose foods that are:
Fresh and organic (when possible)
Whole and clean instead of packaged and processed
**These are typically the foods you find around the perimeter of the grocery store instead of the shelves in the middle.
2. Use Healthier Methods of Cooking The way in which a meal is prepared can be a huge factor in the amount of calories, fat, and retention of vital nutrients. As a rule, avoid:
Battering and frying
Preparing foods that have been processed and packaged
Cooking with large amounts of butter or cream
These are much healthier cooking methods and will save a lot of calories and unnecessary saturated and/or trans fats in your meal. (Finding these keywords on a restaurant menu can also help you make healthier choices while dining-out!)
3. Always Include Lean Protein One quarter of your calories should be coming from lean protein… and you should always include a lean protein with each meal, not just dinner. Keep the first two tips in mind as well when buying and preparing your meal. Deep-frying a healthy piece of lean, white meat chicken kind of defeats the purpose.
High-quality sources of protein include:
Fish or Shellfish (such as shrimp)
Chicken or turkey breast (white meat)
Avoid wings, legs, thighs, and skin. White meat chicken and turkey derive 75% of calories from protein; while dark meat chicken and turkey derive only 50% of calories from protein. Dark meat has more calories and fat as well overall.
Lean beef or pork tenderloin
Beans and lentils
** Another tip: Fill half of your plate with vegetables first, then go for the protein. Vegetables make you feel fuller sooner; so you’re less likely to overeat.
4. Fiber is Your Friend Incorporating high-fiber foods in your diet is a key element of eating healthy and being lean. Foods that are high in fiber fill you up more quickly and help regulate your digestive system. Try to include these types of fiber into your next dinner:
Dark leaf lettuce and kale
5. Choose Healthy Grains This one is simple. Avoid “white” starches. White starches/carbohydrates are typically processed. It takes your body longer to break-down foods that are made of 100% whole grains. You feel fuller longer and your body is able to more effectively absorb nutrients and use the calories for a “slow burn.” Serving size is extremely important when incorporating whole grains into a high-quality nutrition plan. Everything in moderation. Go to www.myplate.gov to learn how many servings of grains you should be eating daily. Then, include a serving of that into your dinner.