If you’re taking our #31Mealsin31Days cooking challenge, you’ve probably realized that healthy eating starts in your own kitchen—so the head chef (that’s you!) should be well equipped.
“Cooking your own meals puts you in control of what you’re eating,” says Katie Lee, celebrity chef, co-host of Food Network’s The Kitchen and recent host of Homarus’s Lobster de Mayo, a food event held in New York City to benefit the anti-hunger charity organization City Harvest. “Most restaurants add so much fat and salt because they want the food to taste good,” she says. But when you prep your own meals? “You decide how much fat and sodium you want to consume.”
To make smarter decisions and eat healthier at home, take Katie’s advice the next time you put on your (metaphorical) chef’s hat:
Grilling Is the Healthiest Way to Cook Fish, Poultry, and Meat
You know that grilling adds fewer calories and less fat than frying food in a pan full of butter or oil. But if you’ve ever overcooked a chicken breast, you know the downside: This dry-cooking technique can suck the flavor out of lean poultry, meat, and fish. To lock in moisture, keep the skin on while you grill chicken or fish, and remove it before eating, says Katie. And if you don’t have your own gas grill or fire pit? Use a grill pan on the stove—or a grated broiling pan in the oven. You won’t need extra cooking oils for either technique.
Condiment Calories Count—So Make The Flavor Count, Too
“I like to serve [lean meat and fish] with a creative homemade salsa for extra flavor,” says Katie. One example? A combo of chopped cucumbers, cantaloupe, onions, and mint. Bonus: You’ll cut out the added sugars and preservatives in ready-made dips, sauces, and spreads.
Fresh Herbs Make a Big Difference
With a little preparation (read: a stocked fridge), you can whip up quick meals in a flash. To make them taste extra delicious, keep fresh herbs on-hand at all times, says Katie. Start with basil, parsley, and dill. And keep garlic and lemons on your regular shopping list, too, for good measure.
You Really Do Need a Food Processor
Katie uses hers regularly to grind those fresh herbs into healthy homemade sauces to serve with grilled chicken or fish. “It’s a great way to add flavor to a protein that’s been made with very little fat,” says Katie. Try pulsing parsley, chives, and rosemary with a drizzle of olive oil and your favorite kind of vinegar.
You Don’t Need to Overthink Produce
“A squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil can liven up almost any veggie,” says Katie. Try it with asparagus or carrots: Just add a pinch of salt and pepper, and roast until crisp.