12 Sneaky Ways to Slim Down Your Diet
Healthy Cooking Tips
Maybe it was a Top Chef marathon or the realization that you could probably buy a new wardrobe with the money you were shell?ing out on kung pao chicken. Whatever the reason, you traded your takeout menus for cookbooks. But even though you're spending more time in the kitchen (whipping up healthy meals, no less), your pants aren't getting any looser. What gives? Chances are, you're making a few all-too-common mistakes. Before you throw in the dish towel, read on for the supersimple fixes that can help you look Padma-esque in time for summer.Fat trap 1: Overcooking pasta
Take that pot off the stove a little early and your bucatini will have a satisfying bite and keep you full for hours. "Hot water breaks down the bonds between starch molecules," says Johanna Burani, RD, the author of Good Carbs, Bad Carbs. The longer you boil your pasta, the quicker your body converts those carbs into fuel. This sets off a rapid rise in blood sugar that is followed by a hunger-inducing plunge. Al dente noodles take longer to digest, delivering a steady stream of energy.
The fix: Go with the shortest time in the recommended range on the back of the box, then bite into a slightly cooled strand. "There should be a tiny white circle of raw pasta in the center," Burani says. The residual heat will continue to cook the noodles, so they'll be perfectly al dente by the time you serve them.Fat trap 2: Picking poultry instead of beef
Although turkey breast is about as lean as it gets, ground turkey often contains dark meat and skin, which edge up the calorie count. A four-ounce serving of ground turkey packs 204 calories and 14 grams of fat, while the same amount of lean ground beef contains just 155 calories and six grams of fat.
The fix: Whether you're buying beef or turkey, "look for labels that say the meat is at least 90 percent lean," suggests Diane Henderiks, RD, the founder of Dishwithdiane.com. Or ask the butcher to grind up turkey breast or sirloin steak. Saut? either in heart-healthy olive or canola oil (about 1 tablespoon per pound) to keep the meat moist for fewer than 30 extra calories a serving.Fat trap 3: Adding hot sauce to everything
Sure, it gives your eggs, tacos, and pizza a no-cal kick. But just a teaspoon of certain brands uses up nearly 10 percent of your daily sodium allotment, and too much of the mineral can take a toll on your waistline. According to a study from the University of California, San Francisco, people who ate a high-sodium diet gained more weight -- about one extra pound over a five-day period -- than those who consumed low-sodium versions of the same high-calorie meals. The researchers believe excess sodium increases your body's production of insulin, a hormone that turns sugar into fat.
The fix: "Fresh peppers, red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper add heat without any sodium," Henderiks says. Miss the sauce? Try Tabasco, which contains a mere 35 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon, just 2 percent of the 2,300 milligrams most of us shouldn't exceed in a day.Fat trap 4: Baking with gluten-free flour
Whether it's because you have celiac disease, are gluten intolerant, or just want to experiment with nonwheat options, you've decided to pick up one of the new wheat-free flours or baking mixes. Unfortunately, just because they're gluten-free doesn't mean they're good for you. "Many of these flours and blends are made from white rice or potatoes, so they may contain a minimal amount of filling fiber," Burani says, but just as many calories and carbs as the regular stuff.
The fix: At the supermarket, scout out options made from brown rice, teff, or quinoa, such as those by Bob's Red Mill and Arrowhead Mills, and make sure a serving provides at least two grams of fiber.Fat trap 5: Removing the chicken skin
Each piece of skin contains 69 calories and six grams of fat, so it makes sense to separate it from the breast before popping it in the oven, right? Not really. The skin locks in moisture, so you get tender, more flavorful chicken for not a lot of extra calories, explains Amy Myrdal Miller, RD, the director of culinary nutrition at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, California.
The fix: Don't remove the skin until right before serving, and the chicken won't need as much calorie-rich sauce, salad dressing, or mayo. The exception: If you're making soup or a casserole, the fat from the skin will drain into the dish, Myrdal Miller warns, so peel it off it beforehand.Fat trap 6: Coating the pan with nonstick spray
This healthy staple may not be as low in calories as you think. "Many people spray it on for about six seconds," says Bonnie Liebman, the director of nutrition for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. That's 36 calories and four grams of fat. While that doesn't sound like much, it adds up: If you coat your pan before saut?ing spinach, for example, and then again before folding in the eggs, you tack 70-plus calories onto that scramble.
The fix: To cut down on the amount of spray you need, use nonstick pans for cooking and a silicone mat or parchment paper for baking whenever possible. Or forgo the stuff altogether: "You can substitute chicken broth when saut?ing vegetables," says Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Just heat a few tablespoons in a pan and stir in the veggies, adding more liquid as needed until they're cooked through.
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