Healthy meals to cook for weight loss is a subject of great interest these days. A lot of people are on a diet and want to lose weight so they are scouring the web, magazines and other sources for healthy recipes to cook.
Eating healthy food doesn’t mean giving up your favourite foods.
Your favourite recipes can be adapted easily to provide a healthier alternative. For example, non-stick cookware can be used to reduce the need for cooking oil. Vegetables can also be microwaved or steamed instead of boiling to retain valuable nutrition.
There are many ways to make meals healthier.
Limit fats, sugars and salt and include plenty of vegetables, fruit, grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy in your cooking.
Foods with added fats, sugars or salt are less healthy than food in which these are found naturally.
Keep fats to a minimum
Choose lean meats and reduced-fat dairy products and limit processed foods to minimise hidden fats.
Nuts, seeds, fish, soy, olives and avocado are all healthier options because they include the essential long-chain fatty acids and these fats are accompanied by other good nutrients.
If you add fats when cooking, keep them to a minimum and use monounsaturated oils such as olive and canola oil.
Shopping for healthy food
Low-fat cooking begins when you are shopping:
- Choose the reduced or low-fat version of a food if possible – for example milk, cheese, yoghurt, salad dressings and gravies.
- Choose lean meat cuts and skinless chicken breasts.
- Limit fast foods, chips, crisps, processed meats, pastries and pies, which all contain large amounts of fat.
Low fat cooking
Suggestions for low fat cooking include:
- If you need to use oil, try cooking sprays or apply a small amount of oil with a pastry brush.
- Cook in liquids (such as stock, wine, lemon juice, fruit juice, vinegar or water) instead of oil.
- Use low-fat yoghurt, low-fat milk, evaporated skim milk or cornstarch instead of cream in sauces or soups.
- When browning vegetables, put them in a hot pan then spray with oil, rather than adding the oil first to the pan. This reduces the amount of oil that vegetables absorb during cooking.
- An alternative to browning vegetables by pan-frying is to cook them first in the microwave, then crisp them under the grill for a minute or 2.
- Use pesto, salsas, chutneys and vinegars in place of sour creams, butter and creamy sauces.
Retaining the nutrients
Water-soluble vitamins are delicate and easily destroyed during preparation and cooking. To minimise nutrient losses:
- Scrub vegetables rather than peel them, as many nutrients are found close to the skin.
- Microwave or steam vegetables instead of boiling them.
- If you like to boil vegetables, use a small amount of water and do not overboil them.
- Include more stir-fry recipes in your diet. Stir-fried vegetables are cooked quickly to retain their crunch (and associated nutrients).
Cutting down salt
Salt is a common flavour enhancer, but research suggests that a high salt diet could contribute to a range of health problems including high blood pressure. Suggestions to reduce salt include:
- Don’t automatically add salt to your food – taste it first.
- Add a splash of olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice close to the end of cooking time or to cooked vegetables – it can enhance flavours in the same way as salt.
- Choose fresh or frozen vegetables, since canned and pickled vegetables tend to be packaged with salt.
- Limit your consumption of salty processed meats such as salami, ham, corned beef, bacon, smoked salmon, frankfurters and chicken loaf.
- Choose reduced salt bread and breakfast cereals. Breads and cereals are a major source of salt in the diet.
- Iodised salt is best. A major dietary source of iodine is plant foods. Yet there is evidence that Australian soil may be low in iodine and so plants grown in it are also low in iodine. If you eat fish at least once a week, the need for iodised salt is reduced.
- Avoid salt-laden processed foods, such as flavoured instant pasta or noodles, canned or dehydrated soup mixes, chips and salted nuts.
- Margarine and butter contain a lot of salt but ‘no added salt’ varieties are available.
- Most cheeses are very high in salt so limit your intake or choose lower salt varieties.
- Reduce your use of soy sauce, tomato sauce and processed sauces and condiments (for example mayonnaise and salad dressings) because they contain high levels of salt.
Healthy Dinner Recipes That Can Help You Lose Weight
If one of your goals is to cook more (and healthier) at home to stick to your weight-loss efforts, you’ll want to set yourself up for success. A key part of that is making sure you’ve got an arsenal of new healthy dinner recipes.
It can be hard to find nutritious recipes that actually satiating and flavorful, while still helping you stay in a calorie deficit to meet your weight loss goals. Luckily, these 100+ healthy dinner recipes for weight loss each have 500 calories or less, and will leave you satisfied enough to stave off cravings until breakfast.
Easy Baked BBQ Seitan
- 1 c. vital wheat gluten
- 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp tahini
- 1 c. veggie broth
- 1/3 c. BBQ sauce of choice
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- In a mixing bowl, add in vital wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and onion powder then with a fork mix well to combine.
- Add in soy sauce, tahini and vegetable broth, then with your fork, whisk to combine liquid into the flour until a dough like ball forms.
- With your hands, gently knead the gluten ball a few times making sure not to over do it. Should take no more than a minute.
- Transfer dough to a lined baking sheet. Flatten and spread dough out until it is half an inch thick.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
- Remove seitan from the oven and brush both sides with your favorite BBQ sauce. At this stage you can either grill or rebake your seitan.
- Place seitan back in the oven for another 10 minutes. You may also opt to broil on high for about 2-3 minutes to help give a little char to the ends of your seitan.
- Place seitan on a preheated electric grill and allow to cook and sear for about 4-5 minutes on each side or until grill marks appear on the surface of the seitan.
- Once seitan is cooked, place on a clean surface or plate to rest for 3-5 minutes, then cut and serve as desired.
Per serving: 138 calories, 4.6 g fat (0.6 g sat), 10 g protein, 15.6 g carb, 564 mg sodium, 4.8 g sugars, 2.5 g fiber
Aloo Gobi (Spiced Potato and Cauliflower)
- ¼ c. grapeseed avocado, or other neutral oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tsp nigella seeds – (kalonji) optional
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 5 garlic cloves crushed
- 3/4 inch piece ginger crushed
- 3 small to medium tomatoes finely chopped
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- ¼ tsp red chili powder or more to taste
- 1 tsp salt or more to taste
- 1 small head cauliflower cut into small florets (about 1 lb or 500 grams chopped)
- 2 medium potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (around 350 grams), and placed in a bowl of water to prevent browning
- 1 green chili pepper sliced or chopped
- 1/2 tsp soy sauce or tamari
- 1/4 tsp lemon or lime juice or to taste
- 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro leaves to garnish
- Heat oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the cumin and nigella seeds and let them sizzle for a few seconds. Add the chopped onions and sauté, stirring frequently, until they turn lightly golden, about 5-6 minutes.
- Add the garlic and ginger and sauté until the raw smell disappears, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, spice powders (coriander, cumin, turmeric, red chili) and salt. Cook until the tomatoes are soft and the oil begins to separate from them, about 4-5 minutes.
- Add the potatoes, cauliflower, and green chili pepper. Stir-fry for about 4-5 minutes.
- Turn the heat down to low-medium, cover, and let cook for about 20 minutes, stirring once or twice in between.
- When the vegetables are cooked and all the moisture is gone, turn off the heat and add the soy sauce and lemon juice. Mix well and garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve with roti, naan, or rice.
Per serving: 164 calories, 2.5 g fat (0.5 g sat), 5.3 g protein, 29.8 g carb, 755 mg sodium, 7.1 g sugars, 7.4 g fiber
Slow Cooker Jamaican Chicken Stew
- 3 lb chicken parts
- 2 tsp curry powder
- 1 ½ tsp dried thyme
- ¾ tsp ground allspice
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- ½ c. red wine
- 1 ½ c. 15 ounces black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 ½ c. 15 ounces diced tomatoes, undrained
- Toss chicken with curry powder, thyme, allspice, red pepper flakes, black pepper and salt.
- Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onions and garlic and sauté until onions are softened, about 3 minutes. Add chicken mixture to skillet and brown on both sides. Add wine and let cook for a few minutes. Add tomatoes and black beans and mix well. Transfer to crock pot and cook in high for 4-5 hours until tender and meat is falling off the bone. Alternatively, you can continue to cook the chicken on the stove top for about 25-30 minutes until chicken is done.
Per serving: 423 calories, 24 g fat (6 g sat), 32 g protein, 13 g carb, 557 mg sodium, 2 g sugars, 4 g fiber
Slow Roasted Salmon Citrus Salad
- ½ red onion
- 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- Boston lettuce leaves
- 1 avocado
- Aleppo pepper flakes
- 3 roasted beets quartered
- 2 orange peeled, cut into segments
- 1 grapefruit peeled, cut into segments
- 1 large tomato halved, cut into ¼” thick slices
- ½ English cucumber sliced
- 1 lb Slow Roasted Citrus Salmon
- Flakey salt such as fleur de sel or Maldon salt
Ingredients for the citrus shallot vinaigrette:
- 1 Tbsp shallot minced
- 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice or orange juice
- 1 ½ tsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 garlic clove smashed
- 5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pickle onions by placing onion and vinegar in small bowl, and letting them sit for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, line serving plate with lettuce leaves.
- Cut avocado in half and remove pit. Scoop spoonfuls of avocado onto plate; season with flakey salt and aleppo pepper.
- Arrange quartered beets on plate. Arrange orange and grapefruit segments on plate.
- Lightly salt tomato slices. Place on plate.
- Lightly salt cucumbers and place on plate.
- Scatter pickled onions on plate.
- Break salmon into pieces and arrange on plate.
- Drizzle Citrus Shallot Vinaigrette on top and sprinkle with a little flakey salt to finish.
Per serving: 336 calories, 21 g fat (3 g sat), 17 g protein, 20 g carb, 70 mg sodium, 11 g sugars, 5 g fiber
Spicy Korean Beef Noodle Soup
- 1.7 oz mung bean noodles (sometimes called cellophane or glass noodles)
- 1 c. cooked short rib meat shredded (from rich beef broth recipe)
- 2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 ½ – 2 Tbsp Korean red pepper flakes
- 1 Tbsp garlic chopped
- 4 c. Rich Beef Broth
- 1 c. water
- 2 c. bok choy chopped
- 4 fresh shitake mushrooms sliced
- 2 scallions cut into 2″ lengths
- Extra Korean red pepper flakes for serving
- Fish sauce or soy sauce for serving
- Soak mung bean noodles in hot water for 20-30 minutes; drain.
- Heat sesame oil, red pepper flakes and garlic in a small pan until fragrant and garlic is light brown; mix with shredded meat; set aside.
- Heat beef broth and water in a large saucepan. Add bok choy, mushrooms, and drained, soaked mung bean noodles; cook about 3-4 minutes until noodles are just soft and bok choy is cooked. Add marinated meat and scallions to soup and heat through. Divide among bowls; serve with extra Korean red pepper flakes for spicy food lovers. If beef broth is unsalted, serve with fish sauce or soy sauce on the side for drizzling.
Per serving: 314 calories, 8 g fat (5 g sat), 22 g protein, 18 g carb, 677 mg sodium, 1 g sugars, 1 g fiber
Crockpot Beef Vegetable Soup
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb boneless chuck roast or beef stew meat — cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tsp kosher salt — divided
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 3-4 c. low sodium beef broth — divided
- 1 small yellow onion — diced
- 2 cloves garlic — minced (about 2 tsp)
- 4 large carrots — peeled and finely chopped
- 2 Yukon gold potatoes — peeled and diced
- 2 parsnips — peeled and diced
- 2 ribs celery — diced
- 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 can tomato sauce (8 ounces)
- 3 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp granulated sugar
- 1 c. peas — fresh or frozen (no need to thaw)
- Chopped fresh parsley — optional for serving
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high. Add the beef and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Brown the beef on all sides, disturbing it as little as possible on each side so that it develops nice coloring. Once the beef is lightly browned (it won’t be all the way cooked through), remove it to a 6-quart slow cooker.
- To the pan, add the onion. Cook and stir until the onion is beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and let cook 30 seconds. Splash in about 1/2 cup the beef broth and scrape up any browned bits that have stuck to the bottom (this is flavor!). Let the broth reduce for 2 minutes, then transfer the entire mixture to the slow cooker.
- To the slow cooker, add the carrots, potatoes, parsnips, celery, diced tomatoes in their juices, tomato sauce, tomato paste, Worcestershire, oregano, paprika, sugar, 2 1/2 cups beef broth, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt.
- Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, until the beef and vegetables are tender. Stir in the peas, just until warmed through. If the soup is thicker than you would like, add the remaining 1 cup beef broth until you reach your desired consistency. Serve hot, sprinkled with fresh parsley.
Per serving: 283 calories, 7 g fat (2 g sat), 24 g protein, 33 g carb, 11 g sugars, 8 g fiber
- 1 lb large shrimp — 40 to 50 per pound peeled, deveined shrimp, tails on or off (fresh or frozen and thawed)
- ¾ tsp kosher salt — divided
- ½ tsp ground black pepper — divided
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small red onion — chopped
- 2 cloves garlic — minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1 14.5-oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes in their juices
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- 1 14-oz can artichoke hearts — drained and quartered
- ½ c. pitted Kalamata olives
- ¾ c. crumbled feta cheese
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice — from about ½ medium lemon
- For serving: rice — whole wheat couscous, crusty bread, pasta (optional)
- Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Pat the shrimp dry, place in a mixing bowl, and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Toss to coat, then set aside.
- In a large, ovenproof skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add onion and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat as needed so that the onion softens but does not brown. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let gently simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the red wine vinegar and honey. Remove from the heat.
- Scatter the artichokes and olives over the top, then arrange the shrimp on top in a single layer. Sprinkle with the feta.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the tomatoes are bubbling, cheese has browned slightly, and the shrimp are cooked through. Squeeze the lemon juice over the top and sprinkle with parsley. Enjoy hot.
Per serving: 445 calories, 24 g fat (8 g sat), 38 g protein, 17 g carb, 9 g sugars, 3 g fiber
Here are some guidelines to get you into the kitchen and cooking healthy!
- Put vegetables at the top of your shopping list and plan your meals around them instead of what kind of meat you’re going to prepare. Formula: more veggies; less meat. Beans are a vegetable, so have tacos with beans instead of hamburger, and add plenty of freshly chopped salsa, tomatoes and lettuce. The same goes for your lunch. Make sandwiches with less meat, and pile on the veggies. Go beyond lettuce and tomato! Add cucumbers, sprouts, spinach and sweet bell pepper strips. Hold the mayo, or use the low-fat or fat-free kind.
- Skip the sugary stuff. Sugar has calories, but no other nutritional value. Some sugar occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables, milk and grains. One culprit in undermining weight loss is often “added sugar”—the kind added to food and drinks during processing, as well as the obvious sugar bowl on the table. If you’re cooking at home, you probably won’t be adding sugar to your minestrone soup, but manufacturers might. Rethink your drink.
- Eat it all. You read that right, for wheat that is. Choose breads, crackers and cereals made from whole grains, which contain all the parts of the grain. Refined grains are stripped of their healthy outer coat (bran), which lowers some of the nutrients in the grain. And eating whole food fills you up, not out—a real boon for your weight loss efforts. Brown rice is a whole grain; white rice is not. Similarly, removing the skin from fruits and vegetables decreases their fiber content. It’s better to eat an apple than to drink apple juice.