All You Need Is The Right Tool – 9 Best Kitchen Tools for Healthy Food Prep

imagesCAI5SIDKOne of the most effective ways to stay on track with a diet is to COOK AT HOME. But there’s more to a healthy kitchen than a well-stocked fridge and a pantry full of pre-portioned snacks.

My husband can fix almost anything. His favorite saying is “all you need is the right tool”. This is true when it comes to cooking healthy too. How you prepare and enjoy your meals matters almost as much as what you’re eating. The following are must-have items that will help turn your kitchen into a weight loss machine:

 

1. Food processor

You can purchase a mini or full-size processor for chopping or shredding vegetables, fresh herbs, and nuts with ease. It will also puree and let you sneak vitamin-rich cauliflower, broccoli, squash, and sweet potatoes into sauces and spreads or even soups. Whip up healthy hummus, pesto, and marinades, too. You can also try a handheld blender; they work well for smoothies.

 

2. Knives

Any smart weight loss program will call for plenty of vegetables, and a sharp knife will make all that cutting, chopping, and slicing much easier. Make sure you have a chef’s knife, a slicer, and a paring/utility knife, plus a sharpener (dull knives make prep work far less enjoyable). Armed with these, you can start your week off with containers full of red pepper strips, celery stalks, carrot sticks, and insert your favorite veggies here ____ for easy snacking. Embrace your inner Top Chef!

 

3. Downsize plates and glasses

Average plate sizes seem to be getting bigger and bigger. The bigger your plate, the more likely you are to load it up with food. Replace your 12-inch dinner plates with 9-inch salad plates, and then fill them up with high-fiber, low-calorie greens and beans plus smaller portions of healthy carbs and meat.

When it comes to glasses, Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab researchers found that individuals pour more of a beverage into short wide glasses versus tall narrow ones http://foodpsychology.cornell.edu/.  I always tell people not to drink their calories, but if you want to have a morning OJ or a Friday night cocktail, choose a taller, narrower glass (think Tom Collins instead of rocks). But for water, choose the biggest goblet you can find: Many people mistake thirst for hunger, so staying hydrated can help you avoid needless snacking.

 

4. Salad spinner

This kitschy tool lets you simultaneously wash and dry your greens. Spinach and lettuce will last longer if stored dry.

 

5. Mini zip-close bags or small tupperware type containers

Use them to hold individual servings of nuts, dried fruit, granola, cheese, and other easy-to-gobble items. There is nothing worse than mindlessly eating handful after handful right out of the bag, and before you know it consuming 100’s of calories in an otherwise healthy snack.

 

6. Oil mister

These gadgets allow you to add just a spritz of heart-healthy oil without overdosing on fat. Think avocado oil, grapeseed oil, olive oil. Mist veggies prior to roasting them, or add some flavor to salads. You should also keep your pantry stocked with nonstick cooking spray, which allows you to whip up everything from scrambled eggs to chicken breasts without butter or oil.

 

7. Micro plane grater/zester

Use this tool to grate small amounts of flavorful cheese into soups, salads, and more. It will also zest oranges, lemons, and limes which can pack in a lot of flavor without adding any calories.

 

8. Slow cooker

If you don’t like cooking but love coming home to a house that smells delicious, this is the tool for you. I am not a great cook… ask any of my friends, but I can rock a slow cooker. It’s hard to screw up any meal when a crockpot is your tool of choice.  Slow cookers can turn basic ingredients such as chopped vegetables, chicken, broth, and spices into low-fat, down-home comfort food. And if you have a hot, delicious meal waiting for you, you’ll be less likely to open the fridge and mindlessly snack while you wonder, “What should I make for dinner?”

 

9. Spices

A fully stocked spice cabinet lets you add flavorful, calorie-free punches to food. You’ll save on fat and sodium, too. Staples include:

Basil for pasta and veggies

Bay leaves for flavoring stocks, sauces, and stews

Cayenne pepper (red pepper) for a spicy kick

Cinnamon for hot cereals such as oatmeal or in baking

Crushed red pepper flakes to add heat to spaghetti, soups, sauces, marinades, and meats

Cumin for chili or Asian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern foods

Dill for fish or potatoes; mix with low-fat yogurt or sour cream for a vegetable dip

Garlic powder for any recipe that calls for garlic flavor

Oregano for tomato-based sauces as well as stews and vegetables

Rosemary for lamb, chicken, potatoes, stews, sauces, vegetables, and fresh breads

Rubbed Sage for chicken, turkey, stuffing, and pork chops

Thyme for hearty roasted or baked dishes as well as vegetables

When is the Best Time for A Protein Fix

Every cell in the body contains protein, and whether running, jumping, shopping, or just hanging out, protein is doing important work by repairing damaged cells and making new ones. Protein is essential to keep cells alive, and even though it is not a super source of energy such as carbohydrates and fats, it does a body good by helping it to function 24/7.

 

Power Up With Protein

 

Protein is the building block for muscle, and since the body can’t save it for later like carbohydrates and fat, it’s important to keep a constant stream coming, so the muscles stay strong and healthy. Protein construction is a never ending process, so if it doesn’t get a new supply often, the body will break down muscle from elsewhere in order to rebuild damaged areas – stealing from the biceps to pay the triceps.

 

In order to keep this thievery at bay, it is important to ingest protein throughout the day, and the two key times to get a protein fix are 30 minutes after waking up and 30 minutes after working out.

 

Wake up and smell the protein. We hear it all the time, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and come to find out protein is a critical component. If there’s any time the body is craving to get some much needed replenishment, it’s after being deprived of protein for the whole night. The body is hungry for nutrients, and protein is a fast way to break the fast. It’s also an instant metabolism boost, because eating protein requires extra energy to digest, which means the body burns more calories digesting it than carbohydrates and fats .

Equally as important is getting some protein after exercise. Following a training session, the body is a tiny bit damaged at the cellular level, and it needs time to repair this damage in order to get stronger. For the body to do this, it needs a little help from its friend, protein, so it can get the raw materials to rebuild and recover . By taking in protein (20 grams or so) within 30 minutes after exercise, the body gets the nutrients it needs to recover without breaking down its own muscle tissue. Friends don’t let friends lose muscle.

 

Good sources of protein are eggs, turkey bacon, soy protein, raw nuts, or cottage cheese. Fish, beans, lean beef, and chicken are great alternatives as well, but may not be  so appetizing for breakfast. The quickest and easiest “whey” to get protein is by chugging down a protein shake, as it is absorbed faster than solid foods.  Power to the protein!

 

Timing is everything. A dose of protein 30 minutes after waking up and 30 minutes after working out will help to keep the body strong and healthy by preserving muscle tissue and giving the metabolism a boost.

Goodbye, Low Fat Diet – I Will NOT Miss You

I recently met a woman who was following, or trying to follow a low fat diet. She was asking me if I thought low fat diets really work. Like most of us, she has been googling diet and fitness with a somewhat confusing result. So here is my two cents.

Low fat diets have been extremely popular. But recently there has been a trend to reduce carbohydrate consumption and increase fats and proteins. This diet strategy has shown to be extremely effective in improving overall health, body composition, and performance.

There is definitely confusion regarding low fat diets, because there is still ongoing research that examines the efficacy of low fat/high carbohydrate diets for weight loss. A lot of the confusion stems from the fact that low fat diets work when it comes to weight loss. But keep reading, there is more to this story.

The reason low fat diets work is because anytime you decrease a person’s caloric intake to a level significantly below their energy expenditure they will lose weight. It isn’t rocket science just simple math. The question should not be if low fat diets work but if they work the best?

From my own experience, the answer to that is NO. And trust me, I have been on some crazy low fat diets. Low fat diets usually include high carbohydrates, but lowering your carbohydrate consumption and increasing your fat and protein intake leads to a diet that is more effective at preserving and building lean body mass, and improving health.

I used to be “afraid” of fat. I would never eat anything with over 2 or 3 grams of fat. What a bore! Then as I started to learn more about the effects of high carbs and the math game (calories in v.s calories out), I realized I would not gain weight if I ate more fat here and there. I actually noticed my physique looking better and healthier after tweaking the fat consumption in my diet. When you can eat more than 4 grams of fat, it opens up a world of new and delicious foods!

The math game is most important when you are dealing with dietary numbers (calories in v.s. calories out), so once you have your math under control look for balance. A balanced carbohydrate/protein/fat diet is key to increase your level of satiety (you feel full longer), making it easier to stay on track. The more you stick to your plan, the better your plan will work.

Low Fat – Good For Marketing, Bad For Health

The other day, Samantha set up a tea party for us – just the girls, as she likes to say. She was explaining each of the plastic food items, and when she showed me the muffin, she declared that it was even low fat.

I was a little surprised that she was using the term low fat. Had I inadvertently mentioned something about that? I try to be very careful when I talk about food. Had she heard it at school from one of her friends?

I don’t buy low fat food because low fat means high in something else (usually some kind of crap). The terms low fat and light have no doubt been a marketing gold mine for most food manufacturers. But low fat doesn’t mean low calories, and nine times out of ten, it doesn’t mean healthier. Light is just a marketing term with really no meaning at all.

Low fat = low taste. Manufacturers must add stuff to make it taste good, like extra salt, extra sugar, msg, etc.

Light=scam. The term light is used when foods don’t meet the FDA requirements to be low-fat. For example, Light Philly cream cheese has less fat than the original, but it has 35% more sugar. Yikes.

So if your goal is to eat healthier, don’t buy anything that says low fat or light. If your goal is to lose weight, don’t buy anything that says low fat or light. If your goal is to enjoy food, don’t buy anything that says low fat or light. I think that about covers everything.

Are there exceptions? Yes. So be sure to read the labels, and make sure your low fat, light options are not hiding high calorie, high crap ingredients.

As for Samantha’s low-fat remark, it probably came from Sponge Bob.

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