Week 5 Tips: Healthy Cooking

I thoroughly enjoy cooking. From looking for a recipe or making one up, to the grocery shopping, to the prep work, and then serving it the whole process is like my therapy. Eating well and living well starts in the kitchen. Here are my tips for cooking healthier at home.

  1. Saute in oil instead of butter. Look, don’t get me wrong butter tastes great but it’s also loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol. Oils like canola, olive, and one of my personal favorites grape seed are low in saturated fat and have no cholesterol. Fun fact: teaspoon for teaspoon oil and butter have the same calories and fat grams.
  2. Use tons of veggies. Just when you think you can’t add any more, try it ūüėČ But seriously half of your meal should be veggies so go for it! Instead of loading them up with butter, flavor instead with veggie/chicken broth, onions/garlic, lemon/limes, herbs, spices, hot sauce, and my personal favorite vinegar/vinaigrettes.
  3. Lean on whole grains instead of prepackaged processed grains. Sure Hamburger Helper is quick and easy but it’s also loaded with salt, fat, has no fiber, and little nutrition. To ease into the whole grain world you can definitely try the boxed grains with added flavor. They are higher in sodium than just plain grains but it’s a great start. Ideas include¬†whole wheat pasta, barley, quinoa, farro, brown rice, black, rice, and wild rice.
  4. Choose lean meats. Beef, pork, and lamb are considered red meat. Loin (sirloin, pork loin), lean ground beef, pork chops, eye of round, top and bottom round roast are the leanest. Chicken and turkey breast (white meat) is leaner than the dark meat. Dark meat is leaner than red meat. Although salmon is considered an oily fish and is higher in fat, the fat is WONDERFUL for your health. White fish like haddock and cod are super lean.
  5. Don’t be afraid to play with flavor! Adding herbs and spices to your cooking makes the flavor of your dishes pop without adding too much salt. Admittedly I use some salt in my cooking but not a lot because of herbs and spices.¬†I obviously have my favorites but will branch out depending on the type of food and recipe. Experiment with them and don’t be afraid of flavor!
  6. Gather kitchen equipment. Truth be told I don’t have many expensive items¬†in my kitchen. I like to cook but I’m also pretty simple and use¬†my favorites. These are the cooking tools I use every week: some pots and pans (I prefer stainless steel but you don’t need a huge set, just the necessities), sharp knives (I’m very picky about my knives and I don’t buy sets I just buy the ones I need), cutting boards (wood), silicon lid (to steam veggies in glass), slow cooker (I have a programmable one which helps people who work longer hours), pressure cooker (nothing fancy just works well).
  7. Keep the necessities. Herbs, spices, oils, vinegars, garlic, onions, frozen veggies (and fruits), grains, and beans can be on hand because they stay for a long time and you can use them in healthy cooking every week.

Eating out isn’t terrible. I actually think it is good to go out and try new things but make sure you’re eating in more often than out. Cooking healthy doesn’t mean you’ll be eating “cardboard” or spending a ton of money. I’ll be doing later blogs on saving money while eating well so stay tuned. Cooking well can be delicious, quick, and fun. Experiment. Being a good cook doesn’t happen over night. Ask any chef ūüôā Work at it, eat out less, and I assure you this will help with your long term goals.

Food For Your Face

One of my readers asked a question that many of us have either thought of, googled, or tried…can I eat differently to help my complexion? The answer is…possibly! What we eat feeds every cell in our body. We are either eating to help our cells or what we are eating may actually be hurting our cells. There are a few questions we need to be asking:¬†what should I eat to help my complexion and what foods could I be using topically (meaning on your face) to help my complexion?

Let’s start with what to eat. Here’s a list of the top 5 things you should be eating to help you complexion:

  1. Fats…but not just any fats! UNSATURATED fats, especially omega-3 fats. Unsaturated fats are found mostly in plant sources (olive oil, canola oil, olives, avocados, nuts, and seeds (flax, chia, pumpkin, sunflower). Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in plants as well as cold water fish. High sources of omega-3 fats are found in canola oil, walnuts, pecans, GROUND (and then refrigerated) flax seeds, chia seeds, salmon, tuna, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines. Eat up!
  2. Foods with vitamin C: citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli/cauliflower, and leafy greens. Vitamin C is one of the building blocks for skin cells and it also helps to protect yourself from sun damage when you eat it.
  3. Foods with vitamin E: this wonder vitamin works similar to vitamin C in protecting your skin cells from damage. Nuts, seeds, oils, greens, and asparagus are all great sources of vitamin E.
  4. Foods with Biotin: Biotin is a B-vitamin and just like C and E is used as a building block of skin cells. Fun fact: your body makes a small amount of biotin! Cool right? But we still need more through our diet so shoot for foods like bananas, oatmeal, eggs, almonds, and peanuts/peanut butter.
  5. Foods with zinc: just like the rest of them we need zinc for upkeep on those skin cells. Research also shows that people who have a zinc deficiency are also more prone to acne. Zinc is found in animal sources like shell fish, red meat, and poultry.

IMPORTANT: I do not recommend taking a supplement for these vitamins or minerals unless you talk to your doctor or a dietitian. It is much better to get these vitamins and minerals through food because your body uses them more effectively. Remember that vitamins and minerals in supplement form are usually made in a laboratory with synthetic material not food.

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Top 5 things you may want to limit to help your complexion:

  1. Processed foods: boxed, highly processed foods have less nutrients than whole foods like grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, meats, and oils. Although it may fill your belly it may be emptying your nutrient reserves.
  2. Sugar: diets high in sugar and too high in carbohydrates may bring blood sugars up which releases insulin. Studies have shown that the more insulin released the more prone people may be to acne. Cut back on sugar (flavored creamer, candy, cookies, cakes pies, sodas) and eat carbohydrates in moderation (because they are definitely good to eat but eating too much of anything isn’t a good thing).
  3. Saturated fats: fats found in animal meats, butter, sour cream, cream cheese, and other animal products have saturated fats. These fats are what we call “inflammatory” fats meaning that they cause inflammation in the body. Too much inflammation can cause skin issues as well as other problems inside the body. Get more “good fats” and less saturated fats.
  4. Food irritants: some foods like strawberries, oranges, tomatoes, vinegar, avocado, some pit fruits, and others have been known to cause topical dermatitis meaning that if these foods touch the skin it can irritate it. If you think you may be affected by different foods it may be worth a trip to a dermatologist or an allergist just to make sure.
  5. Food allergens: shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and gluten can all cause skin irritations. If you feel you have a food allergy please contact your doctor immediately to get tested.

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Feel like a spa retreat right in your own home? Here are some foods that you can actually put on skin to help improve your complexion.

  1. Apple cider vinegar: some people think this magical wonder is a cure all. The jury is still out for me but I use it every single day and it does have anti-bacterial/viral/fungal properties. I think it is important to use the apple cider vinegar with “mother” which is a film of good bacteria that helps in digestion and may help topically on your face. Mix the vinegar with water (1:3 vinegar to water ratio) and apply to your face as a cleanser.
  2. Lemons with oil: mix freshly squeezed lemons with your favorite oil (canola, almond, even coconut) and place on your face. You’ll be getting both vitamin C and vitamin E directly on to your skin which has shown to be beneficial.
  3. Avocado: this wonderful fruit is great for eating and for wearing! Smash up the avocado and apply it directly to your face. It helps if you puree it (add some lemon juice too).
  4. Anti-microbial foods: yogurt, honey, cinnamon, garlic, tea tree oil (not a food but a super anti-microbial) are all good for your face. One note about garlic and tea tree oil is they need diluted or they may cause more irritation on your skin. You can dilute them with an oil.
  5. Baking soda: it is a natural antiseptic meaning it can clean skin of bacteria. Mix a little baking soda with water, apple cider vinegar, or lemon and go to town. This will also help to exfoliate dead skin cells which could help to clear pores.

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The take away from this post is that yes, some food can help your complexion while some foods can potentially hurt it. Eating better is always the best recommendation I can make to anyone. Start where you are and make it better step by step. The facial masks are fun but you’ll be better off helping your skin from the inside out!

Simply Salad Dressings

Salads…mmm. I love salads. They definitely falls into my favorite foods category.¬†I enjoy any kind of salad too – lettuce, vegetable, pasta, potato, fruit, bean…really, any! I think it’s the flavor combinations that I like. There’s nothing more delicious than a good salad dressing that brings out the best tasting salads. Not just any salad dressing but a good homemade

Sure, I have some store bought salad dressings in my refrigerator for parties and a good ranch dressing is a staple in my refrigerator to mix with buffalo sauce! My every day salad dressings are homemade. I like them better than any store brand plus it’s simple whole ingredients. Similarly to my mother, I don’t really have a salad dressing recipe but I’ll let you in on the delicious secret: as long as you have the basics, you can make a delicious homemade dressing yourself.

Here’s what you need:

  • Acid:
    • Vinegar – balsamic, red wine, white wine, even a simple apple cider vinegar works well!
    • Lemon/lime – fruitier salads pare well with lemons and limes.
  • Oil:
    • Canola: tons of omega-3 fatty acids
    • Olive: great source of mono-unsaturated heart-healthy fats
    • Other oils: grape seed, avocado, nut oils (walnut, almond)
  • Herbs:
    • My favorites: chives, parsley, basil
    • Others to try: cilantro, thyme, sage, rosemary, mint
  • Spices:
    • My favorites: turmeric, black pepper, paprika, celery seed, garlic
    • Others to try: coriander, cayenne pepper, chili powder, oregano, poppy seed
  • Salt:
    • Types: kosher, iodized, sea salt, pink hymalain
    • Salt substitutes: check with your doctor first but these go well in salad dressings
  • Sweet:
    • My favorites: honey and sugar
    • Other alternatives: agave, stevia, maple syrup
  • Others:
    • Dijon mustard makes an appearance in 90% of my homemade salad dressings
    • Mayonnaise is a great emulsifier and is a source of healthy fats
    • Spice/seasoning mixes: Mrs. Dash, Italian dressing seasonings, McCormick’s Salad Supreme. I may use any number of these depending on the salad and my taste mood at the time.
    • Fruit. You can make a great strawberry, pomegranate, blueberry, peach, or plum vinaigrette dressing just by simmering the vinegar with the fruits to get out the flavor.

Mix any of the above combinations based on your flavor profile.

Here is one of my favorite vinaigrette to make.

Amanda’s Herbed Vinaigrette

2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 + cup canola oil (I pour in a little over 1/3 cup and you could also use olive oil)
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/8 cup fresh chives
2 teaspoons honey (more if you want to balance out the acidity…I like mine more acidic)
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 teaspoons minced onion (fresh or dried)
1 teaspoon oregano (I use dried)
1 teaspoons minced garlic (shortcut)
1/2 teaspoon salt (less if you have high blood pressure, CHF, or are sensitive to salt)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon turmeric

Pour vinegar and oil into a salad dressing carafe (a mason jar with a lid would work). Place all herbs and spices in jar and shake. Let set for at least 1 hour to allow the herbs and spices to marry into the vinegar and oil.

Notes: you can also use white balsamic, white wine, or champagne vinegar for this recipe.

Pour over your favorite vegetable salad and enjoy!

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OTHER IDEAS:

  • Feta vinaigrette: red wine vinegar, olive oil, feta cheese, dried oregano, dried basil, salt, and pepper – goes great with a Greek quinoa salad or your favorite Greek tossed salad
  • Strawberry poppy seed vinaigrette: diced strawberries, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, poppy seed, honey, salt, and pepper – pairs well with a strawberry spinach salad

Final thoughts: It is important to have fat in your diet. If you are choosing store bought dressing (which is totally fine I have an array in my frig) make sure you select ones that do have fat. Fat free salad dressings tend to have a lot of sugar and other additives. Purchase regular salad dressings and just eat less!

Challenge: have fun with dressings! Make those fruits and veggies pop with excitement and flavor!