Heart-healthy decisions that start at the grocery store end in your kitchen when it comes time to prep and cook your meals. And despite popular belief, preparation doesn’t have to be time consuming or difficult, you just have to know how to get started.
To help you get on track, here are five tips on healthy food preparation.
1. Make a game plan
“[The phrase] Fail to plan and plan to fail could never be more true than when it comes to healthy eating,” says Dr. Janet Brill, Ph.D and nutrition expert. She suggests setting aside one day a week, like Sunday, to plan and prep your meals for the coming weeks. Be sure your plan has heart-healthy recipes full of whole grains and lean proteins, while still including space for a small amount of the foods you simply cannot live without .
Making enough food to prepare meals throughout the week will save time, money and calories when hunger strikes. It will also help you avoid mindless and emotional eating.
2. Prep your basics
For easy, heart-healthy food preparation, keep your staples handy, Brill explains. Her three must-haves: extra-virgin olive oil in a spray bottle, an egg substitute and fat-free or light soymilk. Using extra-virgin olive oil in a spray bottle (versus pouring it out of the bottle) is an easy way to reduce your calorie intake, Brill says.
3. Change your cooking method
To reduce fat and calories, consider changing the way you’re cooking. Bake, broil or sauté chicken instead of pan-frying it. And for fish, Brill suggests grilling, broiling or poaching instead of deep-frying. This applies to vegetables, too. Instead of frying onions, Brill suggests dicing and microwaving them in a bowl with a little bit of water for one to two minutes. While frying might be tastier in some cases, your heart will thank you for choosing a healthier option.
4. Change your tools
What you use to cook is just as important as how you cook. In cooler months, cook meat or poultry on an oven rack placed in roasting pan—instead of just in the pan. This allows the fat to drain off, which decreases the amount of calories, Brill explained. In warm months, take your food outside and use your grill to achieve the same results.
5. Take your time
Taking the time to organize your shopping list and meal plan, decide on your cooking method and pick your tools is key in making heart-healthy and delicious meals. While busy schedules and routines can get in the way of health, setting aside a couple hours each week to dedicate to heart-health will make all the difference.
Julia Rodack is NYC-based writer and editor. She loves food, fashion and alliteration. Her work has appeared in Time Out New York, The Brooklyn Downtown Star and various online publications.