If you're looking to lose weight and either control the ingredients in your foods or stay on a budget, making your own low-calorie meals is the way to go. With a little pre-planning and smart shopping, you can create breakfast, lunch and dinner menus with familiar dishes that substitute healthier proteins, carbohydrates and fats for foods high in saturated fat, calories and cholesterol. Start with your favorite dishes, look at what makes them fattening, then think outside the box to make them tasty and nutritious.
Write a list of your favorite foods, making menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Cross out dishes you know you won't be able to make at home, either because they require utensils you don't have or cooking techniques you haven't mastered or don't care to learn. Create a final list of menus you feel you can make in your own kitchen.
Write separate menus for each meal, underlining ingredients you know are high-fat, high-cholesterol or high-calorie. Write a separate list of these ingredients down the side of one page, leaving room after each to write down substitutions.
Write down substitutes for the ingredients on the list you just created. For animal products, substitute lower-fat cuts of beef, such as flank or sirloin, for fattier choices such as filet. Substitute ground turkey breast for ground beef in burgers and tacos, canned tuna for hamburger or sausage in spaghetti sauce, tofu for beef and chicken in stir fries and veggies for pepperoni and sausage on pizzas.
Cook with low-fat or fat-free dairy products and egg whites or egg substitutes when you can. For a homemade mac and cheese casserole, use skim milk, fat-free cheese and whole-grain pasta, adding lean boiled ham and sliced cherry tomatoes for extra nutrition. Serve whole-grain breads and pastas and brown or wild rice as side dishes.
Make individual pizzas using English muffins or bagels to control portion sizes. Use a low-fat spaghetti sauce and cheeses. Saute or soften veggies in the microwave before baking small pizzas because the cooking time will be shorter.
Make soups using your food processor. Use fresh vegetables, fat-free chicken or vegetable stock and seasonings to taste. Save pieces of veggies to add to the base of your soup after blending and cook along with the soup base. Add beans or tofu for protein, as well as a dollop of fat-free sour cream for flavor just before serving.
Make Mexican dishes, such as tacos, burritos and fajitas, without meat. Fill them with fat-free cheeses, sour cream and plenty of veggies such as lettuce, onions, tomatoes and avocados. Make your own salsa with a food processor, using tomatoes, onions and peppers, garlic, lime juice and cilantro. Add cilantro and lime juice to canned black beans for a side dish high in protein and iron. Serve vegetarian or fat-free refried beans for a familiar side dish or burrito filling. Use smaller, whole-grain tortillas and baked chips and shells.
- Cook with non-stick cookware and use monounsaturated cooking oils such as canola, peanut, olive or avocado. If you use a butter substitute, read the nutrition label to avoid saturated and trans fats.
- soup image by AGphotographer from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.