How to Make Smart Calorie Choices While Cooking

February 17, 2015

Did you know that many smart and delicious food choices may actually start at the grocery store?

While you can certainly find ways to cut back on calories while cooking at home, there’s no easier way to do that than to first make some educated decisions about which foods you put into your cart and bring home.

From there, all it takes is a few tips and best practices to make a difference. Here are some tips from National Dairy Council and registered dietitian and nutritionist Kim Kirchherr:

  • While at the store, look for brightly colored fruits and vegetables to add to your cart. It can also help to stock up on frozen fruits (perfect for smoothies) and frozen or canned-in-water veggies (just heat up for a quick side) that you can use throughout the week.
  • Grab a carton of fat-free sour cream to have on hand. Use it in place of half of the oil called for in brownie, cake or muffin recipes. Or even use it to replace full-fat sour cream in other recipes like coffee cakes and dips. Out of sour cream? Try low-fat or fat-free yogurt to replace shortening or oil, too. You can replace half of what the recipe calls for with three-fourths of the amount of yogurt.
  • When picking out a fruit juice, like orange juice or grape juice, look for one that’s labeled “100 percent fruit juice.”
  • Find ways to make the flavors in your food really pop. For example, toasting nuts brings out their flavor – it’s a great example of how using a little can go a long way!
  • Sandwich breads, pita bread, English muffins, mini bagels and flat breads are great options for getting some fiber while keeping portions in check.
  • Instead of running to your favorite corner coffee spot, make your own coffee at home before you start your day. If that’s not an option, simply ask for your coffee, cocoa or chai with low-fat or fat-free milk. It’s an easy way to make a nutrient-rich beverage while staying toasty and enjoying your favorite warm drinks.
  • Making smart choices doesn’t mean giving up all of your favorite foods like cereal. To save a few calories, consider mixing an unsweetened whole grain or high-fiber cereal with your favorite cereal.
  • In most baking recipes, you can replace half of the sugar with a sugar substitute. If you only have real sugar at hand, try cutting back the amount of sugar by one-fourth – the recipe should still turn out well.
  • It’s easy to even make smart snacking choices. If you’re a fan of snacking on tortilla chips and salsa or crackers and cheese, consider purchasing baked tortilla chips and crackers. If you really want your favorite brand of potato chips, you can keep yourself from indulging by simply limiting yourself to one portion.
  • If you’re interested in making either dressing or dips, try making them with low-fat or fat-free yogurt, cream cheese and/or sour cream.
  • When cooking, first trim away any visible fat from your meat or poultry.
  • Baking, broiling and grilling your meat, poultry and fish can save you a few calories, too. Drain off any fat that results from cooking.
  • Smart calorie choices don’t have to taste bland either. Zip up your meat, poultry or fish with herbs, spices, salsa, hot sauce or a spicy mustard.
  • When in the dairy aisle, if you’re looking to save a few calories, grab some fat-free or low-fat milk.
  • Sometimes the promise of a sweet treat can encourage us to make other smart food choices at other times throughout the day. Slow-churned ice cream can help you keep track of fat and calories while providing that creamy, delicious taste you crave.
  • Lastly, if your product comes in a package, it can help to read its nutrition label and compare it to other options.

And remember, keeping portion sizes in check can help you fit in all of your favorites! Rich side dishes served with a crisp, green salad is a great combination, plus it helps balance the overall meal’s fat and calories. 


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