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8 Easy Steps to Becoming a Great (and Healthy!) Cook

One of the easiest ways to begin eating healthily is to cook at home. But for many (us included!), cooking can seem overwhelming and confusing. (If you’ve ever attempted to create a Pinterest-perfect meal and ended up with a bowl of slop, you know what we’re talking about.) But with a few easy tips and tricks, you too can channel your inner Giada. So read on for our easy ways to rule the kitchen. Top Chef, here you come.
 
Utensils
The first step on the road to cooking glory is the correct utensils. Luckily, most of us have a decent array of pots, pans, and spatulas that can be used to cook up most basic dishes. If you’re really serious about releasing the master chef within you, check out these two great articles detailing the 7 essential kitchen utensils and the 9 best pots and pans. (Buy the non-stick variety — you won’t have to use nearly as much butter or oil, saving you tons of calories!) Once you have your kitchen tools, you’re halfway there.
 
Manage calorie intake with healthy portions
Another great addition to any kitchen is a food scale, which you can buy for as low as $10. Food scales make it super easy to measure portion sizes, allowing you to know exactly how much you’re eating. Instead of eyeballing, which can be off from 100-200 calories, invest in measuring utensils that allow you to easily and correctly track your food.
 
Oils Have Calories Too
Olive oil, canola oil, and most recently coconut oil, are all celebrities in the health food world. And for good reason. These three oils supply our bodies with tons of benefits including heart-healthy fats, anti-cancer properties, and hypertension relief. But this doesn’t mean oils should be used without regard to calorie content. While they can be great for our bodies, they need to be used in moderation. Canola, olive, and coconut oil all have 120 calories per tablespoon. If you use a tablespoon to saute veggies, marinate meat, or as a dressing, make sure to log these calories as they can add up fast.
 
(Unrefined) Grains Are Your Friend
Grains are a super easy way to cook yourself a meal. Whole grain pasta, quinoa, and long-grain rice are all easy to make and take little kitchen knowledge. After you prep your whole grain of choice, add your favorite veggies and a little bit of parmesan cheese and you’ve got a winning dish. Just remember to pick whole grains. Whole grains have not been processed like refined grains and therefore still have the entire grain intact, supplying your body with more fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and other nutrients.
 
Get To Know Your Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and veggies are SUPERSTARS. Aside from their high nutrient density, they are extremely low in calories while still managing to be super-filling. Try to fill up half of your plate with veggies at lunch and dinner and have a serving with breakfast. (A serving size of most fruits and vegetables is ½ cup to 1 cup.) Not sure how to cook your veggies? The easiest ways are to steam, grill, bake, or sauté. But, don’t forget to get creative! There are tons of recipes online with tasty and delicious ways to prepare fruits and veggies.
 
Easy on the Meat
Meat is great. It’s tasty, goes with almost anything, and is a good source of filling protein. But red meats tend to be very high in fat. If you want to eat red meat, keep your portions small, about 3-5 oz. You can also ry a leaner cut like chicken or turkey breast, or lean pork. Not sure how to cook your meats? To start off, try baking. It’s straightforward and takes the least active effort — great for new chefs! Don’t forget to try a meatless meal every once in a while, too. Aside from being a great way to cut back on calories, meatless meals are filling and full of flavor.
 
Watch your sweet tooth
From honey to agave to regular ol’ table sugar, there are millions of ways to sweeten food. But even the “healthy” versions of sweeteners pack a hefty calorie count without any nutritive value. Cut down sweeteners in recipes by ½ or use a dash of splenda instead — you’d be surprised how little sugar you really need.
 
Be Bold
One of the best ways to enhance the flavor of food is to use spices. There are a myriad of flavors to experiment with. Be adventurous and try out a new spice. From basil and paprika to cinnamon and vanilla, there’s a world of spices that can enhance the flavor of your food without any added calories.