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Healthier cooking and eating for dummies :)

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SparkPoints: (61,086)
Fitness Minutes: (40,069)
Posts: 4,472
5/10/13 10:33 A

our dinner tonight would be great for you -
Taco Salad
bag of spring mix or romaine
can of black beans
shredded cheddar cheese
plain Greek yogurt
rinse the beans; toss salad mix w/beans and diced tomato; top w/cheddar cheese
mix Greek yogurt & salsa for the dressing
you can crumble some tortilla chips on top if you want some crunch; you can add chicken or ground beef if you want meat

SparkPoints: (8,851)
Fitness Minutes: (6,540)
Posts: 1,977
5/10/13 9:31 A

Apparently there's a whole science of how stores are designed to make you buy the things that give them the highest profit margins, which is generally processed stuff that never goes bad. It takes some effort to break out of that.

SparkPoints: (2,095)
Fitness Minutes: (0)
Posts: 574
5/10/13 9:16 A

funny you should mention that - my wife and I were discussing that since we have adopted a fresh food approach we only shop the perimeter of the local grocery stores

SparkPoints: (8,851)
Fitness Minutes: (6,540)
Posts: 1,977
5/10/13 8:31 A

When I'm in the grocery store, I focus mainly on the perimeter of the store. This is where all the fresh stuff is: meat, dairy, and produce. That's where I browse and take my time and figure out what I want to cook for the week based on whats on sale there. Then I go into the packaged food aisle with a very specific idea of what I want so I don't come out with a lot of junk/processed stuff.

SparkPoints: (2,095)
Fitness Minutes: (0)
Posts: 574
5/10/13 8:07 A

Don't forget soups - they're tasty, easy to make and can be very nutritious, hearty and filling.

SparkPoints: (5,192)
Fitness Minutes: (8,329)
Posts: 18
5/10/13 7:51 A

I really appreciate all these great tips! I can't wait to get started now. I always work better when I have a clean cut list of A thru Z of what I need to do so these websites and cook books are going to be great! Thanks so much! emoticon

SparkPoints: (15,605)
Fitness Minutes: (120)
Posts: 2,171
5/10/13 12:13 A

In addition to what the others have said, youtube also has instruction videos for just about any kind of cooking technique you want to learn.

Another vote for too. Lots of great meal ideas with clear instructions.

SparkPoints: (23,673)
Fitness Minutes: (12,169)
Posts: 1,048
5/9/13 8:33 P

Spark is really awesome with their recipes! I've found and made some really delicious ones that have gotten great reviews of those who I have shared them with :)

There are also videos Chef Meg has posted about HOW to perfect grill chicken, slice and dice various fruits and veggies, etc. That way you can watch how to do it and go to town!! Best of luck :)

SparkPoints: (16,942)
Fitness Minutes: (7,182)
Posts: 620
5/9/13 6:57 P

Congrats on your first steps toward change!

This is a tricky one, not because there isn't an answer but because there are SO MANY answers! Everyone's diet is going to be different, yours won't ever look like mine and mine won't ever look like yours... so it's a matter of personal taste and budget as much as anything.

There's no reason to give up your favorites or staples. One of the things I learned is how much you eat can be as important as what you eat.

You can still have shepherd's pie and chicken and potatoes, just practice proper portion control. 3 oz of meat is one serving (without the bones). If you're making baked or mashed potatoes, just watch how much you add for toppings. Can you use a lower fat milk or alternative? Can you be happy with salsa on your baked potato instead of sour cream and bacon bits? What about roasting with a touch of olive oil instead? I love throwing a huge pot of veggies in the oven to roast.

Make a list of what foods you know you and your family like - not just whole dishes but individual ingredients as well. Then work on portions. Large servings (1/2 - 1 cup cooked) of non-starchy veggies like salad greens, asparagus, carrots, peppers, beans, broccoli, etc. Buy frozen vegetables at first if you're worried they'll go bad before you get to them. It's so frustrating to try to eat healthier and then end up throwing good money in the trash because the food went bad in the fridge.

If you fill half your plate with vegetables, then 1/4 with some protein/meat, and 1/4 with a whole grain like brown rice, whole wheat bread, pasta, or similar, that can be a good way to gauge portions, but it's always best to measure instead of trying to eyeball.

You can still enjoy steak, chicken, fish, etc, just be sure to watch how much you eat. Baked is better than fried, grilled is awesome.

For quick meals for breakfast and lunch, my favorite is an egg wrap. Fried or scrambled eggs (or even an omelet) wrapped in a tortilla, pita bread, or similar. Add some fresh spinach leaves if you have them, and maybe a touch of guacamole, salsa, or light mayo (just watch the serving size).

Oatmeal is good, watch the sugar content of most instant, though. Fruit, yogurt, or homemade frozen pancakes/waffles can all be good. Sandwiches or even dinner left-overs can be quick lunches. If you have extra time during part of the week or weekend, you can chop up fresh vegetables to be ready to grab at a moment's notice.

A quick lunch or dinner can be a taco salad, using a hearty lettuce base, add 3 oz of ground beef, chicken, or other protein (I've used refried beans for this, too), then top with taco toppings like onion, tomato, jalapeno, salsa, guacamole, and 1 oz of shredded cheese. Mix it up really well so you won't get to the bottom and have just bland salad.

The best choices will usually be whole foods, but that doesn't mean you can't have treats as well. Just, as in all things, watch your portions.

If you have a crockpot, that's an excellent way to make your own soups, too. Fill it up about 1/2 or more with chopped veggies, add some (low sodium) broth or broth cubes, and water, add a bit more seasoning because those never seem to be quite enough, and then enjoy!

The recipe area of Spark has great ideas for all occasions, food types, and meals.

But when it's all said and done... make small changes you can stick with, and that you and your family can sustain over the long term. There's no point burning yourself out and then deciding it's too hard. Give yourself the time to incorporate little changes for better health.


Posts: 2,244
5/9/13 6:44 P

Welcome to the wonderful world of learning to cook, it's a lot of work and pretty intimidating at first, but it can be a big adventure and lots of fun! I think it's a great idea to take a class.

In the meantime, there are some good resources... I understand the Sparkpeople cookbook is pretty good, straightforward "normal" foods, so a good place to start for ideas. The Weight Watchers "New Complete" cookbook I do know for a fact is really good. My spouse (not much of a cooker, except for shepherds pie and stew), has been making all kinds of really fancy-looking stuff out of there, with no fuss or problem, he is so proud of himself!

There's also lots of ideas to be found online. is a website that has quite a few easy-to-put-together recipe ideas, with many many many offerings that look and taste like "normal run of the mill standards." I'm sure other posters will have lots more suggestions of where to look for inspiration when you're just starting out.

Bon Appetit!

SparkPoints: (5,192)
Fitness Minutes: (8,329)
Posts: 18
5/9/13 6:33 P

I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I am not very knowledgable about the best ways to cook and eat healthy. I have always leaned towards anything that I can grab and eat quickly for breakfast and lunch, usually on the run and for the most part processed, prepackaged food. For dinners I have stuck with what I know which is mostly the old standbys from my childhood like shepards pie, pot roast, chicken and potatoes, etc. I am looking for any insight on the following: how to shop healthy in a grocery store, what are the staples that I should always have on hand for healthy cooking, what the heck do I do with these ingredients once I have them, and last but not least, how do I teach myself to enjoy this new food and most importantly get my husband and kids to enjoy it? I'm asking a lot I know, I've researched online and most of what I find are things I've never even seen. I am hoping to take a healthy cooking class in the coming months but right now I do not have access to any. I thought if anyone could help me, my fellow Sparkers could! Thanks for your patience when reading my babble ;). emoticon

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