Stocking Your Cupboard for Healthy, Tasty Cooking When Dieting

To cook low-calorie nutritious food, you don’t need to keep bottled salad dressings, canned cream soups, and oils in your kitchen. Instead, the diet-conscious cook stocks a pantry with canned tomatoes, a flavorful olive oil, vinegars, and herbs and spices.

You may have to dig a bit deeper into your pockets for these basics, but after you taste them, you’ll agree that paying more is worth the extra flavor they deliver.

  • A good stock: Use stock (or broth) in salad dressings in place of some of the oil, to cook vegetables for more flavor, to start a homemade soup, or in place of butter or oil when a recipe says to sauté in oil.

    Store extra stocks (or broths) frozen in an ice cube tray to punch out 2 tablespoons whenever needed. You also can buy canned broth. For beef or fish, try stock base. They’re superconcentrated, and you must add water to them before use. Look for them in gourmet shops.

  • A selection of vinegars: Sherry, rice, raspberry, wine, and balsamic vinegar are all milder than acidic white or cider vinegar. To make a lowfat vinaigrette, cut back on oil as you do when you cook low-cal. But oil helps tame the punch of vinegar’s acid, making the dressing taste mellower. Therefore, you need a milder vinegar. Also consider using vinegar to sauté chicken breasts, or add a splash instead of fattening butter or cream sauces.

  • Hills of beans: You can keep beans dry and cook them or stock many different kinds in cans. Either way, beans can be pureed into sandwich spreads and dips, added to soups, and sprinkled on salads as a nearly fat-free yet protein-packed alternative to meats and cheeses.

  • Tomatoes galore: Take advantage of the variety of canned tomato products sprouting in the supermarket. Many of them are already seasoned, which is a time-cutting, but not calorie-building, bonus for you. Thicken them with a little cornstarch (about 1 teaspoon to an 8-ounce can) or reduce them simply by boiling, and you have the start of a sauce for pasta, vegetables, grilled fish, or chicken.

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