Hi there! Today I am going to share with you 20 kitchen and healthy eating hacks to help you improve your nutrition and simplify your daily cooking. These hacks are favorites of mine and I am so excited to share them with you. I hope these little tips and tricks motivate you to nourish yourself, be more adventurous in the kitchen, and simplify your healthy lifestyle. If you’re more of a visual person, check this article’s youtube video, right here!:
Learn to love zucchini
Zucchini is high in antioxidants – which offer protection against the damaging caused by free radicals and contain insoluble and soluble fiber – that aids the good functioning of your gut. Zucchini is one of those vegetables that we can add to almost any preparation to improve the nutritional profile of that dish and add volume without adding calories… This is particularly useful for those looking to lose weight or control their appetite. It’s also perfect for my picky eaters who want to eat more veggies without noticing them. I like to add it shredded to my oatmeal, burgers, muffins, waffles, or pancakes, frozen to smoothies, laminated to lasagnas, stuffed with vegetable proteins or legumes then baked, to soups, or spiralized as noodles. Because of its texture and mild flavor, the possibilities are endless.
By buying frozen foods not only do you prevent food waste but you might also increase the nutritional content of your meals. This happens because frozen produce is often harvested at peak ripeness and frozen within hours to lock in nutrients until it’s ready to eat. On the other hand, some fresh varieties, especially if they’re traveling from overseas, are picked long before they ripen and the ripening happens in transit, meaning that they’re not as fresh as you’d think.
Spice it up
Although coffee in itself is healthy, it can get pretty harmful in a snap. When we start adding to it large amounts of sugar, creams, and syrups, our coffee might go from 0 to 400 or 500 calories in a minute, which is basically the caloric amount of an average balanced lunch or dinner. So I try to have my coffee black, and most of the times I skip all the extras but I like to add to it some cinnamon or cocoa powder cause they add it a hint of sweetness without adding any sugars or artificial sweeteners and also add some more phytochemicals, that are compounds found in plants that might be beneficial to your health.
Pinterest is an incredible resource to find new healthy and delicious recipes. Make a board with must-try meals so you know where to look at when your creativity fails you. I like to keep my boards divided by categories like breakfast, salads, beverages, so it’s easier to find a certain recipe.
The perimeter myth
If you ever heard you should only shop the perimeter of the grocery store, maybe you should reconsider it. By skipping the middle aisles of the grocery store you’ll probably miss highly nutrient-dense foods like whole-grains, dry and canned legumes, nuts and seeds, canned goods like tomato paste or olives, spices, and dried herbs… But a piece of advice you could keep is to skip the processed snacks, sodas, and candy aisles, so you don’t have to depend again on your willpower not to take this product home.
Make smart Swaps
No, I will not tell you to swap a slice of cake for an apple. Have your piece of cake without guilt if you really feel like it. But if you want or need to cut on fats and sugars or want to avoid less nutritious foods, there are plenty of swaps you can make that will actually satisfy you. If you are craving some crisps or chips, for example, you probably want something crunchy, salty and that entertains you for a bit. So why not try and substitute them for some salty popcorns, some roasted chickpeas, roasted edamame, or some seasoned lupin beans? Instead of a fruit juice go for whole fresh fruit and an infused water that you can make with sliced fruits, with the fruit peel or fresh herbs. Instead of sweetened yogurt with fruit pulp, go for a natural yogurt with some fresh fruit and some seeds or whole cereals – you’ll have approximately the same calories, but half the sugar and way more nutrients. Another option is to have some avocado instead of your store-bought mayo… These are just some examples but the options are endless.
Build your repertoire
Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel each week, have a list of healthy recipes that you know your family will enjoy. If you’re not used to cooking healthy meals, grab your favorite recipes, and try to make a healthier version of them before jumping on completely new preparations. This will make the adherence to your new healthy lifestyle easier, and with time you can get more adventurous in the kitchen. To increase your arsenal of healthy recipes, aim to try to cook a new recipe every week.
Learn how to make a few sauces
To replace your store-bought dressings and to make your healthy dishes way tastier, try simple, healthy, and easy to make combinations like maple syrup, lemon, and mustard or sun-dried tomatoes and olive oil or even basil, pine nuts, and olive oil pesto. This way you will have more nutrients, you’ll control the quality and amount of added sugars, sodium, and oils, and skip the artificial flavors and preservatives that you find in most store-bought sauces.
Decode your food’s sugar content
You’re going to love this trick. Do you ever look at a nutritional label, see the number of sugars and just end up not know if it’s an acceptable amount of sugar or if it is too much? That happens to me sometimes and one thing that helps me a lot is to divide the sugars by 4 to visualize how many teaspoons of sugar I have in my product. So in a glass of orange juice, for example, you can have 30g of sugars – dividing that 30g of sugars, you’ll know that glass of juice has 7 and a half tsp of sugar. This is an easier way to visualize and evaluate, right?
Decode your food’s fat content
Just like we do with sugar, the same goes for the amount of fat, but instead of dividing the fat content by 4, just divide it by 5. For example, in a bowl of potato chips, you can have almost 20g of oil, which means you’ll ingest 4 tsp of fat. Of course, there are lots of super wholesome foods that naturally contain a high amount of good fats like avocado, olives, or dark chocolate but this is a topic for another video. So this method is particularly useful when you’re trying to evaluate the fat content of processed foods, especially if they’re products rich in saturated and trans fats or refined vegetable oils rich in omega 6 fat.
Get the most out of your flaxseeds
Although flaxseeds are rich in omega 3, antioxidants, fiber, and protein, whole flax seeds have a tough outer hull that doesn’t fully break down in your gut. So to get the most benefits, you should try to eat them ground. You can grind your own flaxseeds at home in a blender or food processor or in a spice or coffee grinder. After ground, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week and grind them only as needed to prevent oxidation.
Out of plant milk? This is an awesome trick if you’re out of plant milk and don’t have the time to soak the nuts or oats to prepare your plant-milk. You’ll only need to blend one cup of water and one full tablespoon of nut butter in a blender or food processor, and that’s it! You can add a drizzle of maple syrup or one or two dates to sweeten a little bit and a pinch of salt or cinnamon to enhance the flavors. Enjoy! (ps: take into account that this milk will be a little bit more caloric than your regular plant milk, but it will also be more nutritious and filling.
Store your peanut butter jar upside down…
… to make it easier to stir. When you use it, the oil will mix more easily with the butter and the solid components will not settle to the bottom as easily. You just have to be extra careful when opening the jar, so you don’t make a total mess in your kitchen.
Squeeze the day
Get more juice out of your citrus fruits by microwaving them for 8 seconds and then rolling them against the counter with your hand. Then just squeeze them as you would normally do.
Vegan egg whites
If you want a vegan substitute for egg whites, try using aquafaba, the liquid from a can of chickpeas. You can use it unwhipped or whipped to substitute whipped egg whites. It is perfect to make vegan mayo, waffles, pancakes, meringues, or loaves. Usually, 3 tablespoons of aquafaba will substitute an egg white, but this amount will also depend on your aquafaba’s consistency.
Microwave your potatoes
This is a trick I’ve been using regularly for years – when I am short on time I microwave whole potatoes and sweet potatoes for faster cooking. Just make sure you pick a few holes on the skin to create a vent for the steam to escape, otherwise, it can explode on your microwave. Depending on the size and density of your potato, cooking times will vary. I start with 3 or 4 minutes, then I flip it and keep adding 3 minutes of cooking time, adding more time as necessary to get the perfect tenderness. You can then peel them (if I am cooking white potatoes I’ll normally have them with the skin), chop them and sauté them in a dash of olive oil, crushed garlic, and herbs.
Know your avocados
Oh, avocados… One minute they’re a hard rock, next minute a rotten mess. This is the trick I usually use to see if they’re good to eat. Try to take off the stem. If it comes off easily and the inside is green, it’s good to eat. But if the stem is difficult to remove, it’s probably not ripe. If the inside is brown, it’s probably way too ripe. If you need to quickly ripen your avocado, put it in a brown paper bag with a fruit that naturally produces ethylene, like an apple or banana. Depending on the ripeness of your avocado, it can ripen overnight, so check on it daily.
Soak your brown rice
Brown rice has the husk removed, but not the bran layer. This bran layer is what gives the rice its fiber and adds to its fantastic nutritious profile. But… that intact fibrous layer requires a longer cooking time in order to become tender. So to speed up the process let your brown rice soak for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Peeling garlic hacks
Now, who doesn’t like to peel garlic cloves? So there you go 3 tricks to make things a lot easier. First one: microwave your garlic cloves for 20 seconds to make the peeling easier. Second: crush the garlic clove with peel in the garlic crusher the peel will get out intact. Third and last trick: press the clove with a big knife against your cutting board. The peel will come out super easily.
Peel potatoes after boiled
This is another trick that will save you a ton of time if you really want to peel your potatoes (and I would advise you not to, cause the skin is highly nutritious and contains a nice amount of fiber that you’ll throw to waste). Instead of peeling your potatoes when raw, use a knife to carefully and superficially slice through the peel around each raw potato. Now boil them as you would normally do, and once cooked, let them cool down a little bit, and then slip off the peels. Really, how much time do we save with this method? This is incredible. This method will work best with small potatoes, that cook faster.
Hope you enjoyed these tips and tricks and that they help you adopt positive changes in your healthy lifestyle. And as I still have lots of hacks that I would love to share with you let me know if you’d like to see a “part II” of this article (with another YouTube video). Love, Ana 💛