Whoever says you can't have good tasting food that is also really good for you has NO idea what they’re talking about. Too many people in the fitness industry think they have to eat bland, unadventurous, predictable meals. I completely beg to differ. Being into fitness and food are not incompatible. In fact, they can be the best of friends.
Here I will discuss some of the easiest things to adjust for a good diet, and are staples in a foodie's kitchen. They are easy to shop for, and apply to the cooking process: Fats, sugars, and salts.
Fats: The Nemesis
The buzz word that makes people shudder. Fat is a necessary nutrient, but what is good for you and best to cook with limits your options. Fear not, for here is a general rule: If the fat is solid at room temp (not solid from being in the fridge) avoid it entirely. Examples are butter (no apologies to Paula Deen), shortening (e.g. Crisco), and the worst of the worst, lard. These fats have no redeeming qualities. They are saturated, loaded with cholesterol, and have little to no omega 3s. So that narrows it down to the liquid fats, oils. Vegetable oil is shortening in liquid form, so avoid it. The oils that you should cook with come from fruits, believe it or not. Olive, flaxseed, and grape seed oils are the only oils I use. They are unsaturated and high in omega 3s, both are things that are good for you.
Olive oil is the most well-known, but it comes in two general types, "regular" and "extra virgin." The former is ideal for high temperature use, like searing, roasting, sautéing, etc. because it is sturdy and has a high smoke point. (Smoke point means the temperature at which the oil will ignite from the heat source, AKA a grease fire. The higher the smoke point the more heat you can put to it.) Extra virgin olive oil is ideal for raw use like marinades, dressings, etc. because of its light, fruity flavor. Its smoke point is rather low, so avoid using it with heat. Grape seed oil I find to be the best high temp use oil because it has scarcely any flavor, thus not altering the taste of the food itself, and a high smoke point.
Sugars: The Guilty Pleasure
I’m sure everyone else agrees, this is the hardest one to be free of. But don't worry, the general rule here is very simple, avoid refined white sugar and corn syrup. So what do you use when cooking? The answer is raw sugar. It is also called "turbinado." It is evaporated sugar cane juice, without any refinement. It is sugar it its most natural form. If you're looking for replacements, you can find them in honey, maple syrup, and agave syrup. These are all naturally sourced, unrefined sweeteners.
I personally prefer to use honey and maple. On the topic of maple, I am not referring to the Mrs. Butterworths, artificial, corn syrup nonsense. Maple syrup is actually a tree sap, and should say on the label "pure maple syrup" or something along those lines. Scott, being from New England, knows precisely what I am referring to. Agave syrup comes from the same plant as tequila believe it or not, but don't worry it isn't an intoxicant.
Salts: The Misunderstood
Salt is the most important ingredient in savory cooking. If your food is bland, it needs salt. But what kind of salt? Most people think of salt in the round container with the Morton's girl in the rain with her umbrella. That is refined salt. It is heavy with iodine and is the salt you should avoid. Any foodie will tell you that sea or Kosher salts are the best to cook with. Sea and Kosher salts are unrefined and naturally sourced. Regular table salt can be up to ten times more sodium intensive than natural salts because of the refinement process. That is bad news for your fitness diet. Another well-known salt is flour de sel. It is a finishing salt only, to be added after the dish is done cooking and needs a last bit of flavor punch.
I hope, my fellow Hermanites, that these few things helped to enhance your healthy cooking and eating lifestyle.
Eat well and train hard!
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