We're always on the look-out for healthy recipes that will help keep those extra pounds at bay.
But in our enthusiasm to discover zero-cal fruit juices and fat-free desserts, we often overlook a few common sense tips that can bring down the calorific value of everyday food significantly.
So the next time you gear up to forego dinner in favour of a watery soup and itt-bitty salad, try going the wholesome route instead -- incorporate these healthy cooking tips into your everyday recipes:
Use the right kind of cooking oil
Sure, everyone loves deep-fried potato chips, but we don't like the high cholesterol and fat levels that go with them, do we? Which is why the cooking oil you use is of paramount importance. As far as possible, substitute rich, unhealthy oils with low-fat options like olive or canola oil in as many recipes as you can.
Moreover, free your food of excessive oil before consumption; either drain it or then use tissues or blotting paper to absorb the excess.
Cut down on salt intake
Now how do you do that without affecting the flavour of your food? It's easy. For practically any given recipe, you can use only half the amount of salt required and substitute the other half with a quantity of flavour-filled herbs or spices of your choice -- thyme, oregano, rosemary, chillie powder, to name a few.
When it comes down to things, remember that roasting and grilling are always preferable to a fat-soaked frenzy of frying. These preparation methods are far healthier and lower in fat content.
If you need to bring out the frying pan, use a non-stick one which can help eliminate cooking oil from your recipe; stir-frying is another lean alternative.
Also, steam vegetables instead of boiling them; you'll preserve their nutritional content better.
Ditch refined grain
Replace a few of the ingedients from any recipe with whole instead of refined grain -- whole cornmeal, brown rice, oatmeal and whole wheat flour are all healthy alternatives. Whole grain is also a rich source of fibre.
Choose your meats well
Non-vegetarians, keep in mind that white meat (chicken and fish) is healthier than red (beef, pork etc), so try to consume less of the latter. When you're choosing cuts of meat, remember to pick out the leaner parts -- in lamb, for example, spareribs and mince are far fattier than sirloin and shank.
Also, it's important to trim any fat from the meat in your recipe -- doing so will significantly reduce the amount you're consuming.
Low fat dairy products
Wherever possible, substitute low-fat dairy products for the calorie-rich ones -- skimmed milk instead of whole, cottage cheese instead of regular, margarine instead of butter, low-fat yoghurt instead of regular -- the choices are endless. Drizzle your salads with a mix of vinegar and olive oil, or use low-fat mayonnaise -- you can just buy it of the shelf.
Try to opt for as many fruit-centric desserts as possible -- they're healthier than sinful chocolate preparations any day of the week. Poached pears with low fat ice-cream and fresh berries topped with yoghurt are a couple of examples.
Do you have more tips to share with other readers on how to make everyday recipes healthier? Post them on the messageboard below.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh