“Pasta doesn’t make you fat. How much pasta you eat makes you fat”- Giada De Laurentiis.
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind about losing weight? Head to the gym, restrict your diet to salads and smoothies or fitting into that slim-fit dress which has been lying there at the back of your wardrobe? All of the above make sense but they are secondary. First and foremost, the success of any weight loss plan depends on how well organised and prepared you are, as we saw earlier in How to mentally prepare yourself for successful weight loss. That’s what genuine weight loss experts would tell you too.
Though diet and exercise go hand in hand in a weight loss regime, once you organise and plan your diet, it is more than half the battle won. It might be a struggle for the first few weeks, but eventually, it becomes second nature and you don’t even have to try hard. Research shows that it takes 3 to 4 weeks to change or develop a habit. So be patient.
So, how do you plan and organise your meals on a daily basis so that you can shed those extra pounds? Even if you’re not so interested in cooking, the following tips will help you reduce the time and energy spent in the kitchen and at the same time cook healthy meals that can help you lose weight.
Healthy eating and cooking start with shopping for groceries. Have a master list which you can refer to whenever you shop. You can either plan meals for an entire week and list down the ingredients or if you’re a bit more creative and adventurous in the kitchen, you can just buy whatever ingredients you find fresh and of good quality and then plan your meals based on what you bought.
Other than unprocessed, natural items like fresh vegetables and fruits, meat, fish, eggs, etc. the essential stuff your list should have are dried herbs and spices and frozen meat and vegetables. So even if your vegetable tray gets empty faster than you had anticipated (and it’s going to happen quite often since you’ll be preparing a lot of salads, soups and smoothies), the frozen vegetables come in handy; they can be sauteed, roasted or boiled with spices and herbs of your choice. Frozen fruits and vegetables can also be used to make smoothies.
Must-have items in your kitchen
Any home cook will agree that the refrigerator is your best companion when it comes to meal prep. Not only cooked food but also condiments like fresh herbs, vegetable or meat stock, marinades, dressings and flavouring agents can be frozen so that they last longer.
Prepare your own salad dressings so that you know exactly what goes into your salad. Various herbs (mint, cilantro, basil, parsley) and spices (pepper, cumin, paprika, coriander) can be chopped fine or crushed respectively, steeped in olive oil and stored in separate bottles in the refrigerator.
3.Nuts, seeds and dried fruits
These adorable little wonders make excellent snacks, can be added to salads to give that delicious crunch, can be pureed with herbs and spices to make sauces or thicken soups and stews. What more, they have a long shelf life and do not generally require peeling or chopping. These are the must-have items when you’re on a weight loss diet.
Sun-dried tomatoes, pickles, olives, mustard (just plain mustard, not mustard sauce)and the like come in handy when you need some extra flavour or variety in your salad and pasta.
Another staple you ought to have in your kitchen. Use it to make sauces, dips with veggie sticks, fruit yoghurt, sprinkled with granola or eat as it is for a filling in-between-meal snack. It’s better to buy plain yoghurt and choose your own variation rather than the sweetened versions in the market.
6. Beans and lentils
Dried beans and lentils have quite a long shelf life and are excellent sources of protein. Dried beans need to be soaked overnight or a minimum of 8 hours before being cooked, while lentils can be cooked straight away. (I’m not a great fan of canned food, so I don’t recommend canned beans though it may be a bit more convenient). Add them to quinoa, salads or make soups. Or enjoy them by just cooking and seasoning with pepper, salt and any spice or herb of your choice. The above-mentioned flavoured oils may also be used for seasoning.
Now you’re all set to cook and eat healthy meals. The above tips will help you to always stay on track, even if you are tired, in a hurry or just too lazy to cook. The idea is to not remain hungry long enough for you to reach out for junk food or binge.