By Tonya Andruskiewicz, NLC
Let me guess: You are probably beginning to think about making changes to your diet soon. Yep, it’s resolution time. You know the best way to eat healthy is to make more meals at home, but cooking is still a little scary.
So now you are standing in your kitchen, wondering, “Where do I start? What do I need? How do I even do this?” I am here to help you get started.
First things first, your food storage areas need a break. Whether you are finally ditching processed foods, following a specific diet, or just trying to break in your dining table, it’s time to clean out your cupboards, refrigerator and freezer and start fresh (goodbye candy stash, so long Chinese takeout, farewell frozen pizzas!).
Next, make friends with some new appliances. You probably have the basic pots, pans, and spatulas covered already, but if you are looking for a couple of go-to gadgets, two of my favorites are the immersion blender and salad spinner.
- Immersion (or standing) blenders are the secret to easily pureeing soups and sauces, and of course, blending smoothies! A quick mid-week soup I like to make takes 10 minutes: Saute a small onion, then add 4 cups of chicken (or veggie) stock, a bag of frozen cauliflower, and a can of white beans. Simmer until the cauliflower is soft and then puree with your immersion blender. Done! Protein and veggies in one!
- A salad spinner doubles as a great colander for draining whole grain pasta or washing veggies in addition to drying your greens. And you might just be tempted to make more salads if you have a fun tool to use! Don’t forget to stock up on your favorite storage containers to preserve your leftovers. I prefer glass containers for storing, as they are microwave safe, and I can prep my leftovers for lunch the next day as I clean up my dinner.
Now it’s time to get spicy in the spice rack. A big part of healthy cooking is learning to use herbs and spices to bring out the flavor in food. Healthy food doesn’t have to be boring and bland!Start with dried herbs and spices and tailor your purchases to your personal tastes. My spice rack always includes:
- Onion and Garlic powders; the foundation of a “ranch” style veggie dip. Add a tsp of both onion and garlic powders and a pinch of salt and pepper to a 1 cup of greek yogurt, and you’ll have some happy veggies.
- Chili powder, paprika, and red pepper flakes make for a quick “Mexican” flavoring. Season your chicken breast with it and saute some onions and peppers for fast fajitas.
- Cinnamon is great for oatmeal, chia pudding, and plain yogurt. A shake of cinnamon and a drizzle of honey do wonders for all 3 of these items.
- Your go-to premixed seasoning mix. What flavors do you like? I keep grill seasoning on hand all the time, but lemon pepper or seafood seasoning are great for fish.
Then it’s time to hit the condiment rail in your fridge door. It’s important to remember that not all condiments are created equal and sugar tends to lurk in certain bottles (ketchup and bbq sauce, I’m looking at you!). But as I mentioned, flavor is important for staying on your healthful track, so choose wisely.
- Use 2 parts oil, to 1 part acid as a rule of thumb when getting creative in the kitchen with marinades and dressings. Olive, coconut and grapeseed are the basic oils to keep on hand. They are the healthiest of oils (hello Omega 3s) and provide a great base.
- Acids include: Vinegars (white wine, balsamic, apple cider), hot sauce, soy sauce, ketchup, mustard (grainy, Dijon, yellow) and barbeque sauce.
- Drizzles of things like jams, jellies, honey, maple syrup and peanut butter can help round out a sauce or dressing.
Here are a few of my favorite combos to mix with any base oil:
- Maple syrup & whole grain mustard – try it on salmon and Brussel sprouts
- Soy sauce & peanut butter – for Asian inspired chicken
- Raspberry jam & white wine vinegar – for a fruity salad dressing
Last, think inside the box, for your dry or canned goods. Try leftover brown rice or quinoa with milk and cinnamon for breakfast in place of oatmeal. Pre-cooked lentils and beans are great as a meat substitute (try using lentils in place of ground beef in your next casserole). Keep boxed (or canned) tomatoes (whole, diced, stewed, sauce), and stock (beef, chicken, vegetable) on hand so you always have a base for a quick soup.
Now that your kitchen is stocked with the tools to take charge of your diet, hit the bookstore or your favorite website to find a new recipe. Remember to keep variety in your diet, so that you stay interested in cooking. Theme nights (Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Stir-Fry Day) are a great way to force some creativity into the mix. Cooking takes practice, but I am confident you will discover that you enjoy some of your own creations more than eating out!
About Tonya: Tonya Andruskiewicz is a certified Fitness Chef, Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach. Her nutrition and wellness business, Dandy Life, brings healthy life lessons right to her clients’ living rooms. As a Fitness Chef she goes into clients’ kitchens and teaches them how to cook healthy, delicious food. Her sessions often include a short workout, a healthy snack lesson and a few tips on using essential oils in the home. In her free time, Tonya works a full time job, volunteers for the West Metro Miracle League, and teaches fitness classes to kids with disabilities. She is excited to take her Nutritious Life Certification and pay it forward with her brand new blog, The KitchGym.