Yo, wannabe Bobby Flay or Rachael Ray—you don’t need a culinary degree, a fancy kitchen or a show on The Food Network to be a good cook. The key to cooking more delicious food—without adding extra pounds or unwanted belly fat—is all in the prep. That’s why our researchers at Eat This, Not That! reached out to the world’s hottest food bloggers for tips on how to improve your clean eating routine.
Their advice will add flavor and nutrients and save you time and money—follow it to achieve your best body in no time! And while we have you, why not see if your current culinary skills are up to par by checking out our list of 30 Kitchen Skills Everyone Should Know by 30?!
MASSAGE THE KALE
Kale is one of the healthiest greens there is, it’s beaming with nutrients that ward off inflammation and crush fatigue. Although it may be one of the best veggies for your body, it has a tough texture and not always appetizing flavor that can lead you to avoiding the leaf and all it’s powers. But before nixing kale from your diet try this tip from Amy Sowder of Chowhound who suggests massaging it with olive oil, lemon and salt to break down the cellulose structure for a softer bite and always remember to remove the dense stems.
The most satisfying smoothies—like those in the new bestseller Zero Belly Smoothies— are refreshing, thick and filled with energy-enhancing ingredients that’ll keep you full. Samantha Rowland of the blog Pancake Warriors says that a simple way to get just this is by adding chia or flax seeds to your mix for a thicker texture. Not only do these little fiber-filled seeds add some substance, they also provide omega-3s. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids can help blast belly fat, strengthen your heart and keep your skin glowing.
AVOID WATERY ZOODLES
Zucchini noodles (also referred to as zoodles) are rising in popularity as more and more diets are skimping on starchy carbs like pasta. But excess moisture can cause it to become soggy with way too much liquid. Liz from I Heart Vegetables recommends cooking the noodles until there is still a slight crunch and letting them sit in a colander with a sprinkle of salt for 10 minutes before adding anything else to the mix. And then keep the carbs coming! Lose weight eating pasta using these 25 Best Carbs for Weight Loss!
MAKE FLUFFY QUINOA
Quinoa has always been an Eat This, Not That! superfood, and now the world knows about it, too. Rich in fiber and protein, this little grain packs in some major benefits that can be eaten anytime of the day. To get the right consistency, Kathy from Healthy Happy Life says to wash the quinoa first, use less water than the box recommends for cooking (1 part quinoa to 1 ½ parts water) and to leave the quinoa to cook without touching it once you’ve closed the lid. This will tend to its texture and create a fluffy quinoa] that strays far from mush.
USE FLAVOR ENHANCERS
One genius way to reap max flavor without adding unnecessary calories, fat and sugar is to use spices. Lauren from Oatmeal With A Fork loves doubling up on the amounts of cinnamon, pie spice and vanilla recommended so she can avoid using sugar. Let the natural flavors of these additions do their work and find just as much taste that you would without all the lackluster effects that come from refined ingredients.
COMBINE THE RIGHT FOODS
Two foods that are individually rich in vitamins and nutrients are bound to create a health-benefiting powerhouse duo when they’re combined! But, there are specific combinations that can be better than others. Pure Ella explains that foods like tomatoes and avocados, lemons and leafy greens, and black pepper and turmeric are all great pairs to indulge in together. And it’s not just for their properties, they taste delicious together too!
PERFECT YOUR POTATO
When you’re in the mood for a classic, hearty baked potato Gimme Some Oven insists there is only one type of spud to choose- Russets. These potatoes form a crispy skin and cloud-like filling that also happen to be the cheapest one out there! Her added tip is to brush on oil with salt and pepper halfway through the baking process (450 degrees for 45-55 minutes). This makes the skins perfectly crunchy with a soft buttery inside. For other sneaky ways to melt fat fast, don’t miss these 20 Weight Loss Tricks You Haven't Tried.
GET THE RIGHT EGGPLANT
Picking an eggplant may seem like an easy task, but there’s more too it than you might think! Depending on the meal you're planning to make, your perfect eggplant will depend on a variety of factors. The Minimalist Baker says to buy a narrow eggplant when you’re looking to get it crisp. The bigger ones don’t get that same texture you’d be looking for. She also recommends browning the eggplant in a skillet with oil in addition to just the oven in order to get the best crispiness.
USE NATURAL SWEETENERS
The blogger behind Simply Quinoa is used to making delicious treats with the addition of quinoa. Since quinoa doesn’t have a sweet flavor, we assume the dessert recipes might get a little tougher to develop. She gives us the helpful suggestion for baking her Quinoa Muffins with bananas to get a natural sweetness or a few drops of stevia. You can apply this tip to most of your healthified sweet treats since bananas are naturally sweet and stevia won’t effect that calorie or sugar content, but still gives that sweet taste you’re looking for.
CRISP YOUR CHICKEN
There is nothing quite like a roasted chicken with a perfectly crisp crust. Chicken is loaded with lean protein and can absorb almost any flavoring you choose to give it. But in order to get that outer skin just right Kathi from the Laughing Spatula says to make sure to pat a rinsed chicken completely dry with paper towels to achieve that crispy crust.
USE HEALTHY FATS
Healthy fats come from food sources like avocados, nuts, coconuts and beans. Begin Within Nutrition says we should be adding these to our meals to feel full without indulging in sugar. This will keep the cravings away and satisfy all your tastebuds without worrying about the repercussions that come from refined sugars. Think: glowing skin, more energy and a clearer head.
SPIRALIZE TOUGH VEGGIES
Ali, the creator of the Inspiralizer and blogger behind Inspiralized.com is undoubtly one of the best people to give us a few spiralizing tips. She suggests cutting the larger tough veggies in half to make the process more manageable and continue repositioning them to keep it centered. Vegetables like sweet potato and butternut squash can be a bit more difficult to turn to noodles, so put some elbow grease into it (and maybe get in an extra workout)! For other healthy body hacks, read on the these 44 Ways to Lose 4 Inches of Body Fat.
Planning is a huge part of staying on a healthy diet. No one ever regretted over-planning, right? Blogger Gina from Running to the Kitchen says that in order to stick to her plan, she likes to always have protein options stocked up in her freezer and always have something ready to grab for lunch like soups or salad greens. This way you know you don’t have to settle with eating out and know exactly what you’ll be chowing down on!
MealPrepMonday is not just a trendy hashtag that fitness fanatics are using, it’s a real way to stay on track of your diet with a week's worth of healthy dishes! Whether it be Monday or Saturday, you should always set aside a few hours of the week to prepare nutrient-dense meals that can be enjoyed at the ease of just opening your fridge! Nick Hounslow from the popular food blog, Damn Delicious, says you’ll need to choose your protein, carb, greens, healthy fats and cooking oil in order to get ready for the week ahead!
Traveling is one of the hardest times to avoid weight gain because you don’t want to constantly have to think about what you're eating and don’t have your own pantry and refrigerator filled with healthy snacks right in front of you. The best way to fix this before it breaks is to bring healthy snacks along for the ride. VeguKate says packing pre-made goodies like almond butter sandwiches, bliss balls and veggies with hummus are a fiber-filled way to stay on track!
DON’T BREAK THE BANK
You know you want to eat healthy, wholesome food but are a bit intimidated by the money you think you’re about to spend. You’re not alone. Eating healthy may sound like it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg, but there’s an easy way to steer clear of that! Simple Green Moms says to shop in season, make homemade marinades and dressings, and buy foods that you can use for multiple meals like eggs, peppers and onion, rice or chicken. For more sure-fire ways to lose your belly, don’t miss these 50 Best Ever Weight-Loss Secrets From Skinny People.
STORE YOUR FOOD PROPERLY
One of the most important parts of keeping food as fresh as possible is the way you store it. The blogger, Recipe Runner, gives the lowdown on how freezing things like her Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins in individually wrapped plastic in a single layer in a freezer bag. When you’re ready to eat just pull them out and let it defrost. Freezing food saves you from wasting anything and lets you continue enjoying treats like these for even longer.
BULK-PREP HEALTHY LUNCHES
Lunch can be a difficult time of the day to get in all your vital nutrients to keep you full. Whether it’s because you were too rushed to pack a hearty salad or you’re scheduled for a lunch with your coworkers, there is always a way to stay healthy. A suggestion from Oh My Veggies is to bulk-prep meals like burritos, soups, stews or wraps and stash them in the freezer. These come in handy when you haven’t had time to make a fresh meal ahead of time and need something that you know won’t leave you rushing to the vending machine. And don’t stop there—melt even more fat using these 50 Best Weight Loss Tips—Ever
Garlic is a necessary ingredient in tons of savory foods. And while it packs in a bold flavor and even some health-beneficial properties, the smell of these little guys will stick to you for days on end, no matter how many times to rinse, lather, repeat. Jessica from Clean Green Simple says that after chopping garlic, dunk your fingers in a bowl of salt and scrub it around. Rinse the salt off and voila, the stink should be gone!
PREP THE FOOD BEFORE A PARTY
You’ve been running around the kitchen all day in preparation for a party, it’s time for you to enjoy it! Katie Jasiewicz from Katie’s Cucina shares the helpful tip for the key to being able to actually be a party of the party you’re throwing is to make sure as much food as possible is set and prepped before it’s time for guests to arrive.