Healthy Cooking Tips for Weight Loss in 2021

Cooking for yourself is a great way to save time and money, eat healthier, and more efficiently manage your weight. When making meals and snacks at home, you can control what ingredients you use while adjusting recipes to meet your taste and nutritional needs. Here are 4 healthy cooking tips to increase your satisfaction while boosting your nutrition and the quality of your meals!

4 Healthy Cooking Tips

1. Add More Healthy Fats

It’s a common misconception that adding fats to your meals makes you gain weight. The opposite is actually true –– fats help keep you full longer, manage appetite, and promote weight loss. Fatty acids (FA) are formed after consuming and digesting fats and have been shown to reduce weight. In an article by Shatha Hammand and Peter Jones, authors stated that “[u]nsaturated FA, polyunsaturated FA (PUFA) and monounsaturated FA (MUFA), have been found to suppress appetite as well as increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation rate, therefore, induce favorable effects on regional and total fat mass” (1). Rather than restricting and eliminating fats from your diet, add ingredients high in healthy fat to your meals and snacks! 

- Use extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) to saute vegetables or drizzle over pasta dishes and salads
-Mash up an avocado and use it as a spread or dip
-Add nuts or nut butter into oatmeal and smoothies

2. Incorporate Fruits and Vegetables into Meals

Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins and antioxidants, providing the body with many health benefits. Additionally, getting in a significant amount of fruits and vegetables has been shown to lead to weight loss. Researchers Mark Dreher and Nikki Ford mentioned in an article that “data from 12 primary RCTs [randomized controlled trials]...support a role for the increased intake of FV to reduce body weight, BMI, waist, and hip circumference, or body fat in overweight or obese premenopausal women compared to a variety of control diets” (2). Based on this study, adding more fruits and vegetables to your regular diet can lead to weight loss. Start eating more fruits and veggies today!

-Add fruits and vegetables into salads, smoothies, and baked goods
-Make vegetable scrambles, stir frys, fried rice, or pizza
-Add fruit into oatmeal, in pancakes, or on top of yogurt.

3. Cook With Whole Grains

High in fiber and nutrients, whole grains are a healthier alternative to refined grains. Additionally, whole grains have been proven to help reduce body fat and weight. In a study by Henrik Munch Roager et al., researchers experimented with comparing the weight changes of participants who consumed refined grains with participants who consumed whole grains. Study conductors found that “[t]he effects on inflammation and body weight were the net result of the refined grain diet increasing weight and inflammatory markers and the whole grain diet reducing these parameters” (3). Simply swapping out refined grains for whole grains may help reduce inflammation and weight gain.

-Use brown rice to make fried rice, Spanish rice, or risotto
-Use whole wheat bread for toast and sandwiches
-Cook with whole grain pasta
-Make oatmeal or overnight oats

4. Make Food That You Enjoy

Eating food that makes you happy is the key to having a healthy diet and relationship with food. If you constantly restrict yourself from foods that you want, you might end up binge eating or overeating later on, resulting in weight gain. Having a balanced diet and making food that you enjoy is beneficial to you mentally and physically. Rather than obsessing over food and always eating healthy, eat foods that give you nutrition AND foods that provide you with happiness!

-Bake your favorite sweet treats if that’s what you’re craving!
-Make hearty meals and comfort foods if you’re feeling extra hungry!

The Bottom Line

Cooking nutritious meals for weight loss does not have to consist of cutting out oils, avoiding carbohydrates, or being overly cautious about the ingredients you use. Making balanced meals utilizing a variety of ingredients will supply you with nutrients and make you feel satiated after eating. Follow these tips, try cooking at home every day for a week (without ordering any takeout or delivery), and see if you feel any different! You might grow a passion for cooking nutritious homemade meals and never go back to ordering food again!

Written by Cameron Kao

Reviewed by Kelly Powers, MA, RDN, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who takes a holistic approach to nutrition and health. Kelly is a recipe developer with a food blog highlighting whole foods, simple recipes, and her life in San Francisco. She’s the creator of 52 Weeks, a weekly meal plan program that helps users get back in the kitchen and feed themselves well. Kelly is also a co-founder of Olivaio.

Image Credits:

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Which oil is the healthiest to cook with?
A: Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is a pure and unprocessed oil that contains many nutrients and healthy fats. Additionally, EVOO has been shown to have many health benefits, help with weight loss, and elevate flavors in any recipe!

Q: If I cook and eat unhealthy foods one day, should I try to limit my calorie intake and eat healthier the next day?
A: No, you should not feel guilty or feel the need to limit your calorie intake after eating unhealthy foods. After eating unhealthy foods, just eat how you would typically eat (ideally consuming consistent and satiating meals and snacks throughout the day). Eating unhealthy food one day does not mean that you will gain weight the next day! Make sure to balance your diet and incorporate foods that make you feel happy!

Q: How can I make whole grains (such as brown rice and oatmeal) taste better?
A: Add seasonings, spices, and other flavorful ingredients to whole grains. For brown rice, you can add soy sauce, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), garlic powder, or even cook it in chicken broth. You can add in honey or maple syrup, nut butter, and/or fruit (berries, diced apples, etc.) for oatmeal.