Fast and Easy Low Calorie Meals
Help for Moms Like Me!
Have trouble eating right? Me too. Life with my 5 kids is very busy. Too often, I won't prepare the right foods I need to keep my weight down. Finally, I decided I needed to make some changes. Here 5 tips that helped me lose 50 pounds and keep it off:
1. Make a Plan
Eating low-fat and low-calorie meals can't happen if you just shop, cook and eat the way you did before. So the first thing to do is to plan what you are going to buy and eat.
You might want to follow one of the healthy diet plans available. Many of them are online and free. I've used both MyFitnessPal (free online), SHEDD (book) and Naturally Slim (paid for by my work). Whatever plan you choose, be sure to make a commitment to keep up the plan for at least 10 weeks. After losing 50 pounds over a 2 year period and keeping it off for another 4 years, I know I need to continue in a lifestyle of good eating so I don't regain that weight.
Healthy Eating Survey
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2. Shop for Low-Calorie Substitutes
Since part of my goal has been not only to get in better shape myself but to help my family eat better, I wanted to see if there were some easy substitute foods that I could switch out for the whole family.
One food I switched was bread. I started buying Nature's Own bread, which has some varieties which are much lower in calorie but the same size and taste as any other bread. Even though we were previously all white bread eaters, my family has not really protested at switching to lower calorie, all wheat bread. I also switched to buying Turkey bacon, fat-free cheese, and fat-free butter. I also use sprinkles of cinnamon sugar and parmesan cheese on fat-free butter as an alternative to regular butter.
Quick Diet Skillet Pizza or FajittasClick thumbnail to view full-size
3. More Veggies, Less Fat & Sugar
More Vegetables: Copying from the idea of the book where a mom hides vegetables in lots of things including brownies, I've tried to put more vegetables in lots of different things. For example, I cooked and mashed a variety of squash, carrots, and other vegetables and then added them to soups and bottled spaghetti sauce. I was surprised at how well my kids ate the sauce and I actually liked it better than the plain kind.
Less Sugar: My next quest has been to find ways to cook things we like differently so that they are healthier. Sometimes that means using a sugar substitute. I've really been surprised at how Stevia and some of the newer substitutes taste pretty good. You might want to try using those in one of your favorite recipes, or try cutting the sugar in half, or using fruit to sweeten instead of sugar. Applesauce works well in some recipes too.
Less Fat: My current favorite cooking technique is using those non-stick sprays, especially the butter flavored ones, for cooking instead of oil. I've been really surprised at how well this works. I make some Potstickers, Wontons, and Egg rolls this way, and they are excellent. In fact, I was surprised because the Egg Rolls were mostly made of chopped up vegetables my kids won't usually eat, but they gobbled them up. Me too! Best of all, I've found you can freeze these and then take them out and cook them quickly.
You can use my recipes or look online for versions of your favorites that use healthier ingredients or less fat and sugar or try making healthy versions of your family favorites.
4. Plan Your Menu
One thing that has really helped me out is to plan out a menu so that I know what I'm cooking that week and can be sure I keep easy and healthy things in stock. Here are some of my favorites that anyone can make, even my older kids:
- Hamburger: Everyone likes a burger, but this All-American treat does not have to be full of fat. For a fast meal, I use frozen ready cooked Turkey or low-fat Hamburgers. Or I buy 97% fat-free hamburgers to cook myself on the grill or in a pan. To keep the calories down, I use small buns. This can be a great, fast meal for under 250 calories. For gourmet taste, I use slices of pineapple, Turkey bacon, and Teriyaki sauce and/or sauteed mushrooms with fat-free cheese to make this a special burger.
- Panini or Grilled Sandwich: My mom got me a panini maker, so I often use this for sandwiches. I like sourdough, low-fat ham, and Swiss with honey mustard. Makes a quick dinner.
- Salads to Go: I love a salad but often don't take the time to make them. However, I've found that I can make salads ahead of time and that works so much better for me. To keep them fresh, put a wet paper towel on top of the salad and then cover with plastic wrap. The lettuce really freshens up and stays crisp for even two days.
- Skillet Pizza (or in an oven): To make a quick individual pizza, put a flat bread or low-calorie tortilla in a skillet, put on the sauce and non-fat cheese, with either low fat Turkey pepperoni or chopped leftover chicken or low-fat ham on top. Cook on a low heat until the cheese is melted. Slide on a plate and cut slices. Depending on your ingredients, you can have a very tasty meal for 200-300 calories.
- Skillet Fajita: Same idea as the pizza, but put on chopped low-fat meat, beans, salsa, non-fat cheese, non-fat sour cream. After cooking and sliding on a plate, add lettuce and tomatoes.
- Soups: I love a good soup with bread for lunch. I like to make home made soup, but to save time, I often find a good store bought soup and then add more vegetables to it like sauteed mushrooms, a can of tomatoes, onions, navy beans, green beans or corn. I also will often fry up some onions and red peppers to add to a soup or even some carrots. I eat a bowl of soup with two pieces of bread with no fat butter and parmesan cheese.
5. Keep Healthy Snacks Available
Perhaps the best things I've done in my supermarket scans is found some snack foods that I keep on hand all the time which I like. One of the things which make dieting work for me is to make sure that if I really feel hungry I eat something. If I have something on hand which is fast but not too many calories, then I can keep myself from grabbing something I shouldn't eat.
I've found that if I put some of these out on the kitchen table, everyone tends to reach first because they are available. After a trip to Costa Rica, I started to serve fruit sliced on a plate like we had eaten there and everyone loves it. I use whatever fruit is in season and have it on the table almost every afternoon.
Here are some of my favorite healthy snacks:
- Sugar-free pudding (60-70 calories)
- apple slices
- fat-free yogurt (check calorie counts! Get one which is 70-90)
- no fat, no sugar granola (see my homemade recipe)
- Granny Smith Apple Sauce (lower in calories but better taste)
- pretzel sticks (I often eat these with one of the above)
- apple slices (Honey Crisp Apples are fantastic and don't get brown when you slice them)
- canned mandarin oranges
- granola bars (lots of different kinds, look at calories)
- cereal (check calories): mix with raisins, dried cranberries, and mini-marshmallows
- fat-free sliced cheese (with low-fat ham) layer, roll up and slice
I found the above video that suggests meal prepping and storing in containers ahead of time. I do that for lunches and think it is a great idea. I bet my readers have some ideas for how to make fast and easy diet meals. I'd love to know your tips! Share them in the comments.