Fittest Loser contestants learn tips for cooking and eating right
During the Fittest Loser Challenge, contestants put in many hours at the gym to transform their bodies, but the workouts alone don't account for their dramatic drop in weight.
Making significant changes to their eating habits plays a huge role in the double-digit weight loss many contestants have experienced.
Eating healthy starts with selecting the right ingredients at the grocery store. Joshua Steckler, owner of Push Fitness, led contestants on a grocery store tour at the beginning of the challenge to increase their knowledge of healthy foods and give them tips on how to stock their carts.
A few weeks ago, competitors had the pleasure of attending a cooking class led by students at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire to learn how to turn those basic ingredients into healthy and delicious meals.
Sara Lohrmann, a family and consumer sciences teacher at Stevenson, oversaw the cooking demonstration.
In addition to showing competitors how to cook several healthy options -- and sending them home with enough food to make multiple dishes in their own kitchens -- she shared her tips on how to make healthy cooking a part of everyday life. And it all starts with having the right ingredients, both in your shopping cart and in your kitchen cabinets, she said.
For starters, Lohrmann believes in eating whole foods, which have no additives or artificial substances and have been processed as little as possible. These items are available at the store, but you must know where to look.
Lohrmann, like Steckler and many others, encouraged individuals to shop the perimeter of the grocery store where they'll find fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy snacks like raw nuts, lean meats and fresh seafood.
"Stock your fridge, pantry, and freezer with fresh and healthy options," Lohrmann said.
Lohrmann said it's important to add a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to your cart. The more colors you have, the more nutrients you're getting.
She recommends stocking your kitchen with grapes, oranges, and apples for fruits that offer a sweet taste and nutritional benefits. Vegetables to have on hand include a variety of greens, carrots, tomatoes, and red and green peppers, all of which can be used in salads, soups, and side dishes.
If you're strategic about your shopping, Lohrmann said it's possible to buy groceries only once per week. When stocking your kitchen and cooking for the week remember to:
• Cook in bulk. When you're cooking, make enough for several meals. For example, don't only grill one chicken breast for dinner. Grill two or three. Eat one right away and save the other two pieces for additional dinners or chop one breast up to add to a salad for lunch.
• Make ingredients do double duty. When purchasing ingredients, think about the different ways they can be used. For example, carrots can be eaten as a stand alone snack, used as a salad topping, or made as a side dish. Stock up on as many of these items as possible.
• Pick a base for the week. Lohrmann has a salad for lunch every day and a few hacks make creating this daily meal a breeze.
Start by buying a large container of lettuce at the beginning of the week and making a week's worth of salad dressing on Sunday evening. Store both of these items in the refrigerator at work.
Purchase some of your favorite vegetable toppings, chop them up, and add them to your salad. If you have leftover protein from a previous night's dinner, toss that in as well.
With minimal effort, you now have a well-balanced meal that contains greens, lean protein, vegetables, and healthy fats (if you include an olive oil and vinegar dressing).
The same concept can be used with a different base ingredient, such as rice. Lohrmann also suggested having stock on hand to use as a base for soups.
Once you've stocked your kitchen with healthy ingredients that can be used in multiple ways and for multiple meals, you need to line your shelves with the proper equipment to cook your food.
Lohrmann recommended having these basic items in your kitchen to be able to whip up breakfast, lunch, and dinner:
• One pot and pan set
• One stock pot (large) for soups
• One cast iron pan that can be placed on the stove or in the oven to cook meats
• Cutting boards
• One set of knives
• Mixing bowls
• Measuring cups
• Wood spoons
• One masher (perfect for making mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower as a side dish)
• One peeler to peel the skin off certain foods
• Baking dishes in various sizes that can be used for casseroles, to cook meats, or make desserts occasionally
• A blender, which can be used to make smoothies and protein shakes as well as blend soups
With your fridge, pantry, and cabinets filled with supplies and whole foods, it's time to remember one of the most important healthy eating tips of all -- being mindful while eating.
"Recognize when you're hungry and what you're eating," Lohrmann said.
When possible, take your time with the cooking process and sit down to enjoy the fruits of your labor by mindfully eating your meal.
Once you stock your kitchen with healthy options and take the time to pay attention to what you're cooking and eating, you'll be well on your way to transforming your nutrition.
• To see the Fittest Loser contestants' latest weight stats, visit pushfitnesstraining.com/fittest-loser/
Tips for eating outHome-cooked meals are excellent options for those trying to watch their wallets and their waistlines, but dining out is inevitable from time to time. Still want to make healthy eating a priority when eating out? Follow these tips:
• Look for scratch kitchens. Lohrmann recommended seeking out restaurants that use whole foods in their recipes and make everything, or nearly everything, from scratch.
• Check the menu out in advance. Many restaurants post their menus online. Lohrmann encourages people to check them out ahead of time. Not only can this help determine if the establishment is one you'd like to dine at, it gives patrons plenty of time to review menu items in detail and select the healthiest options for them. Picking a few options ahead of time decreases the chances you'll make an impulse decision and choose a less healthy option once you're there.
• Skip the appetizers. Appetizers can be enticing, but Lohrmann said they're not always the healthiest options. Plus, filling up on appetizers can you leave you too full to enjoy the healthy entree you've selected. If you need to nibble before dinner arrives, she suggested ordering a salad. Request an olive oil and vinegar dressing instead of other dressing options, which can be high in calories.
• Save dessert. A little dessert isn't bad, but Lohrmann said it's not necessary to order it every time you eat out. Save dessert for special occasions or the nights you really want to enjoy something sweet.