Diet Conscious: How Do You Keep Daily Meals Healthy?

Trust us, we'd be cooking with cream and layering on the cheese every night if we could! But the alternative doesn't necessarily mean restricting ourselves to a diet of carrot sticks and poached chicken.

Here are a few health-conscious habits we've picked up over the years that help us balance healthy and hearty. What are yours?

For dishes that are big on flavor but low in calories, buy quality ingredients when you can. High quality means high flavor, and a little of these ingredients goes a long way.

A tablespoon of good olive oil has the same number of calories as a tablespoon of the supermarket brand, but chances are you'll need significantly less of the good olive oil to get the flavor you want. The same is true of cheese, chocolate, and even cured meats like salami and prosciutto.

Bulk up dishes with extra vegetables. When a recipe calls for a half an onion, throw in the whole thing. If a stir-fry already contains several different of vegetables, why not throw in that zucchini as well? Sauces in recipes will often stretch to cover the additional veggies, giving you extra vitamins without sacrificing flavor.

Use spices and seasonings liberally. We've found that many "lite" recipes seem to forget about seasoning, but healthy food doesn't have to taste bland. We find there's a definite correlation between how something tastes and how "full" or satisfied we feel after eating it--even if it's just a basic green salad with some herbs sprinkled in.

Check out our lists of Asian, Latin American, French, and Italian flavors for seasoning inspiration.

Don't forget to add the salt. With so many vegetables, a dish can easily start tasting bitter. A few teaspoons of salt can help balance the flavors. (Unless you need to follow a salt-restricted diet for health reasons, of course.)

Don't be shy of low-fat alternatives. These low-fat substitutes sometimes get a bad rap, but they have their time and place. While it's true that they're not as flavorful or rich as their full-fat cousins, we still like using them in our everyday cooking. We use low-fat ricotta in our lasagna and keep a carton or two of low-fat plain yogurt on hand to round out sauces.

What else do you do to keep daily meals healthy?

Related: Low-Fat Pesto: Can It Be As Good As The Real Thing?

(Image: Flickr member malias licensed under Creative Commons)

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