Healthy Cooking Tips
Healthy Cooking Tips

Feeling deprived when we’re on a diet is one of the major reasons we fail. We miss our fried food, lashings of full-fat cream, pastries and sauces. WLR Food Information Executive, Laurence Beeken has come up with some healthy cooking tips to help us reach our weight loss goals. Healthy cooking doesn’t mean we have to miss out on good food!

Healthy Cooking Tips

By WLR's Food Information Executive, Laurence Beeken

Like many people I love food. I plan what I’m going to eat at the weekend and shop accordingly. Now as much as I love food, I also need to watch my weight, especially if I want to avoid the dreaded middle aged spread, and so as a cooking enthusiast who is not willing to sacrifice on flavour or serving size, I’ve adjusted many a recipe as well as the way in which I cook things.

So here are my healthy cooking basics, hopefully they will inspire you to get cooking and try a couple of ideas - but try not to rush off to the kitchen straight away.....

Cooking Methods

Grilling - Grill rather than fry fatty foods. You don’t need a George Foreman style grill to this (although if you have one that’s great) remember to always place food on a wire rack when using a regular oven grill so that the fat has somewhere to go away from the food. It’s also worth denying the temptation to grill everything on high for the sake.  It’s fine for your bacon and fish fingers, but can dry out the likes of pork chops losing those wonderfully flavoursome juices.

Dry Frying - Anything that will release non-fatty fluids such as mushrooms and tomatoes are great simply dry fried or baked. Top tip, add a tablespoon of water to get them going.

Steaming - The power of steam is amazing. It’s quick, clean and produces fabulous flavours, it’s also not just for vegetables try steaming chicken, fish or prawns. Yum!

Fats & Oils

Try swapping your regular cooking oil for a spray version. They are not always suitable for everything but you’ll be surprised at how good they are for many things.

One simple trick is to mix oil in a spray bottle to coat your frying pan. Simply dilute 5ml extra virgin olive oil with 45ml water or use the ratio 1 oil to 9 water. Remember to shake the bottle well before use as oil and water will not mix. Not only will a £3.00 bottle of olive oil go further and last much longer, but you’ll reduce your calories at the same time!

Swap butter for a low calorie margarine, or if the butter provides an integral part of the flavour try using half-and-half, or reducing the amount used. I always use low calorie margarine when making sponge cake and no one has ever noticed the difference in taste or, missed the calories!


Cheese - Whether being used in sandwiches, sauces or sprinkling on top of pasta bakes and jacket potatoes always use mature cheese, never mild, as you will use less.  Plus grate it rather than slice it to make it go further. Also try using different types of cheese as well as the reduced calorie versions. For example mozzarella is great melted instead of cheddar, feta is good in salads and Edam tastes great in a sandwich.

Cream - Milk can often be used in place of single cream, for mashed potatoes and scrambled egg for instance. It’s also nice to try adding other flavours such as pepper, coriander and basil to these dishes so as to still get a luxurious taste to them but from something less calorific. Reduced fat/calorie creams can also make a huge difference some containing only 20% of the full fat options!

Type of Cream Original Full Fat Cream 
(kcal per 100g)
Reduced Fat Cream 
(kcal per 100g)
Single 188 124
Double 438.3 242.8
Aerosol 309 59.5
Whipping 348 197


Swap creamy sauces for vegetable based sauces and stock. You could also try adding a little bit of single cream (or milk) to stock. For example if you’re doing a chicken pie, you'll get a cream sauce without all the butter that goes into béchamel sauce.  I always keep a box of corn flour in my cupboard for thickening sauces and believe me it has saved many a disaster!
Don’t forget the power of sweet chilli, soy and Worcester sauce to add flavour to your cooking for very few calories.


Other than buying the reduced fat option or using margarine rather than butter if making from scratch, the best thing you can do I’m afraid is cut back – I know it pains me too.  Top pies with pastry but don’t do a base or cut down on the amount of pastry you are using by a quarter and roll it that bit thinner.
Alternatively lose the pastry all together and try your pie with a mashed potato or celeriac topping. Try finely slicing potatoes, then slightly overlaying them in a neat pattern over your pie filling, before brushing the tops with milk or egg, bake like you would normally and you should get a crispy potato topping.

Cooking Resources

I have a copy of the Good Housekeeping Cookbook (my food bible!) and my grandmother's old Berol Cookbook, but like the best fashion trends, the basics of cooking are coming back to the forefront and many celebrity chefs are now including the basics in their latest literal offering, and of course I can’t leave out the massive recipe database available on WLR, access it through your food diary and search by category, keywords, calories and more, with over 3,500 recipes it’s well worth a look!

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