Forget dieting. Forget joining a gym. Forget ads for the Ab-inator device you saw on QVC. If you really, truly want to lose weight, there is no quicker way to shave pounds off your body — and dollars off your food bill — than to cook more at home. That’s what our newest book, “Cook This, Not That!”, will teach you how to do. Use the simple guide below for a taste of how you can turn the expensive, unhealthy foods at America’s restaurants into fat-blasting superfoods. The best part: The “Cook This, Not That!” versions of these dishes taste better, too!
1. Chicken Fingers
Average calories in restaurant chicken fingers: 1,100
Caloric equivalent: 22 Dunkin’ Donuts Glazed Munchkins
Cook This! Instead:Recipe: Chicken Fingers with Chipotle-Honey (on this page)
More from TODAY.com
Who's Christian Slater's cartoon crush? What about his TODAY crush?
Big- and small-screen star Christian Slater recently tuned up his resumé with a role on one of TV's hottest animated serie...
- Reunited: Preschooler visits 90-year-old friend
- How often should you clean your coffee pot? The answer is...
- Somehow the always-youthful Ralph Macchio is already an empty nester
- KLG’s necklace, Hoda’s dress are affordable
- Who's Christian Slater's cartoon crush? What about his TODAY crush?
2. Turkey Sandwich
Average calories in a restaurant turkey sandwich: 850
Caloric equivalent: 13 “fun-size” 3 Musketeers bars
Cook This! Instead:Recipe: Turkey Sandwich with Guacamole and Bacon (on this page)
Average calories in restaurant lasagna: 750
Caloric equivalent: More than 8 fried eggs
Cook This! Instead:Recipe: Hearty Lasagna (on this page)
4. Fish Tacos
Average calories in restaurant fish tacos: 1,250
Caloric equivalent: 2.5 McRib Sandwiches from McDonald's
Cook This! Instead:Recipe: Grilled Fish Tacos (on this page)
The perfect kitchen
Make sure your kitchen is stocked with these five simple staples. They’ll help you instantly improve your diet — and your health.
Low sodium soy sauce
Calories aren't the issue with soy sauce; it's sodium. Choosing a lighter version can save you up to 500 milligrams (mg) sodium per serving.
We like: Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce (1 Tbsp)
0 g fat
575 mg sodium
Eating chocolate in moderation isn’t a dietary death sentence, it’s actually surprisingly good for your health — as long as the chocolate contains at least 60 percent cocoa. That’s because chocolate is packed with antioxidants.
We like: Hershey’s Special Dark (1 bar)
12 g fat (8 g saturated)
21 g sugars
Extra-virgin olive oil
When choosing vegetable oil, you want to select the one with the highest ratio of monounsaturated to polyunsaturated fats. Here’s a shortcut: In this category, olive oil outperforms the other bottles on the shelf. That’s because nearly 75 percent of its fat content is monounsaturated. (Soybean oil has less than 25 percent monounsaturated fat.)
We like: Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil (1 Tbsp)
14 g fat (2 g saturated)
When choosing vegetable oil, you want to select the one with a high ratio of monounsaturated to polyunsaturated fats. Here’s a shortcut: In this category, olive oil outperforms the other bottles on the shelf (with about 75 percent monounsaturated fat content) — but canola oil is nearly as good, with monounsaturated fats accounting for 2/3 of the total fat. And an extra benefit of canola oil? It’s about a quarter the price of EVOO.
We like: Wesson 100% Natural Canola Oil (1 Tbsp)
14 g fat (1 g saturated)
0 g sodium
Certain dressings are only a small step above mayonnaise (think: ranch). You wouldn't dress your salad with mayo, right? A great dressing will pack spice and tang without hitting a calorie danger zone.
We like: Annie's Naturals Organic Buttermilk (2 Tbsp)
6 g fat (1 g saturated)
230 mg sodium
Swap quinoa for brown rice, and you're earning yourself almost double the protein and about eight times as much fiber. Quinoa also delivers more flavor and cooks almost twice as fast.
We like: Bob's Red Mill Organic Quinoa (1/2 cup)
2.5 g fat
2 mg sodium
Natural peanut butter
It may seem backward, but when it comes to peanut butter, choose the kind with the most fat. Natural varieties are made from nothing but peanuts and salt, but many commercial brands contain hydrogenated oils and corn syrup. Choose an all-natural product, and you’ll trade the bad stuff for more healthy fat.
We like: Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter, Creamy (2 Tbsp)
16 g fat (2.5 g saturated)
90 mg sodium