The food that you choose to eat today will affect your present, and more importantly, will also have a major impact on your lifestyle and your future health. Eating healthy food is important, not only to promote good health but also to reduce the chances of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Along with regular exercise, a healthy and balanced diet will keep you fitter for longer.

Here are some basic points to keep in mind when trying to create healthy dishes by cooking light and nutritious meals at home.

1. Control Oil Usage

The best type of oil to use for light cooking is Olive oil and should be used when pan-frying or stir-frying. Olive oil is a healthy option as it is full of antioxidants and is known to lower the total blood cholesterol in your system. Olive oil has also been found to lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. It's important to use just a splash when cooking and olive oil should be avoided when deep frying since a much larger quantity would be needed.

When cooking curries or the type of dishes that typically require quite a lot of oil, try to use non-stick cookware as this will limit the amount of oil that you use. Some healthy alternatives to olive oil that must be tried out when cooking light are mustard oil, Coconut oil and Rice Bran oil.

2. Fat content

If you're trying to control your weight, try to cut out high-calorie fried food altogether. Some great alternatives to frying are steaming, grilling, baking and boiling. In fact, Tandoori grilling is a great alternative when cooking Indian food as it uses almost no oil and is similar to grilling.

When adding more richness to your food, you would usually reach for coconut milk. While coconut milk is not harmful for your health, it must be used in moderation. This type of milk is said to raise your cholesterol, but the HDL cholesterol, which is your 'good' cholesterol and the Lauric acid found in it helps you fight bacteria. On the other hand, cholesterol that is raised due to eating animal-based saturated fats such as bacon is known as 'bad' cholesterol or LDL.

Of course, before attempting to increase your intake of any rich products such as coconut milk, it may be advisable to consult with your doctor.

3. Breads and Rice

When making Indian breads such as parathas and chappatis, use wholemeal flour and not plain flour. White flour is a processed food that makes you feel very full but is in fact only providing you with empty calories. These types of flour (and even refined sugar) borrow nutrients from your body in order to help their own absorption. This depletes the body's reserves of vitamins and minerals.

In addition to this shocking nature of processed foods, they also have a high glycemic index which means they provide a much higher number of calories as compared to whole foods, i.e., unprocessed foods with a low GI index. Refined flour also raises your cholesterol, raises blood sugar levels and causes mood swings.

When cooking with rice, it's much healthier to use brown rice instead of white rice. While earlier it may have been tough to say no to refined flour, once you know the consequences of this harmful product it is easier to say no to what is basically junk food. If you are unable to cut it out completely, eat maida or white flour products in moderation.

4. Eat more of the right food

One of the most common mistakes we make in the kitchen is to stock up on bulky processed foods such as rice, flour and red meat. Instead, we should be focusing on consuming healthy pulses, beans, legumes and lentils. These types of foods are a major source of protein and will do wonders for your energy levels.

Eating some form of protein in every meal is a great way to feel full throughout the day and will help to quench your cravings for junk food. Beans and lentils are extremely easy to prepare while being high in nutritional value. They are a form of fiber that helps lower cholesterol but also helps manage your blood sugar levels, thereby helping to avoid unhealthy spikes in blood sugar.

Lentils are also low in calories but high in B-vitamins and protein, all the while being almost fat free. In fact, lentils and legumes are the food type that is the highest source of fiber. Lentils are a great source of health for your heart as well; due to the high amounts of folate and magnesium that they supply.

In addition to these four nutritional guidelines, here are some more tips on how to eat and cook light when aiming for a healthier you:

> Add a generous helping of various nuts on top of salads as these provide healthy fats and nutrients. Try almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, hazelnuts, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds for a different type of salad every day.

> Try a varied diet and aim to eat foods from the entire colour palette as each color reflects a different set of nutrients. Keeping your dishes varied helps to stay motivated while eating healthy and cooking light.

> Avoid eating out and make sure you allocate 15 to 30 minutes everyday towards creating a healthy, balanced meal. Your health will thank you in the years to come.

> Eat whole foods to increase your intake of complex carbohydrates and fiber. Eating whole foods reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Eating right and cooking light are the key ingredients to a long and healthy life. By taking some time to prepare a delicious and nutritious meal, you are adding to your health and setting a great example for those around you.

Author's Bio: 

Korie Cantor is a blogger and writer who blogs about health, fitness, food and lifestyle. She is very ebullient about health, wellness and physique. She also loves to share her personal insights and perspectives by blogging on niches like fashion and travel.