Healthy Cooking Tips From Your Favorite Chefs

Experts share their favorite go-to techniques for creating good-for-you meals and an all-around healthier lifestyle.

Celebrity Chefs

If you want to learn quick and simple tricks for eating well, why not go straight to the experts? We asked some of our favorite celebrity chefs for their healthy cooking tips and hoo-boy, did they deliver! Ready? Set. Go!

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Rachael Ray

Extra-virgin olive oil is a staple in the kitchen of Rachael Ray, television host and author of Everyone Is Italian on Sunday.

"I'm a really big believer in cooking with olive oil," she says. "My family used olive oil on their feet, on their hair, and in their food."

Ray was the host of a number of events at the annual New York City Wine and Food Festival, where she suggested washing, chopping, and prepping fresh fruits and vegetables as soon as you bring them into your kitchen.

"If you have colorful foods on hand in the fridge, you're more apt to cook for yourself more often and, therefore, you're more apt to lose weight and live a healthier life."

And make sure you've got stock in stock.

"Chicken stock, vegetable stock, porcini stock, beef stock — stock adds lots of flavor with very little calories," she says.

Alex Guarnaschelli

Alex Guarnaschelli, executive chef at New York City's restaurant Butter and star of hit shows like Beat Bobby Flay and Chopped, is another olive oil supporter.

"I'm a big fan of making a vinaigrette with olive oil," she says. "Then steam, poach, or cook a protein using a non-stick spray and flavor with your vinaigrette — and save your cash-money olive oil and all those extra calories since two tablespoons of olive oil is about the same as a Snickers bar."

She also enjoys mixing it up in the frying pan.

"One of my favorite things to do is crack three egg whites in a bowl and one yolk, pour it into a pan, and make a fried egg," she say. "So you're eating egg whites but you're also enjoying a fried egg, and it's only about 160 to 180 calories."

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Geoffrey Zakarian

When it comes to eating healthy, size does matter, says Geoffrey Zakarian, culinary director of the Palm Court at The Plaza and author of My Perfect Pantry: 150 Easy Recipes from 50 Essential Ingredients.

"Portion size is very important — our potion size is way too much. So go out and buy small plates," he says.

He also recommends cooking with small amounts of full-fat yogurt and butter: "really good French butter!"

"You'll be more satisfied and you won't have to substitute for other products that have water and sugar in them," he explains. "So you might as well use the real thing and just have less of it."

And remember to live a little.

"Everything in moderation — including moderation!"

Anne Burrell

Anne Burrell, host of the Food Network's hit show Worst Cooks in America and author of Own Your Kitchen: Recipes to Inspire & Empower, relies on "real" sweeteners when baking.

"I don't like super sweet desserts, so I'm more about natural sugars, like fruit desserts," she says. "You can make a fruit crisp in every season and can definitely substitute whole wheat flour or oatmeal for white flour in the crisp."

She also admits to being a "periphery grocery shopper."

"I'm always looking for interesting ways to use vinegars, spices, or nut purees to really plump up the interest of what I call 'grocery store ingredients.' It's about getting the maximum flavor without having to rely on the fat crutch," she says.

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Curtis Stone

Stay away from over-processed meats, recommends Curtis Stone, chef and owner of Maude in Beverly Hills and author of Good Food, Good Life: 130 Simple Recipes You'll Love to Make and Eat, because this type of produce has lost most of its nutritional value.

"Inexpensive and unprocessed foods like beans, rice, nuts, and grains are far healthier than modern convenience foods, like soda and processed breads and cheeses," he says.

He also suggests preparing for the week ahead by cooking in batches, like "boiling a dozen eggs and making a big pot of veggie soup." Finally, he makes sure to keep a well-stocked pantry.

"I always have foods like lentils and other beans, dried pasta, canned or semi-dried tomatoes, capers, and cornichons in my pantry. When you keep a lot of healthy staple ingredients on hand, you've got a choice to pull from what you need to throw together a quick meal," he says.

Marc Murphy

"Whenever I'm trying to cook healthier, I swap olive oil for butter, and instead of frying, I bake," says Marc Murphy, chef and owner of Benchmarc Restaurants, judge on the popular cooking show Chopped, and author of Season with Authority: Confident Home Cooking.

But what he thinks is most important for eating well is using fresh ingredients and planning meals ahead of time.

"Once you've got your meals organized, don't forget to season! Everything tastes so much better when you use seasoning — salt, pepper, fresh herbs. It all adds to even the simplest plate of asparagus or chicken," he says.

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Rocco DiSpirito

"Instead of using expensive protein powder for a protein smoothie, I use fresh egg whites at 24 grams of protein per cup," says Rocco DiSpirito, James Beard Award-winner and New York Times bestselling author with an upcoming book, The Negative Calorie Diet: Lose Up to 10 Pounds in 10 Days with 10 All You Can Eat Foods.

When it comes to making shakes, DiSpirito opts for coconut milk over the traditional stuff found in the dairy aisle.

And prepare yourself for tossing those jars of regular mayo (high in calories) and low-calorie mayo (added sugars), because DiSpirito has a brilliant recipe for a healthy mayonnaise alternative:

"As a substitute for mayonnaise, I'll mix together avocado, lemon juice, mustard, stevia, and fresh almond milk," he says.

Jacques Torres

Yes, chocolate can be a health food — as long as you indulge in the "highest" one.

"The higher cocoa content is better for you because it contains lower amounts of sugar and is full of antioxidants (flavanols and polyphenols), which help lower blood pressure," says Jacques Torres, chocolatier and owner and founder of Jacques Torres Chocolate.

For a nutritious treat, he'll coat blueberries in dark chocolate with 60 percent cocoa.

"And to make a healthy dessert and a snack on-the-go, I also like to make chocolate bark," says the master pastry chef. "Using a dark chocolate with 72 percent cocoa content is the best way to make a chocolate bark at home: Simply temper chocolate, mix in as many different kinds of nuts (which are high in protein and fiber), pour it on a parchment paper lined sheet pan, and let it set. Then break it up and enjoy!"

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Eric LeVine

When it comes to homemade sauce, it's all about getting the right consistency. But how do you get the perfect sauce texture without using less-than-healthy ingredients? (We're lookin' at you, white flour.) Don't worry, Chef Eric LeVine, partner at two New Jersey restaurants, Paragon Tap & Table and Morris Tap & Grille, and author of Small Bites Big Flavor: Simple, Savory and Sophisticated Recipes for Entertaining, has some simple healthier alternatives:

"Instead of thickening sauces with flour, you can use a variety of things such as tomato paste, agar agar, or potato powder," he says. "Or you can let your sauce slowly reduce over a simmer."

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