For so many of us the thought of “healthy eating” conjures up images of lettuce, tofu, and any number of other things that seem to extreme and, quite frankly, turn us right off to the idea. The truth of the matter is, that healthy cooking and eating can be as wonderfully simple and as diversely delicious as you want it to be.
As important in the equation as what you are eating is how you are cooking it. Healthy cooking doesn't mean that you have to become a gourmet chef or invest in expensive cookware. You can use basic cooking techniques to prepare hundreds of foods in healthy ways.
By using healthy cooking techniques you can cut fat and calories. You can eat most of the foods you love, just but changing the method used to cook them can make big changes in nutritional values. Consider, for instance, that each tablespoon of oil you use when frying adds 14 grams of fat and more than 100 calories.
To put it in perspective — a healthy adult eating an 1,800-calorie diet should have no more than about 70 grams of fat a day. By switching to roasting, you not only eliminate added oil but also allow any fat in the food to drip away.
The methods described here best capture the flavor and retain the nutrients in your food without adding excessive amounts of fat or salt. Use them often to prepare your favorite dishes.
Besides breads and desserts, you can bake seafood, poultry, lean meat, vegetables and fruits. For baking, place food in a pan or dish surrounded by the hot, dry air of your oven. You may cook the food covered or uncovered. Baking generally doesn't require that you add fat to the food so it is a good alternative to other, more fattening, methods.
Braising involves browning the ingredient first in a pan on top of the stove, and then slowly cooking it covered with a small quantity of liquid, such as water or broth. In some recipes, the cooking liquid is used afterward to form a flavorful, nutrient-rich sauce.
Grilling and broiling
Both grilling and broiling expose food to direct heat. To grill outdoors, place the food on a grill rack above a bed of charcoal embers or gas-heated rocks. If you have an indoor grill, follow the manufacturer's directions. For smaller items such as chopped vegetables, use foil or a long-handled grill basket to prevent pieces from slipping through the rack. To broil indoors, place food on a broiler rack below a heat element. Both methods allow fat to drip away from the food.
To poach foods, gently simmer ingredients in water or a flavorful liquid such as broth, vinegar or juice until they're cooked through and tender. The food retains its shape during cooking. For stove-top poaching, choose a covered pan that best fits the size and shape of the food so that you need a minimal amount of liquid.
Like baking, but typically at higher temperatures, roasting uses an oven's dry heat to cook the food. You can roast foods on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan. For poultry, seafood and meat, place a rack inside the roasting pan so that the fat in the food can drip away during cooking. In some cases, you may need to baste the food to keep it from drying out, but who wouldn’t rather substitute a flavorful basting for fat?
Sauteing quickly cooks relatively small or thin pieces of food. If you choose a good-quality nonstick pan, you can cook food without using fat. Depending on the recipe, use low-sodium broth, cooking spray or water in place of oil. Be cautious when sautéing that you don’t add too much additional fat. This can be a healthy method, but not if you add a half pound of butter to start with!
One of the simplest cooking techniques is steaming food in a special steaming basket. If you use a flavorful liquid or add seasonings to the water, you'll flavor the food as it cooks.
A traditional Asian method, stir-frying quickly cooks small, uniform-sized pieces of food while they're rapidly stirred in a wok or large nonstick frying pan. You need only a small amount of oil or cooking spray for this cooking method.
Using herbs and spices
Creating meals using spices and herbs is one of the best ways to add color, taste and aroma to foods without adding salt or fat. Choose fresh herbs that look bright and aren't wilted, and add them toward the end of cooking. Add dried herbs in the earlier stages of cooking. When substituting dried for fresh, use about one-third the amount.
I hope this little refresher will help you enjoy healthier meals In your home and maybe even combat the old “rabbit food” image as you show everyone home simple and amazing healthy cooking can be!
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