Healthy cooking does not mean you have to be a gourmet cook or that you have to go out and buy expensive cookware, nor does healthy cooking mean you have to give up all of your favorite foods and live on a diet of salads or other foods that taste bland.
It simply means that you choose foods that contain many of the essential nutrients needed for the body’s optimal health. This means choosing foods that are not highly processed or foods that contain synthetic, artificial or irradiated ingredients. Organically grown foods are the best.
“Organic” is a word that is showing up more and more in your fruit and vegetable aisles—and usually at a higher price. But if you are wondering if it is worth the extra money—let me assure you—the health of you and your family is definitely worth the few cents difference in the price. There are many
benefits of organic foods.
These organically grown fruits and vegetables contain about one third of the amount of the residues from pesticides found in non organically grown fruits and vegetables. Did you know that some of the pesticides have been linked with some cancers and other diseases when they are used in large amounts?
So when do you choose organic as opposed to non organic foods? In some foods, it doesn’t much matter. But in others—organic is the only way to go. Strawberries have been shown to be the most heavily contaminated fruit in the United States. Buying organic strawberries minimizes and other fruits will save your family from being exposed to these pesticides.
When it comes to vegetables, all the leafy green vegetables such as lettuce and spinach will soak up chemicals from the ground and water. Organically grown leafy greens are a good option for healthy cooking. Thin skinned vegetables such as tomatoes make it easy for them to absorb chemicals, so you might consider going for the organically grown varieties. Sunflower seeds are a good source of fatty acids, but sunflowers soak up toxins from the soil which makes organic the best choice for them as well.
Now that you know which foods to choose, how do you which healthy cooking technique is best? Here are the healthiest ways to prepare your foods:
Baking This is the best option for cooking seafood, lean meats, poultry, fruit and vegetables. And don’t think that by baking your food that you have to drown it in fats to keep it from drying out. All you have to do is baste the food with broth or water to keep it from drying out.
Braising This method consists of browning the meat on a stove or cooktop, covering it with a small amount of liquid such as water or broth, and either cooking it in a covered dish in the oven or for several hours on top of the stove.
Broiling This is the method that would be best for thin slices of meats or vegetables. This involves placing the food under the direct heat of an oven broiler. If you place the vegetables in a grill basket or by making kabobs on skewers, you will find the food will not fall through the racks. This method is good because it allows the fat from the meat to drip away from the food and promotes healthy cooking in a fun way!
Poaching This method involves simmering your food in a water or broth until thoroughly cooked and tender. Always remember to choose a covered pan that best fits the size and shape of whatever you are cooking. And be sure not to drown the food in too much liquid.
Roasting This method uses the dry heat from your oven to cook the food. You can roast on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan. For meats like chicken, seafood or beef be sure to place a rack inside your roasting pan in order for the fat to drip away from the food. This is a particularly good way to cook vegetables, skinless chicken and lean cuts of beef.
Sautéing This method is the quick cooking of thin, small pieces of food. If you use a pan with a nonstick surface you will be able to cook without using a fat. You will be able to use water or broth or a small amount of a nonstick cooking spray.
Steaming This is the simplest healthy cooking method to learn. Food in placed in a perforated basket, placed in a pan above a simmering liquid—either a broth or water with added seasonings. This method of cooking vegetables allows the vegetables to retain the nutrients found in them.
Stir frying This is the cooking of small, bite-size pieces of food while quickly stirring them while they are being cooked in a large pan or a wok. This method uses only a small amount of oil or nonstick cooking spray.
Any of the above methods will insure you a healthy cooked meal. You can also add lots of taste, color, and aroma to food by adding herbs and spices to the food while it is being cooked. Just make sure to choose herbs that are not wilted and are bright in color. Always remember to add them during the last few minutes of cooking. If fresh herbs are not available, you can use dried herbs. Dried herbs can be added in the earliest stages of the cooking process.
Remember that it only takes about a third of the amount of dried herbs to equal the same amount as fresh herbs. Many times using herbs to season your food will reduce or replace completely the flavors of salt or oil. And you may find you will not miss the taste of those foods and surprise—you may like it better.
One thing is for sure, whatever method you choose for your healthy cooking, you can always find a method that prepares the foods that everyone will enjoy.
Diet and Nutrition