This week, I’ve been looking at different ways in which we can make cooking healthier. Specifically, looking in terms of how we make our food, and what we can add to it or subtract from it to make it healthier. <br
Alternative Cooking methods for healthier meals
One great webpage I found regarding the topic of healthier cooking methods was Healthier Preparation Methods for Cooking from Heart.org. This page provides a lot of great information about many different areas of healthier cooking.
With the exception of sweet foods, the main reasons foods are considered unhealthy are because they are high in trans or saturated fats, and/or high in salt content. According to heart.org, consuming a high amount of sodium, and trans/saturated fats have been shown to increase blood pressure, and bad cholesterol levels in the body, putting people at an increased risk for heart attack and stroke, and obesity.
Although eating out is a convenient way to sustain yourself in your busy life, restaurant meals often contain an outlandish amount of sodium and unhealthy fats. The best way to control what ingredients go into the food you eat is to cook your own meals (obviously). So, instead of heading straight for the salt shaker and Crisco to season and cook your home-cooked meals, think about trying out the following general cooking tips that reduce the amount of salt and fat used in food preparation.
To reduce salt and fat in your cooking:
• Use fresh herbs and spice rubs.
o Avoid using prepackaged seasoning mixes because they often contain a lot of salt. Instead, use fresh herbs whenever possible. Also, dishes that only use salt for seasoning are usually not very notable. Using fresh herb or dried spice combinations allows you to use less salt in your cooking while also making the flavor a lot more exciting. Note: Try adding dried herbs such as thyme, rosemary and marjoram to dishes for a more pungent flavor – but use them sparingly because they’re powerful.
• Use vinegar or citrus juice as flavor enhancers.
o According to cookinglight.com, a rule of thumb among chefs as being one of the easiest ways to brighten up and round out the flavors of a dish (especially when using recipes with less salt), is to add in acidic flavors. This can be done by adding in a splash of lemon juice, stirring in a bit of finely grated lemon, orange, or lime zest, or even a little vinegar to soups, salads, entrees, and vegetable sides. Note: It is best to add acidic flavors at the end of cooking. When zesting citrus, it is best to use organic fruit as their peels will be free of chemicals or wax.
• Pair take out with fresher foods
o When in a rush, add a bag of your favorite vegetable to your take out or quick stove top meal. This will simply displace some of the sodium loaded contents with a nutritious and salt free additive. For example, take a
• Use salt free shortcuts
o When using convenience products in your home cooking, like cream soups, or packaged veggies, opt for reduced sodium options, and then add salt to taste if necessary. This can include using a low sodium soup broth or cream soup, using fresh frozen salt free veggies, or using canned veggies that are salt free.
• Make your own salad dressing
o Instead of using store bought salad dressings which often contain fairly large amounts of sodium, trying making your own kind of low fat low sodium vinaigrette with an olive oil, and vinegar base. Note: Try this tasty combination from Cookinglight.com; Whisk together 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard.
• Use olive oil and herbs to flavor roasted, or cooked veggies
o Instead of automatically adding salt to your cooked veggies, trying using herbs and oil to add satisfying flavor. Note: when roasting veggies, drizzle with olive oil then sprinkle with pepper, or another herb of your choice, for an outstanding, flavorful low-sodium side.
• Ease up on salty condiments
o Although condiments such as ketchup or green relish don’t contain an enormous amount of salt, slathering it on your hamburger and fries can add up quickly. Instead of losing it all together, try using condiment varieties with reduced sodium, especially important with soy sauce which contains 900mg sodium per tablespoon, or just using them sparingly.
• Stir-frying instead of full fat frying.
o Use a hot wok to cook vegetables, poultry or seafood using low sodium vegetable stock, wine or a small amount of oil to cook them in. Avoid high-sodium seasonings like teriyaki and soy sauce.
• Reduced fat roasting tips.
o When roasting, use a rack in the pan so the meat or poultry doesn’t sit in its own fat drippings. Instead of basting with pan drippings, use fat-free liquids like wine, tomato juice or lemon juice. When making gravy from the drippings, chill first then use a gravy strainer or skim ladle to remove the fat.
• Use a cut of meat with less fat content
o Choose “select” or “choice” grade beef rather than prime. Be sure to trim the fat off the edges before cooking. Use cuts of red meat and pork labeled “loin” and “round,” as they usually have the least fat.
• Grilling and broiling instead of fat frying.
o This method of cooking in itself requires no added fat source. Use a rack to allow the fat drip to drip away from the food.
• Baking instead of fat frying.
o Baking is another cooking technique that requires no added fat source. Bake foods in covered cookware with a little extra liquid, like low sodium broth.
o Cook chicken or fish by immersing it in simmering liquid.
o Use a pan made with nonstick metal or a coated, nonstick surface, so you will need to use little or no oil when cooking. Use a nonstick vegetable spray to brown or sauté foods; or, as an alternative, use a small amount of broth or wine, or a tiny bit of vegetable oil rubbed onto the pan with a paper towel.
• Steaming as non-sodium, non-fat, cooking method.
o Steam vegetables in a basket over simmering water. They’ll retain more flavors and won’t need any salt or oil.