Healthy Cooking: What are the basics?
Cooking healthy doesn’t mean you need a lot of fancy or gourmet ingredients -(of course it’s fun to experiment with them from time to time!). Generally, cooking healthy means using whole, minimally processed foods and cooking them in a way that doesn’t add a lot of extra calories but still tastes delicious! In this post you will learn about the various methods you can use to make healthy food even tastier!
Below is a list of cooking methods that require minimal amounts of added fats like oil and butter:
- Broiling & Grilling
A great way to make use of your oven! Baking is done at moderate oven temperatures up to 375°F.
What to bake:
- Frittatas or quiche
- Whole wheat baked goods like muffins or scones
Typically, this method is used to cook meat with other ingredients. For example, chicken might be seared and slowly cooked in a pot with chicken stock or other liquid covering a small portion of it. This is done at low temperature, covered, and put either on the stove or in the oven. This method works best for tougher cuts of meat because it will help it become soft and tender.
Broiling and Grilling
These are considered dry-heat cooking methods. This means browning (without burning!) foods rapidly to enhance flavor. It’s important to be careful not to char foods too much.
What to broil and grill?
- Tender cuts of meat
- Chicken and fish
Poaching means cooking food in liquid (usually stock or broth) at a temperature ranging from 140-180°F.
One ideal part of poaching is that it is difficult to over cook t
he food since the temperature is so low.
What to poach?
- Delicate items such as fish or eggs (try this Poached Halibut with Ginger & Cilantro!)
- Chicken & vegetables
- Some fruit, such as pears
Roasting, typically means cooking food at 400°F or higher, usually uncovered. This allows for browning or caramelizing of the food for more flavor.
This method is great for cooking foods like:
- Poultry, fish, pork and some red meats
- Tip: make a sheet-pan dinner and roast your seasoned meat and vegetables together!
Sautéing is one of the more familiar and easy ways to cook and a great place to start if you’re learning. This means using a small amount of fat to cook food very quickly.
What to sauté?
- Vegetables! Start with onions and garlic, and then add any combination of your favorite veggies!
- Adding lean protein such as shrimp or beans with your favorite seasonings is a quick 1-pan meal!
- Try this easy recipe: Chicken and Bell Pepper Saute
Cooking food covered on the stovetop with a small amount of water. A steaming basket is a helpful tool!
The water is brought to a simmer and the steam then cooks the food.
What to steam?
- Vegetables – Try this one: Steamed Chicken & Veg with Soy Dipping Sauce
- Fish and other seafood
Stewing means cooking small pieces of meat and/or vegetables that are completely covered in liquid such as stock or broth. This can be done in a covered pot on the stove or in the oven. This allows juices from the meat and vegetables to naturally flavor the dish.
What to stew?
- Beef and other red meat: Slow-cooked Provencal Beef Stew
- Vegetables and beans
What about microwaving?
Making good use of your microwave on a busy night can be a lifesaver! Click here to learn: How to Cook Your Fresh Veggies in the Microwave ! This will tell you how to cook just about any vegetable in your microwave.
What about using seasonings and salt?
Experimenting with seasonings is a great way to taste new flavors and open your eyes to different styles of cuisine! Foods that come pre-seasoned or pre-made spice blends will often contain way too much salt. It’s cost effective and simple to make your own. Click here for a list of homemade spice blend recipes with some suggestions on how to use them.
Do you want to learn more about how to season? Checkout these Homemade Spice Blends – start planning your dinner parties now!
What about cooking with fats like olive oil and butter?
Cooking with healthy fats (think, olive oil!) is important! Using too much butter, lard, and other saturated fats adds unnecessary calories to our dishes. Healthy fats known as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat give us important doses of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids that may support heart health and reduce cholesterol levels.
Stick with 1-2 tablespoons of the healthy fats below and use butter in moderation:
- Olive oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Vegetable oil
- Peanut oil
- Corn oil
- Canola oil
- Sunflower oil
What other foods have healthy fats in them?
- Fish such as salmon, albacore tuna, lake trout and sardines – try for at least 2 servings per week!
- Walnuts – try 2 tbsp. of them in your salad or yogurt.
- Avocado – although avocados offer you copious amounts of folate, vitamins E, C and B6, potassium, AND fiber, they are also calorie dense. Stick to ¼ avocado at a time and try it in your salad, on a sandwich, or just pop it in your mouth. Yum!
- Peanut butter – stick to the all-natural kind! Try a tablespoon or two on a banana for delicious snack.
Most importantly, don’t forget to eat colorfully!
Adding extra vegetables to all of your dishes is a great way to make sure you’re getting your daily serving.
Here are some tips:
- Keep frozen broccoli and carrots on hand. These hold their structure well and can easily be added into soups, stews, casseroles and much more.
- Add an extra handful of fresh spinach or other leafy greens into what you’re making, for example: sandwiches, omelet, and soup!
- Add extra vegetables into your sandwich or wrap such as lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
- Puree vegetables (or leave them whole!) and cook them with your spaghetti sauce.
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