Health

Healthy cooking tips

Friday, 29 October 2010

Itís not just what you eat that counts- the way you cook and prepare your food can make a huge difference in how healthy it is. So donít let your cooking methods let your diet plan down. Here are some tips for making your food as healthy as you can, helping you to lose weight while enjoying the food you loveÖ

 

Preserve nutrition

Make sure your cooking methods arenít lowering the nutritional value of your food. Boiling vegetables, for example, destroys many of the vitamins and nutrients, so you arenít getting as much benefit from eating them.

So retain the value of water-soluble vitamins by steaming or grilling vegetables instead of boiling them. Stir frys are a great way to add in a large variety of vegetables into your meals while retaining the nutritional value. If you do boil your vegetables, use only a small amount of water, and limit the boiling time.

Itís also good to remember that the skin is the most nutrient-dense part of fruits and vegetables, so wherever possible you should eat them unpeeled.

Use less oil

Itís easy to underestimate how many calories youíre adding with your cooking oil. Although much of it is good fat, itís still important to use it in moderation- and many of us use far too much without realising it.

One good habit is using a cooking spray to coat your pans- you can save up to 100 calories. Or, control your use of oil by spreading a small amount with a pastry brush. You can also often cook in other liquids like stock, low-sodium broth, lemon juice, vinegar or water- this can also be a great way to add a different flavour to your food.

Look for alternatives to frying in oil. Steaming, baking, grilling, and braising are all good ways to prepare your food. You can also combine cooking methods to reduce frying time- for example, to brown vegetables, you can steam them or cook them in the microwave first, then briefly crisp them in the pan.    

Reduce salt

Too much salt in your diet can be very damaging to health, contributing to a whole range of problems, including your weight. Try to limit the amount of salt that goes into your food and find healthier ways of enhancing the flavour. Always taste your food before adding salt- you might automatically add it out of habit, when it might not even be needed. If you do add salt, just be aware of how much you are putting in. If you use a salt-shaker, shake it out onto your hand first so you can see how much youíre using.

You can also experiment with alternatives to salt. Adding a splash of lemon juice or olive oil on cooked vegetables is a great way to add flavour. Or try different combinations of herbs and spices- you can make your meals more exotic as well as reducing the salt content. 

Use herbs and spices

Not only are herbs a good alternative to salt for adding flavour, they can also help to stop cravings and increase your energy level. Whether you grow them fresh yourself or buy them dried, you can use all different combinations to create a delicious taste in soups, stir frys, meat dishes, salad dressings, casseroles, or any meal at all. Start with ginger, coriander, garlic, chilli and lemongrass, and experiment with different flavours to see what you like.

Lighten up your cream

You donít have to give up that creamy texture you love- but itís good to get into the habit of using low-fat cream, or better yet, replacing cream with alternatives like low-fat yogurt, skim milk, soy milk or cornstarch. And instead of using butter, creamy sauces or sour cream on your meat, fish or baked potatoes, use other condiments like salsas, pesto, chutneys or even vinegar. You can still get rich, comforting flavours, while saving on calories.



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