If preparing dinner means peeling back the top of a frozen prepackaged meal or opening a brand-new box of cereal, it’s time for a change. You don’t have to be an accomplished cook to create low-fat, healthful cuisine that tastes great. The main challenge to eating well while watching calories is to choose nutrient-dense food and avoid excess dietary fat without giving up the flavor.
There are plenty of ways to cook up juicy and flavorful food without adding tons of unnecessary extras. While most people know to ditch the fryer when cooking up healthy meals, many don’t think about how their cooking method affects the nutritional makeup of their entrée.
Healthy cooking doesn’t mean you have to become a gourmet chef or invest in expensive cookware. You can use basic cooking techniques to prepare food in healthy ways. This article is all about the healthiest ways to cook food to live a healthy lifestyle.
Choosing the right foods is one part of eating healthy –but how you prepare them also plays an important role. The healthiest ways to cook food described here best capture the flavor and retain the nutrients in foods without adding excessive amounts of fat or salt. You can prepare your dishes by these healthiest ways to cook food described below.
Steaming is, simply, cooking food in an enclosed environment infused with steam. You can steam in a variety of ways: with a covered, perforated basket that rests above a pot of boiling water, with a parchment wrapper or foil, with Chinese bamboo steamers that stack on top of a wok, and even with convenient electric steamers.
Steaming cooks and seals in flavor, eliminating the need for added fats during preparation. It also preserves nutrients better than any other cooking method except for microwaving.
“Cooking anything from fresh veggies to fish fillets this way allows them to stew in their own juices and retain all their natural goodness. And no need for fat-laden additions to up the moisture. It’s always good to add a little seasoning first, whether that’s a sprinkle of salt or a squeeze of lemon juice,” says Alex Kigozi, a nutritionist with Go Green nutritional supplements.
Moist-heat cooking methods, such as boiling and steaming are the healthiest ways to cook food because they’re done at lower temperatures. And if you’re watching your weight, these styles are good for keeping calories down because they often don’t require oil or butter.
Broiling entails cooking food under high, direct heat for a short period of time. Broiling is a great way to cook tender cuts of meat (remember to trim excess fat before cooking), but may not be ideal for cooking veggies, since they can dry out easily.
One of the simplest of all the cooking methods, broiling is a method to cook by exposing food to direct heat in an electric or gas stove, usually in the bottom drawer of the oven.
It renders the same results as grilling, but in grilling the heat comes from below, while in broiling it comes from above. Broiling and grilling expose food to direct heat. Both methods allow fat to drip away from the food.
“Microwaving cooks essentially by steaming,” says Victoria Wise, chef, and author of The Well-Filled Microwave (Workman Publishing, 1996). And like steaming, it lends itself to low-fat or no-fat cooking. The foods that do well this way are vegetables, which retain their color along with their nutrients. The power of the microwave depends on the wattage per square foot of internal oven space: the higher the wattage and smaller the oven, the more powerful it is.
Microwaving is one of the healthiest ways to cook food because of its short cooking times, which results in minimal nutrient destruction. Microwaves cook food by heating from the inside out. They emit radio waves that “excite” the molecules in food, which generates heat, cooking the food.
The way that microwaves cook food nixes the need to add extra oils. The best part is, you can microwave anything, from veggies and rice to meat and eggs. And studies suggest that it is one of the best ways to preserve nutrients in veggies; microwaving broccoli is the best way to preserve its vitamin C.
Cooking at a very high heat for a very short time is the essence of stir-frying. Because food is cooked so quickly, it should be cut into small, uniform pieces to ensure every ingredient is cooked thoroughly. This is another method in our list of healthiest ways to cook food. This method requires your full attention, as you need to continuously stir and sometimes tossing of the ingredients are necessary to prevent the food from sticking to the pan or prevent it from burning.
The best way to stir-fry is in a wok, a cookware. The sloping sides and rounded bottom are specially designed so food can be quickly browned in the “belly” of the pan and then moved up to the sides, where it finishes cooking more slowly.
When the wok is hot, oil is added, followed by the food. While this method does require some oil in the pan, it should only be a moderate amount — just enough to get a nice sear on your meat and vegetables. It’s effective for bite-sized pieces of meat, grains like rice and quinoa, and thin-cut veggies like bell peppers, julienned carrots, and snow peas. Stir-frying is one of the healthiest ways to cook food.
Poaching means cooking the given food in a small amount of hot water (just below boiling point). It takes slightly longer (which some experts believe can decrease nutrient retention), but is a great way to gently cook delicate foods like fish, eggs, or fruit.
This moist-heat technique involves cooking at a gentle simmer in a liquid such as broth or water. Poaching is a healthy and underutilized way to cook, says Lauren Slayton, RD, founder of the nutrition consulting center Foodtrainers in New York City.
To poach foods, gently simmer ingredients in water or a flavorful liquid, such as broth or wine, 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 can use a minimal amount of liquid. Poaching is also one of the healthiest ways to cook food which helps us to stay fit and healthy.
That is it. These were a few cooking rules you can follow to make sure your next meal is wholesome and healthy.
Do you love cooking? Which one of the above-mentioned healthiest ways do you use to cook your food? Let us know through the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.