If you’re aim is to improve your health, one of the easiest things you can do is improve the way you cook your food. Healthy cooking can sound a little intimidating and a little less than delicious but it doesn’t have to be difficult or boring. Just a few small changes can make a big difference in the health of you and your family. It is like anything, once you get used to doing things a different way, it will become second nature.
Ditch Deep Frying
One of the easiest and simplest ways to lower the fat content of your food while boosting your heart health is to stop frying foods. Fried foods generally contain a large amount of oil. While fat is something that your body needs, it doesn’t need it in such high amounts.
The fat in the oil you’re adding to your food is often not healthy for your heart and it contains many extra calories you don’t need if you’re working to achieve a healthier eating plan and possibly weight loss.
There are a few different ways you can cook your food as opposed to deep frying. It is just a matter of finding which method works best for you.
Learn to Love Grilling
One of the healthiest ways to cook is to grill your food as you don’t need to use any oil and it helps to eliminate or drain fat from the food you are cooking. You can do this indoors or outdoors. There are several different models of indoor grills available that are quick and easy to use. Indoor grilling doesn’t have the same flavor as outdoor grills but you can always add flavor with herbs and spices.
Baking and Broiling
Old fashioned baking and broiling in the oven produces delicious food without having to add excess fat. Baking is the process of cooking your food evenly throughout in a baking dish and broiling is using only the top element of your oven.
With baking your oven will cut off and on to keep that steady constant temperature. When you broil, the top element will stay on constantly and it very similar to grilling. Broiling is a great option as you generally have a broiler pan or dish underneath that allows fat to drip through to the bottom away from your food.
When you sauté your food in a pan you can usually use one or two tablespoons of oil which is much less than the amount you need to use for deep frying. You can also use the most heart healthy oils that are monounsaturated. These oils actually help you to lower your cholesterol. Extra virgin olive oil is generally the best choice for heart health.
Steaming is another powerful way to cook as it doesn’t take a long time and it’s one of the best ways to preserve the nutrients in your food. You can purchase the steamer that plugs into your wall, a saucepan steamer set or simply use a steaming basket in one of your existing saucepans.
One of the greatest tools you can purchase for your kitchen is a slow cooker. This is a healthy way to cook and can really be a timesaver in your life. With slow cookers you can add ingredients to the pot, set the temperature, and go on with your daily tasks.
This is especially helpful if you have a job outside of your home or just a very busy schedule. You can put healthy foods in to cook and when you arrive home at the end of the day you will have an awesome dinner to look forward to. Check out the internet for some fantastic recipes.
The biggest complaint people have about slow cookers tends to be the cleanup. However, there are liners available now that you can place inside your slow cooker making cleaning it much easier. You simply throw them away when you’re done.
Choosing Healthy Fats and Substitutions
Many times when people begin to cook and eat healthy foods, they try to eliminate fats from their diet. The fact is that your body needs fats in order to function properly. Many people are not aware of the difference between healthy fats and unhealthy fats.
Unhealthy fats are those that are saturated. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. You find these fats in meats and dairy products. These are the common fats that can clog your arteries and cause you to have heart problems.
Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. They’re healthier for the body and actually contribute to good heart health – especially monounsaturated fats. These fats come from plant sources. Some foods that contain healthy fats include:
- Olive oil, safflower oil, soybean oil
- Flaxseed oil (can be added to food, but not used to cook)
- Nuts – almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, etc.
When you’re cooking, try to use these types of fats as much as possible. Adding nuts or avocado to a dish is a great way to boost the heart healthy fats. And they also add delicious flavor and significantly increase the overall nutritional value of a healthy meal.
When you’re baking, you can also make substitutions for fats. For example, if a cake or brownie recipe calls for oil you can substitute it with carrot puree or applesauce. These will give the same texture and moisture without the fat.
If you’re not ready to go completely away from the oil, try substituting half of the oil for applesauce. This will give you the best of both worlds. In many recipes, the oil can be cut in half without significantly changing the texture. You may want to experiment with your favorite recipes.
Eliminate Excess Sugars
Sugars are another area where people tend to fall over when it comes to enjoying a healthy eating plan. You need to have sugars in order for your brain to work. But the types of sugar that you eat can make a difference. Eliminating processed sugars as much as you can is a must when it comes to healthy cooking.
Instead of using ingredients such as white granulated sugar, brown sugar or powdered sugar, try to have sweetness through more natural ingredients. Honey and molasses are natural sources of sugar. Raw cane sugar is also a natural source of sugar. While these choices are natural and less processed than other types of sugar, you’ll still want to use them in limited quantities. A little goes a long way.
Fruits are an even better way to get your source of sweetness. They naturally contain sugar that can satisfy your sweet tooth while still delivering nutrients to your body. The sugar you get from apples, grapes or strawberries provides satisfying sweetness and also delivers fibre and vitamins.
In addition to getting sugar from sweet foods, many people get a lot of sugar from the drinks they consume. Sugary sodas, sweet teas, and juices can give you a lot of calories without giving much in the way of nutrition. This is a great place to start eliminating sugars from your life.
Switch to water with lime or herbal teas that are flavored naturally. If you want to add sweetness, try a natural sweetener such as stevia to add that punch. Other calorie free sweeteners can be less healthy.
There are many dessert options using fruits and other healthy ingredients that can help you to get the sweetness you crave without sacrificing your health. As you eliminate sugar, you’ll get to a point where you really don’t crave it as much. It’s really just a matter of what your body gets used to.
Lowering Your Sodium
Another thing worth considering with healthy cooking is lowering the amount of sodium, or salt, in your diet. Salt can cause problems with high blood pressure and bloating. While you need some salt in your diet for good health, most people get too much.
When shopping for ingredients, look for natural sea salt or items labeled as “low sodium” or “sodium free.” This way you can control how much salt you add to your meals.
For many people the idea of healthy cooking is synonymous with bland food. But if you’re going to cook healthy it’s critical that you enjoy what you’re eating. Otherwise you won’t be able to adopt these techniques long-term.
It’s important to make sure that while you’re eliminating unhealthy fats and sugars that you don’t forget to add flavor. Natural spices and herbs can be the best way to enhance the flavor of your food and can be fantastic for your health too.
If you haven’t used many spices before, now is the time to add spice to your life. As you make the switch to healthier cooking the following spices are critical to have in your pantry:
- Salt-free seasoning
- Italian seasoning
- Pepper (black, red, white, cayenne)
As you continue to cook, you’ll naturally add more and more spices to your supply. But these are general or basic spices that can get you started. You’ll also want to consider keeping fresh herbs on hand and growing them yourself is easy, convenient and less expensive.
As the season begins to end, you can chop up your herbs and freeze them in ice cube trays. This way you can continue to enjoy them all year round. Some great herbs to begin your herb garden with include the following:
Adding fresh spices will make any dish more flavorsome and nutrient rich. Remember that healthy cooking doesn’t have to be boring and bland. The more flavor you add, the more you’ll enjoy what you’re eating. If you enjoy the food your eating when cooking healthy, it will more likely become a natural part of your lifestyle.
If you’re not familiar with cooking healthy, it can take some time to adjust. But as you persist and continue adding new techniques you’ll find that it can be easy and extremely rewarding. The more you commit to healthy cooking the more comfortable you will be and the more creative you will get. Your inner chef may blossom big time and surprise even yourself!