Healthy cooking is one of those trendy phrases that has grabbed the attention of the internet in recent times. More and more people are keen on cooking and eating meals the right way. But is there more to healthy cooking than eating right? Why don’t we find out?
What is Healthy Cooking?
If you’ve been keeping up with trends, you must have come across the phrase “healthy cooking”. In literal terms, healthy cooking is defined as the practice of preparing delicious food per nutritional and health standards.
It means paying meticulous attention to all the details that go into food preparation including ingredient sourcing and wholesome preparation methods. The practice also entails making smart choices by eliminating unhealthy additives and avoiding excessive salt, sugar and saturated fat intake.
The ABC of Healthy Cooking
Healthy cooking is a combination of culinary practices and decisions that support overall well-being and health. Let’s get into all the scrumptious details.
- Ingredient Sourcing
Advocates of healthy cooking stress the importance of cooking with wholesome ingredients. These ingredients supply the body with crucial nutrients needed for growth and development. They are devoid of harmful or toxic substances such as preservatives, food colouring and artificial flavours. These include fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats like avocado, nuts and olive oil.
When cooking with ingredients in mind, it is important to acquaint yourself with the nutritional details of the ingredients you use.
Vegetables for instance are chock full of vitamins, minerals and fibre while whole grains like quinoa and brown rice are packed with fibre and help to regulate blood sugar levels. Lean proteins like chicken and fish contain important amino acids that promote muscle growth and repair. When you acclimatize yourself to the nutritional value of the ingredients you are cooking with, you’d be more willing to embrace healthy cooking and will learn how to use these ingredients in the right proportions.
- Healthy Cooking Methods
Another important component of healthy cooking is the use of wholesome cooking methods. The method you employ in cooking your food can either boost the nutritional value of your meals or compromise your health concerns. Healthy cooking methods help preserve the nutritional content of your ingredients and enhance the flavour of your meals without infusing additional calories or toxic substances. For example, vegetables contain delicate water-soluble vitamins that are susceptible to damage or nutrient loss during preparation and cooking. To minimize nutrient damage, steam your vegetables instead of boiling them.
If you must boil your vegetables, use little water to prevent overboiling. Also, Incorporate stir-fry recipes to promote nutrient preservation. Each cooking method has its benefits and a food that is tailored to the style. Methods like simmering, light grilling, steaming, stir-frying, sautéing, blanching and poaching are generally considered healthy because they eliminate the use of excessive saturated fats and sodium and prevent nutrient loss. On the other hand, deep-frying, curing and caramelizing are considered unhealthy cooking methods.
- Portion Sizes
Healthy cooking doesn’t stop at using wholesome ingredients and cooking methods. You also have to be mindful of portion sizes to keep unhealthy weight gain at bay. You can follow all the rules and cook your meals in a healthy manner, but if you consume these wholesome meals in large quantities, you may gain unwanted weight. That said, you must avoid overeating by paying attention to portion sizes.
Use smaller plates instead of large ones to control the number of meals you consume. Be mindful of your hunger and fullness cues. Don’t eat at the slightest hint of a craving. Also, avoid distractions such as TV or mobile entertainment while eating as they can lead to mindless eating and overconsumption.
- Smart Food Choices
The last component of healthy cooking is making smart food choices when flavouring and seasoning your meals. Rather than use excessive salt or sugar to flavour your food, use herbs, spices and healthy fats. While excess salt and sugar amplify food flavouring to the highest degrees, they are linked to many health problems including hypertension, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular issues.
Per contra, herbs and spices infuse delicious flavors into your meals with minimal health risks. Fresh herbs like lemon juice, garlic and ginger add a bright and refreshing flavour to your meals while a drizzle of olive oil or a sprinkle of nuts can add richness and depth to your salads and stir-fries. Herbs like coriander, chilli and lemongrass are also great for delicious stir-fries.
Healthy Cooking Tips
Adopting healthy cooking practices in your everyday life isn’t difficult or time-consuming. A few tweaks to your ingredients, cooking methods and seasoning choices are all you need to prepare and consume wholesome meals. Here are some tips you can employ to make the most of healthy cooking and enjoy delicious yet health-boosting meals.
Make a Plan — take time off each week to plan your meals and make a shopping list. With a plan, you can avoid impulse buying and choices and stay on track.
Target Whole Foods — processed foods like instant pasta, salty crackers, and salted nuts are quite tempting. But they do more harm than good. Instead, choose whole unprocessed foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
Use Iodised Salt — You shouldn’t completely banish salt from your meals unless your doctor asks you to. Salt has its benefits but must not be consumed in excess. Of all salt types, iodised salts are the best. They are a good source of iodine.
Minimize the use of Processed Sauces and Condiments — you should use processed sauces and condiments such as soy sauce, tomato sauce, stock powders, mayonnaise and salad dressing sparingly. These contain high levels of salts and unhealthy preservatives.
Use Herbs and Spices the right Way — fresh herbs are delicate, so add them to your food in the last minutes. Dried herbs are generally more potent than fresh herbs, so use them sparingly. A rule of thumb is that one teaspoon of dried herbs equals four teaspoons of fresh herbs.
Stay far from the TV when eating — You can’t help but settle in front of the TV with your meal after cooking. But as tempting as that is, you may consume much more than you intend while watching your favourite soaps or movies. Rather, steer clear of the TV and eat slowly. Savor each mouthful of food. If you can, eat with others.
Replace Saturated Fats with Healthy Fats — Ditch butter for nut spreads, hummus, avocado or margarine made from sunflower or olive oils. Replace mayonnaise with reduced-fat cheese if you can. And instead of buying processed meats , consider healthier alternatives like canned tuna, salmon or falafel.
Avoid Using High Temperatures to Cook — Grilling or pan-frying meats at high temperatures triggers the release of chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons ( PAHs). These chemicals can cause DNA changes and are linked to cancer development.
Measure Ingredients When Cooking — Cooking “blindly” can defeat the purpose of healthy cooking. Eating correct serving sizes of specific foods like pasta and rice can keep calorie levels in check. Ensure to measure ingredients like oil and salt as well. You can easily consume excess salt and fat without accurate measurements.
Don’t Banish Treats — as unhealthy as this tip sounds, it is reasonable advice. Cooking and eating healthy doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself of treats like delicious desserts. When you forbid certain foods, they become much more tempting and you’d eventually give in and consume more than you require. So satisfy your sweet tooth in moderation. Eat a snack or chocolate from time to time. It wouldn’t hurt!
In a Nutshell
Healthy cooking entails making the best culinary decisions regarding ingredient selection, cooking methods and seasoning choices. By employing these tips, you can indulge in scrumptious meals that will support your overall health and well-being.
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