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Healthy Cooking Methods

Healthy eating starts in the kitchen, beginning with the selection of healthy ingredients. The next step is keeping in mind the preparation method. For instance, vegetables offer a host of health benefits, but deep-fried mushrooms, or broccoli dredged in cheese sauce counters much of the nutritional value.

Think of deep-fried food like a kitchen sponge. Fried foods absorb the cooking oil, just as a dry sponge would absorb water when dropped in a bucket. The longer a food is fried in the oil, the more it absorbs. That means excess calories, plus saturated fat which could lead to heart problems.

Healthy cooking is simple and good for you. The following cooking techniques allow for the natural taste of fresh ingredients to come through with minimum amounts of fat, salt or heavy sauces. Plus, methods like steaming and poaching preserve the nutrients of ingredients; all while supporting your health and delighting your palate.

Here are some of the healthiest and easiest cooking techniques to tackle at home:

Steaming

Anything but boring, steaming is a nutritious and delicious way of preparing foods. Steaming is typically done in a perforated basket that is held over a pot of boiling water for a set amount of time. Flavor can be added by placing fresh herbs and spices in the water or directly on top of the food. Vegetables, fish and shellfish lend themselves beautifully to steaming.

Stir-frying

Popular in Asian cuisine, stir-frying is an excellent healthy cooking method when a meal needs to be prepared quickly. While stir-frying is usually done in a wok, a wide, shallow pan will also work just fine. When stir-frying, only a small amount of oil or seasoned sauce is necessary. Stir-fries are a go-to cooking method for health-minded folks because of the technique’s versatility. Uniformly cut vegetables, skinless chicken breast, tofu, fish and lean meat can be used to make an endless variety of stir-fries.

Grilling

Grilling is a great option for cooking foods using a minimal amount of fat. The heat of the grill browns the outside of the food, sealing in rich flavors, while fat drips off the food, similar to broiling. With the ability to grill either over direct or indirect heat, almost any food can be grilled including lean cuts of meat, poultry, fish, tofu, vegetables and fruits. Get creative with your grilling skills utilizing skewers, grill-top baskets and foil-packets.

Poaching

This simple but delicious healthy cooking method can be done by gently simmering ingredients in a pan of water until the food is tender and cooked through. Bouillon, broth or juice is often used in place of water to infuse additional flavor into foods. Poaching works well for skinless chicken breast, salmon, white fish, eggs and some fruits and vegetables.

Roasting

Relying on the oven’s direct heat, roasting gives food a sweet and caramelized taste with little fat. Practically any vegetable can be roasted as can whole chickens and lean cuts of meat. The ingredients are generally placed in a roasting pan or on a baking sheet with an assortment of herbs and a small amount of good quality oil.

Broiling

Broiling uses high heat, allowing foods to cook in a short period of time. It is an ideal low fat way of cooking meat as the fat simply “drips away.” The overhead heat source cooks the outside surface of foods quickly, so thicker pieces of meat, vegetables or seafood may need to be sliced thinner or placed further from the heat source for even cooking.

Debra Heverling