Healthier Cooking – How to Cook and Eat Healthy for a Healthier Family and You!
If there was one thing you could do starting right now to be a healthier you, it would be learning how to cook healthy! This is something that everyone can do for themselves and their family!
Healthier Cooking is nothing More than Learning a Few Tips and Secrets!
America has a love affair with fat and sugar, which is reflected in our preference for fast food and processed meals – and in our waistlines. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions, and continued research on the dangers of unhealthy fats, processed grains, and sugar has shown that eating foods high in these ingredients can considerably shorten our lifespan and reduce our quality of life.
Cutting out unhealthy fats, sugars and refined grains from your diet is a scary thought if you believe that healthy food means bland dishes. Thankfully, this is a serious misconception that likely has its roots in the mid-20th century, when dieting meant Melba toast, cottage cheese on a bed of lettuce, and vegetables suspended in clear gelatin.
These days, thanks to our growing taste for exotic cuisines and the ready availability of ingredients and spices that were once unheard of outside of small specialty stores in large cities, cooking delicious food that’s also healthy is a simple matter of getting the ingredients right and cooking to optimize natural flavors.
Toss out the Simple sugars – read your labels and throw out anything that has dextrose, corn sweetener, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, corn syrup, maltose, lactose and sucrose.
Adding healthy fats to your dishes, tossing in herbs and spices, and using cooking methods that bring out the complex flavors of meats and vegetables are three surefire ways to make your healthy dishes burst with flavor.
Once you start utilizing these healthy cooking tips in the kitchen, your taste buds will put on their dancing shoes, and you’ll never want a fast food burger or heavy, fat-laden meal again.
Try Clean Eating for just one week. Learn More Here –> Benefits of Clean Eating
Don’t Fear the Fat
During the fat-free revolution of the late 1980s, consumers somehow got the idea that fat in their diet was making them fat, and many proceeded to cut out fat altogether. Synthetic fats like Olestra were developed, which turned out to be incredibly dangerous substances that did far more harm than good.
Fat-free versions of everything from potato chips to chocolate chip cookies became all the rage, and that’s when America embarked on its obesity epidemic. The thing is, when food manufacturers took out the fat, they typically replaced it with sugar, because fat-free food doesn’t taste that great on its own.
We now know that sugar is a major culprit when it comes to gaining fat – particularly visceral fat – but for a while, no one could understand why they were gaining weight on a fat-free diet. What many folks don’t realize is that healthy fats are essential for good health.
Healthy fats like those found in avocados, nuts and seeds, olives, and fatty fish are essential for good emotional and physical health. Healthy fats lower the risk of stroke, heart disease and cancer, reduce inflammation and joint pain, and help ease symptoms of depression and prevent dementia.
But perhaps the best thing about healthy fats is that they’re delicious, and they can make even bland food taste good. They’re essential ingredients in healthy dishes for many reasons, including the fact that they enable your body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, and they help you feel fuller longer.
Toss these fats – partially hydrogenated fats, trans fats, vegetable oils, hydrogenated oils and margarine.
Here are some ways to pack incredible flavor into to your healthy, home-cooked dishes with a dose of healthy fat.
Use healthy avocados – add more to your diet
Avocados are rich in healthy fats, vitamins, and antioxidants, and they’re full of flavor. Slice them into salads, mash them and use them on sandwiches instead of mayonnaise and on baked potatoes instead of sour cream, and add them diced to salsas, rice dishes, and soups.
Use lots of healthy olive oil
Drizzle vegetables like Brussels sprouts, peppers, potatoes, and asparagus with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle them with a little kosher salt, and roast them.
Add nuts for flavor and texture
Make salads burst with flavor and pleasing textures by adding walnuts, almonds, or sunflower seeds.
Add real butter
Contrary to popular belief, a little butter won’t hurt you, and in fact, research is beginning to show that just a small amount of butter has some incredible health benefits, including fighting heart disease and osteoporosis, raising your good cholesterol and lowering the bad, reducing inflammation, and fighting cancer and weight gain. Add a tablespoon of butter to olive oil for sautéing lean meats and vegetables to add major flavor and a healthy dose of nutrients like Vitamin K2, conjugated linoleic acid, and fatty acid butyrate.
Add flavorful & healthy cheese
Smother your turkey burgers with goat cheese, sprinkle your salads and sautéed meats with feta or bleu cheese, and melt provolone or Brie over your tuna fish sandwich.
Lemon and limes give food so much additional flavor. Add with a little oil or butter and it’s a great way to add delicious healthy fats. Always have a fresh lemon on hand to squeeze over freshly sauteed spinach, broccoli and kale. Spinach, broccoli, and kale contain iron, but it’s in an indigestible form. Also by adding a little bit of lemon will help your body break it down in to a form that is easier for your body to absorb.
Stock Up on Spices
In addition to adding healthy fat to your home-cooked meals, a great way to infuse your dishes with incredible flavor is to use herbs and spices. We’re not just talking about a little smattering of oregano in your spaghetti sauce or a small sprinkle of cumin in your chili. We’re talking about the serious spicing up of your dishes to make them explode with subtle and not-so-subtle flavors that will vastly increase your enjoyment of even the simplest recipes. Spices aren’t just about flavor, though. They’re packed with incredibly powerful nutrients that can turn a healthy meal into a “super food” extravaganza. In his book Healing Spices (Sterling, 2011,) Bharat Aggarwal, Ph.D, a professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, reveals a mountain of research that shows how using spices can contribute to good health. Don’t be afraid to experiment with spices to add flavor and added health benefits to your dishes. If you’re brand new to cooking with herbs and spices, stock up on these ten and start experimenting with their potent flavors.
Rich in anti-inflammatory compounds that have been shown to lower the risk of cancer by preventing the growth of tumors, nutmeg is pungent and a little sweet. It lends extra flavor to chicken, fish and veal, and it pairs well with cinnamon. Its flavor is strong, so start with 1/8 teaspoon.
Cayenne and other chili peppers
The capsaicin found in chili peppers is known to rev up the metabolism by turning up the body’s thermostat, which helps burn fat and calories. It also reduces cravings for fatty foods, and it’s packed with Vitamin A, beta carotene and lutein. If you like your food spicy hot, use fresh jalapenos, or add ¼ teaspoon or more of cayenne to any of your favorite dishes. If you don’t like heat, use sweet paprika, which has the same benefits without the burn.
One tablespoon of cumin contains 22 percent of the recommended daily allowance for iron, and it’s a heart-healthy antioxidant that can also help fight infections. Cumin is a staple in Mexican and Indian cuisine. Try cumin in soups, chili, black beans and rice, eggs, hummus, and falafel.
Rich in antioxidants, iron, potassium and calcium, rosemary can help prevent the cancer-causing compounds that result when you cook meat at high temperatures on the grill or under the broiler. It also improves the blood flow to the brain to improve attention span and memory retention. Rub beef, pork and chicken with rosemary, or sprinkle it over potatoes, along with a generous amount of minced garlic, before roasting.
Containing a staggering 554 percent of the recommended daily intake for Vitamin K and 53 percent of the RDA for Vitamin C, parsley is a super food that inhibits the growth of cancer cells. It pairs nicely with mint and garlic, and is delicious on chicken and fish, Italian dishes like lasagna and spaghetti, and nearly any dish containing potatoes.
Rich in Vitamin A and minerals like potassium, manganese, calcium, iron and magnesium, cilantro is helpful for aiding digestion, and it may also help remove mercury and other toxic metals from the body. Cilantro is excellent in any Mexican dish, from tacos and burritos to salsa and soups.
Full of antibacterial and anti-inflammatory compounds, basil helps relieve symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome and arthritis. It’s also high in phenolic compounds that can help reduce your risk of cancer. Use basil in pasta dishes like spaghetti and lasagna, as well as in nearly any soup. It’s also wonderful with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, either as a stand-alone snack or on a heart-healthy pizza.
Expensive but best in very small amounts, saffron contains a large dose of Vitamins C and B6, as well as potassium and manganese. It helps regulate blood sugar and aids in the metabolism of carbohydrates and the absorption of calcium. It can also boost your mood and help relieve PMS symptoms. Use saffron in fish, chicken, and rice dishes.
The anti-inflammatory compounds in turmeric are 50 times more potent than Vitamins C and E. Turmeric can inhibit the growth of certain cancer cells in the breasts, and it helps protect against colorectal and stomach cancers. It’s a main ingredient in curry powder, and both turmeric and curry powder are delicious on fish and meat, as well as on roasted vegetables and in rice and soups.
Read more about The health benefits of the mighty turmeric.
Just a half-teaspoon of cinnamon every day can reduce risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. Cinnamon also helps prevent blood sugar spikes by optimizing the metabolism of glucose in the cells. Cinnamon is excellent in curried dishes, on lamb and pork, and in black bean dishes.
And don’t forget the Garlic!
Garlic is a superfood that can contains antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Garlic is good for the gut. Garlic also can add so much flavor to a dish so don’t be shy about using it. Peel and chop your garlic and let it rest for 10 minutes before cooking for additional health benefits.
Did you know that the peel from a lemon or an orange contains more vitamin C than the actual fruit itself! It also lends so much natural flavor to foods. Scub the fruit with warm salt water first to remove any residue or try to buy all organic. Don’t be afraid to start zesting and adding more C!
The Method Matters
When it comes to maximizing flavors, how you cook your food is just as important as the ingredients you use. Different cooking methods produce different flavors, and some result in richer flavors than others. These five cooking methods will help you get the most flavor from your healthy ingredients for the tastiest dishes possible.
Brown the meat
Any time you’re making a soup or stew, or baking a chicken or roast, brown the meat first. Browning helps seal in juices, but that’s not the only reason to do it. When you brown a piece of meat, the texture is improved, the color is more palatable, and the flavors are brought out much more clearly.
Browning caramelizes the natural sugars in meat, which cranks up the flavor. If you want to get technical, it’s all about the Maillard reaction, a series of chemical reactions between the amino acids and natural sugars in the meat, which produces hundreds of different flavor compounds.
These compounds then break down to create even more flavor compounds. Let the meat come to room temperature, and get the pan hot before browning. Toss the meat with a little flour to prevent sticking, and brown it over high, constant heat before baking, roasting or braising.
Deglaze the pan
When you brown or sauté meat, it’s practically a crime to leave the brown bits on the bottom of the pan to soak in soapy water. Those bits are the caramelized juices of the meat, and they’re densely packed with flavor that you can use to your advantage by making a quick sauce for the meat or to drizzle over a side of vegetables, rice or pasta.
When the meat is done browning, remove it and drain the excess fat from the pan. Put the pan back on the heat and pour in a few tablespoons of white or red wine, chicken or vegetable broth, or even apple or orange juice. The liquid should cover the bottom of the pan, but it shouldn’t be deeper than ¼ inch. Use a wooden spoon to stir and scrape up the bits, which will be incorporated into the liquid. As soon as it begins to boil, turn down the heat and keep scraping and stirring until the bits are absorbed by the liquid.
Roast the vegetables
Instead of boiling, steaming, sauteeing or (gasp) microwaving vegetables as a side dish, roast them to caramelize the sugars and bring out their natural, sweet nuttiness and add layers of flavor.
Some of the vegetables that are indescribably delicious when roasted include carrots, onions, potatoes and sweet potatoes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, and bell peppers. To roast vegetables for optimum caramelizing, cut them in a way that produces the most surface area. Instead of cutting them into square chunks, for example, cut them into thick slices. Toss the veggies lightly with olive oil and lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast at 450 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the vegetables, and turn them once or twice during roasting. See our Healthy Roasted Garlic Potatoes.
Toast the nuts
Adding nuts to rice, pasta, salads, and other dishes ramps up flavor and nutrition. Toasting the nuts intensifies their flavor and releases oils that crisp up the exterior. Toast big batches of nuts in a 400-degree oven for about ten minutes, stirring them often. Toast smaller batches in a dry pan on the stovetop, shaking the pan constantly until they’re slightly browned. Be warned that nuts burn very quickly, so be prepared to pull them off of the stove and transfer them to a bowl on a moment’s notice.
Slow cooking your food isn’t just a matter of convenience and savings, but it’s also a matter of flavor. The slower meat cooks, the more tender it becomes. This is because collagen in tough pieces of meat melts down into a rich gelatin at high temperatures over a long period of time. Additionally, the longer a dish cooks, the richer the flavors, due to the complete infusion of herbs and spices. For best results when slow cooking, brown the meat first, deglaze the pan, and add the savory drippings to the slow cooker. Don’t fill the slow cooker more than two thirds full, and keep the lid on it until about a half hour before it’s done cooking, at which time you can lift the lid to stir and taste for seasoning.
What About Carbs in a Healthy Diet?
Despite what people think, carbohydrates actually do play a huge role in good health and also in a fat loss diet. You have your good carbs and you have your bad carbs; the trick is to eat the good carbs.
There are two different types of carbohydrates; processed and complex. Processed carbs are found in snacks, packaged meals, desserts, cakes and in junk food in general. Complex carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, wheat products and salads.
The complex carbs are beneficial for all of us. Experts recommend that we eat 55 – 60% of our calories to include these good carbs!
Here is a list of some foods that will include these good carbs –
- Baked potato
- Sweet potato
- Whole-wheat bread
- Shredded Wheat
- Wholewheat Cereal (Shredded Wheat, Muesli, Bran Flakes)