Cooking healthier meals has become a challenge nowadays, especially when we have restaurants and fast-food centers all over. The thought of enjoying a dinner at your favorite diner can be enticing, however, it cannot compare to a healthy home-cooked meal.
Healthier home-cooked meals are much cheaper and help you bond with your family and friends. It is easy to minimize takeaways or dinners outside and replace fast foods with healthy alternatives by following a few tips.
Let us have a look at a few healthy cooking tips that will help you get started.
1. Plan & Pick
It is always better to have a meal plan handy. Prepare a fruit and vegetable shopping list based on your meal plan. Always make sure to pick fresh and organic veggies and fruits. Make sure to stay away from canned or frozen veggies as much as possible as they have salt in them.
2. Choose a Healthier Cooking and Preparation Method
Cooking a meal is no rocket science, but it is no magic too. Opt for healthier cooking styles to preserve the nutrients in the food. Fruits and vegetables have water-soluble nutrients in them, and these can be destroyed easily during the process of preparing and cooking. Nutrient loss can be minimized by taking extra care.
As these nutrients are pretty close to the skin of the veggies and fruits, you can just scrub them instead of peeling off the skin. For example, a deep-frying method can be replaced with shallow fry, and you can steam the veggies instead of just boiling them in a pot or pressure cooker.
3. Replace Unhealthy Foods with Healthier Options
Make sure to replace foods that are high in fat and cholesterol with healthier versions. Regular white sugar can be replaced with organic jaggery or cane sugar. Stay away from processed foods and those that are filled with preservatives. You can also replace processed foods with lean meat, seeds, avocado, olives, etc as they have “long-chain fatty acids” in them.
4. Pick the Right Oil
Make sure to read the label before you buy the oil for cooking. You can find different oils that can be used for stir fry and deep-frying. Check the label for the unsaturated fat content, as oils with a high amount of unsaturated fat are unhealthy. Alternatively, you can use Olive or Canola oil for dressing and stir-fries.
5. Reduce the Amount of Salt or Sodium
Though salt is a very commonly used ingredient to enhance the flavor of the dish, a diet high in salt can be unhealthy. Regular salt can be replaced with iodized salt, and you can omit salt and add lemon juice or vinegar to enhance the flavor of the dish. A lot of processed sauces like soy sauce, salad dressings, tomato sauce, etc have a high content of salt in it, and hence it is better to avoid those or use them in moderation.
6. Include Culinary Herbs
A lot of herbs are used in day-to-day cooking to enhance the flavor of the dish. Some herbs and leafy vegetables add color and are quite healthy at the same time as they contain Phyto-oestrogens. A few herbs are also used instead of salt or oil in a few recipes. As most of the herbs are mildly flavored, they are added to the dish at the last minute. You can also pick dried herbs as they have a strong flavor. Some of the commonly used herbs are coriander, mint, lemongrass, ginger, chilies, and garlic.
7. Always Choose Whole Grains
You can replace refined grains with whole grains as they have more fiber and other essential nutrients. Grains like brown rice, quinoa, oats, barley, or white oats can be used as side dishes, for one-pot meals, along with soups and salads.
8. Try Some Global Flavours
Do you know that traditional Indian, Mediterranean, Japanese and Chinese recipes do not make use of packed and processed ingredients? They are often rich in grains, herbs, and vegetables. Indian recipes make use of herbs like ginger, garlic, curry leaves, and coriander in their dishes, and these not only add flavor but are healthy and delicious at the same time. A lot of Indian recipes make use of spice powders made from herbs like curry powder, garam masala powder, etc.
9. Get The Required Level of Protein
It is healthy to include protein-rich foods in your every diet, and they can be incorporated quite easily. Instead of serving just meat or one protein-based food, smaller amounts of these can be served along with vegetables or whole grains. Mixing up the protein is one of the best ways to add a good amount of plant protein to your plate. You can even add some green leafy veggies, soy, nuts, legumes, and seeds if you follow a vegan diet.
10. Be Mindful of What You Eat
Healthy cooking and eating can help you stay away from various health-related issues. As per a few traditions, it is important to enjoy the whole process of cooking as negative feelings during the process can affect the taste of the food. Cooking need not be rushed; it can instead be quite meditative. Mindful cooking offers an opportunity to anchor your mind and stay focused, and cook a tasty dish for the family.
Do you now believe that cooking healthier meals for the family is not hard at all? All you need is a little planning, and a few tips to get started. Remember that everything starts with a small change, and the same applies to cooking as well.