Feeding the family right is not just about stocking the refrigerator with plenty to eat. What the family consumes goes a long way in helping family members to maintain good health. Obesity has become a major problem in America and other parts of the world. It can lead to a number of health problems that can easily be avoided by making simple changes to cooking styles. For example, by choosing to grill instead of fry food, you are engaging in healthy cooking.

There are a number of healthy cooking tips you can incorporate into your cooking. We have put together a selection of easy to use, tips that you will find useful in adopting a healthy cooking method for your family’s meals and good health.

  • Salt is one of the most common ingredients found in almost every kitchen. In case you are wondering what the big deal in using salt is, too much salt can lead to sudden spikes in blood pressure leading to heart attacks, osteoporosis, inhibit the body’s absorption of calcium, cause kidney problems, dehydration and digestive problems. Quite a bagful for a few grains of white powder right! Let’s cut the quantity of salt we use in our food and replace it with spices, herbs, vinegar (flavored varieties) or lemon juice. In meat and soup dishes you can use garlic powder, paprika or dried parsley to substitute salt.
  • Steam, grill, bake or broil foods for the best nutritional value from the vegetables and meats. High temperatures cause foods to lose their nutrients very quickly.
  • Change your cooking oils; opt for canola for cooking and olive oil for your salads. Use oil very sparingly in cooking, choosing instead to use flavored vinegars or lemon juice for frying and moisture.
  • Roasting, stir frying or poaching food is always the better option when compared to frying foods. The danger in fried foods is the large quantity of oil meats and vegetables absorb.
  • Increase your intake of brown rice, whole wheat, barley and oatmeal, mash fruits and vegetables and avoid all manner of canned or processed vegetables and meats.
  • Taking time to select healthy ingredients for your dishes; it translates to less cooking time and better preservation of the natural nutrients.
  • Control high cholesterol levels and blood pressure by adding more tomatoes, onions, herbs and vinegar to daily diet.
  • If you cannot find organic produce, wash vegetables in a solution potassium permanganate and then rinse well under running water. This will help to get rid of all the pesticides and insecticides.

According to the Institute of Medicine’s Guidelines, only 20-30 percent of our daily calories should come from fat. Preparing meals at home helps to keep a close watch over the calories and eliminate unhealthy fats. However, don’t go overboard because some fats (unsaturated) are good for the heart. Most people love cheese, but it is chock-full of fat and when you choose the low fat varieties of cheddar for example, you get a rubbery, salty mess that doesn’t taste anything like the cheese you know and love. Why not opt for cheeses that are naturally low in fat content.

For example, feta and goat’s cheese are good for salads, sandwiches and dishes that list cheese as an ingredient. Because of the pungent flavor of feta and goat’s cheese, you also end up using a lesser quantity of cheese in anything you prepare. Other options include low fat cottage cheese or ricotta cheese for lasagna and other baked dishes. Broiling, roasting and grilling are some of the healthier methods for cooking meats as opposed to frying meat.

Cooking methods like deep frying, pan frying and braising are all to be avoided. You should also avoid the fattier cuts of meat. Fish can be grilled or broiled and will taste just as good with some lemon juice and a few other spices. Choose lean steaks like flank or round for steak dinners and marinade the meat in a mix of garlic, lemon juice and soy sauce. This will help to tenderize the meat and flavor it without the need for fat rich marinades. Always take the time to trim as much fat as possible from the meat and remove all the skin from chicken before cooking. You can reduce the quantity of meat especially ground meat in recipes with beans.

Black eyed beans and pinto beans are very healthy and have a low fat content. You can use a mix of boiled beans and ground meat for burgers, meatloaf and chili preparations. Add the spices and chopped bell peppers and the burger will be just as tasty. There is no rule that says all frying has to be done with lard or butter.

You can use broth quite effectively to reduce the cholesterol and fat levels in the cooking. Cook vegetables in broth and add broth instead of butter to mashed potatoes. You can also keep some of the water you boiled them in to moisten them for mashing. Healthy cooking takes a bit of effort initially, but very soon becomes a part of your regular cooking methods.

Now that you have decided to maintain a healthy diet by eating healthy foods, it is time to get out the cookbooks or start surfing the internet for recipes and tips. Healthy cooking involves more than just cooking at home. It is also about the ingredients used to prepare the food, cooking methods, foods that are nutritious and foods that should be avoided. In the interests of eating healthy foods, no one wants to end up eating the same boring foods every day. The path to healthy cooking will have its share of learning curves; just dig in and persevere. There are some mistakes you can avoid to make the healthy cooking experience a happier one.

The first mistake people are apparently fond of making is failing to plan in advance. When you decide to start cooking your own meals that are a healthy option to eating junk food, planning is an essential part of the process. It is very important to plan a shopping list based on the menu for the week ahead. Sit yourself down regularly once a week with a cookbook or the internet to plan the foods you will feed your family. Make a list of all the ingredients you need to stock up on; stick to the list and you will not end up buying foods that are unhealthy.

Don’t forget to include snack plans in the list for the week. Preparation is key to saving time preparing those healthy meals. Once the shopping is done, prepare the fruits and vegetables by washing them and storing in the refrigerator. Put the fruits and vegetables in damp paper towels first then put them in airtight containers. This will help to preserve them. Divvy up the snacks and store in sealable ziplock bags; this way it is no big deal to hand them out on a daily basis and you get to control the portions. One common mistake people generally make is to go overboard and cut out all the fat from their cooking. We need to remember that not all fats are bad fats and the body does need the energy and fatty acids some fats provide.

A bit of fat in the cooking will provide a sense of fullness so you end up eating less. What you can do is reduce the bad fats like full fat butter, cheese, cream and whole milk; fatty meats; fried foods, baked goods sold commercially; processed sauces and dressings. Learn how to make sauces and dressings with healthy ingredients and substitute healthy foods for unhealthy, fat-rich foods.

With all the information about obesity and health related problems, the spotlight has been turned on the excessive consumption of fats and high cholesterol foods. Today the market offers a wide range of low fat and fat free foods to reduce the intake of fats.

Let us look at what foods to avoid, to maintain a healthy cooking standard. Cheese is a great source of calcium and protein for the body regardless of how it is consumed. However, cheese has a very high fat content and this is definitely not good for the body. It is possible to still enjoy cheese by choosing no fat or low fat options. Yogurt is now available in no fat plain varieties and feta cheese can replace the high fat cheddar cheese used in salads and other dishes.

Fats are found in full force in butter, shortening, oils and margarine. You can start by reducing the quantity of butter or oil used in cooking preparations and slowly move on to substituting things like mashed banana or applesauce (unsweetened) for the fat that goes into baking. The taste will be novel and not really bad at all. Meat and fish contain a certain amount of fat that can be reduced by trimming all the visible fat from the meat and removing the skin from poultry. Choose fresh fish rather than canned fish in oil for fish preparations.

Substitute ground turkey meat for beef and try to use more beans and vegetables than meat in your food preparations. Milk has a high fat content, but is essential for the calcium it provides the body. Opt for skim milk or soya milk. Don’t use cream in any of the dishes and use yogurt as a substitute whenever appropriate.

Dressings such as mayonnaise and store bought sauces have a very high fat content and plenty of calories. It is better to prepare low fat dressings by using vinegar, olive oil, fresh herbs and spices instead. Mustard for sandwiches is another fat free option. Start using the oven and the microwave more than the frying pan for cooking healthy foods.

Frying foods results in way too many calories and plenty of fat that just sits in the fried items. Grill your food or broil, poach, roast or bake food and you will be engaging in healthy cooking techniques. Try to give up fried foods altogether at least when you cook food at home. The occasional binge at a fast food place is alright to keep the cravings for fried foods at bay.

It is quite simple to make substitutions to one’s regular daily diet to enjoy healthy cooking and a healthy life. The main goal in making substitutions in food is to cut out the unhealthy fats and cholesterol; increasing fats good for health and reducing sodium levels in food. For example, olive oil and avocados are very good for health. It’s the saturated fats and the trans fats that cause the obesity and health risks. By making use of some simple cooking strategies it is possible to create tasty meals without the fat. The monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats together with fiber help to improve health and reduce the risk of heart ailments. Let us check out some of these dietary substitutions to see what will work in your kitchen.

• There’s nothing to beat the wholesome goodness of healthy fresh vegetables. While fresh is the best without additives and preservatives, frozen vegetables without any additives are also good. Always choose frozen vegetables that don’t have anything added to enhance taste and flavor. Avoid canned vegetables; they are generally packed in preservatives, chemicals and salt. These additions offset all the goodness of the vegetables. Always opt for fresh vegetables; with a bit of planning you can do your grocery shopping so that you always prepare healthy meals with fresh stuff.

• It is not the grains or the breads that are unhealthy, but the type of grains chosen that can prove unhealthy. Whole grains are made up of three parts, but refined grains (white bread and rice) have one part. The missing parts are fiber, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. Get rid of white bread, rice, pasta, cereals and crackers from your pantry. Stock up on whole wheat options instead.

• Yogurt is a very healthy food, rich in protein and full of probiotics and calcium. Choose the low fat or no fat options to reduce the saturated fat. If you can get it, Greek yogurt, the plain non-fat version is very healthy. You don’t need to use cream; substitute yogurt instead for fruit toppings and sauces.

• Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids that are recommended for the body because it helps to lower the bad cholesterol while increasing the good cholesterol. Butter should really not be in your home at all, it is full of saturated fat and even some margarine products contain trans fat. Use olive oil instead of butter or lard for any cooking you do.

Salmon is good for you. It’s a great source of protein, vitamin D, and Omega-3 fatty
acids. It’s firm pink flesh lends itself to a variety of preparations This is just one of the
many ways.
1 lb. Salmon fillets
olive oil
2 lemons, slice thin
2 Tbsp. Capers, drained and rinsed
dried dill
aluminum foil
Preheat over to 350º. Divide salmon into four portions. Get a piece of foil long
enough so that the salmon piece has about a 1-2” diameter around it. Drizzle some
olive oil over the fillet. Sprinkle the desired amount of dried dill on the salmon fillet.
Sprinkle ½ Tbsp. Capers over the fillet. Top with lemon slices. Tear off another piece
of aluminum foil. Place of prepared salmon. Roll the edges of the top and bottom
pieces of foil together to make the packet. Make three more packets with the
remaining salmon fillets. Place packets on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
You can serve the packets right on the plate. Be careful when opening. Poke a
hole in the top to vent the steam and then open.
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This recipe can easily be double or tripled or halved. You can also cook the
prepared salmon packets on a grill.

This dish is full of flavor and easy to put together. It’s a great dish for an everyday
dinner or entertaining.
½ cup flour 4 Tbs. Butter, divided
salt and pepper 2 Tbs. Olive oil
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 14 oz. Can artichoke hearts in
(1 ½ – 2 lbs.) pounded flat water, drained and quartered
½ cup dry white wine 1 Tbs. Capers, drained + rinsed
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper the chicken breasts. Dredge in flour. Set aside. Heat half the
butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken 4 – 5 minutes
on each side or until golden brown and no longer pink on the inside. Remove to a
platter and cover with a paper towel to keep warm. Add remaining butter to the
skillet. Add artichoke hearts, wine, lemon juice, lemon zest and capers. Scrape up
the brown bits left behind by the chicken. Stirring occasionally, cook 2 – 3 minutes
or until bubbly. Return chicken to skillet, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook 8 – 10
minutes until the chicken is warmed through and the sauce has thickened slightly.

This dish is quick and full of garlic. Guaranteed to keep the vampires away!
2 lbs. Peeled shrimp
1 stick butter
2 T. olive oil
2 T. chopped garlic
pinch of cayenne pepper
6 cups cooked rice or 1 pound dried pasta, cooked
optional: fresh chopped parsley
You can serve this dish over rice or pasta, depending on what you have on hand
and what you’re in the mood to eat. We call it Shrimp Spaghetti when we have it
over pasta. Whatever you decide, get that started according to package
directions and prepare the rest of the dish. While the rice or pasta is cooking, melt
the butter and olive oil together in a large skillet over medium heat. Once melted
and starting to bubble, add the garlic and pinch of cayenne pepper. Turn the heat
up to high and add the shrimp. Cook until pink and heated through. Remove from
heat. Snip parsley directly onto shrimp mixture. If serving over rice, spoon some rice
onto each plate and spoon the shrimp mixture over it. If serving over pasta, drain
pasta and pour the shrimp mixture into it and toss. Serve onto individual plates.
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Shrimp cook quickly which makes it an ideal meal to prepare on the run. A great
time saver step is to buy it peeled. If you’re a cheapskate like me, you can buy it
unpeeled. My husband, daughter (one of the 2 girls cooking) and I usually peel it
together. It’s a way for me to get them off the couch, away from the tv and in the
kitchen. Another quick way to prepare shrimp is to put it peeled onto skewers or in
a grill basket, brush it with olive oil and cook it on the grill. (Another way to get my
husband involved since the only cooking he does is on the grill). Add a vegetable
and side dish and you have another tasty and quick meal.

Prepare as much of the meal in advance as you can.

*Chop vegetables and put them in covered storage bowls or plastic zip bags so all you have to do is wash them and throw them into whatever you’re cooking. It’s recently been recommended to leave vegetables unwashed as veggies that sit in water breed bacteria faster and can lead to food poisoning. If you do wash them before storing them in the refrigerator, dry them thoroughly.

*Take any meat to be defrosted out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator the night before. Make it part of your bedtime routine. Save yourself a mess and make sure you put it in a 13 x 9 pan or other dish to catch any drippings. There’s nothing much worse than cleaning up meat juice that has leaked all over the bottom of the refrigerator. It’s ok if your meat is not completely thawed before you have to cut it. It’s much easier to slice it when it’s slightly frozen.

Involve your family in the cooking and cleaning. If you have kids, you’ll not only be teaching them a valuable skill, it’s a great way to spend some quality time together. Some of my favorite memories are of helping my grandfather in the kitchen. Even now I can smell the garlic and onions. I bet you have some great memories, too!

If you have a timer feature on your oven, use it! I have to admit I don’t make the best use of this. I have been able to season and prepare chicken pieces and throw it in the oven to cook and run my child to an activity knowing that the timer will shut it off at the appointed time.

Use recipes with fewer ingredients. Fewer ingredients mean less preparation time which means getting in and out of the kitchen faster. Aim for recipes with five ingredients or less.

Cook once, eat twice. Some days you have more time to cook than others. On those days when you have the time, prepare enough meat to be used for two different meals. For instance, brown all the ground beef you need for two meals. Either freeze or refrigerate half of it to be used later. You can use it to make chili today, tacos later. The possibilities are endless.

Use items that cook quickly. Instead of chicken pieces, use chicken tenders; use shrimp that’s already peeled; chop vegetables as finely as possible.

Use prepackaged ingredients. Look for those that have fewer preservatives and artificial ingredients. Fresh or frozen chopped vegetables, chicken roasted in the deli, sliced/shredded cheese, boil-in-a-bag rice, pasta sauces.

Be efficient. Make as few moves as needed to get your meal together. Grab all your ingredients at once and put them in your prep area; pull out all the utensils, measuring cups, pans, etc.; maximize your prep space by clearing all the stuff off your counter that you don’t use nearly everyday; get a garbage bowl or can and have it right there to throw away scraps and wrappers rather than going back and forth; have all your food prepared and ready to go before you cook.

Have a recipe arsenal. Have a collection of recipes that are favorites for your family. Then group them by ingredients. For instance, have a list of favorites using ground beef, chicken, pork, fish, etc. When that goes on sale, you’ll have a ready list of recipes to use for whatever is on sale. This is efficient and saves money. Try new recipes every so often and if it becomes a new family favorite, add it to the arsenal!

With all the exposure diseases and unhealthy lifestyles are garnering in the press today, people are afraid of contracting some awful disease or becoming obese. And with good reason one might add – there are way too many temptations out there to take us away from healthy cooking and a healthier lifestyle. Why do we need to eat out when we can whip up simple, delicious meals in the comfort of our own home? By adopting healthy cooking practices it is possible to live a healthy life, and avoid numerous health problems that plague us due to wrong eating habits. Many people are wary of the term healthy cooking because it conjures up visions of alfalfa sprouts and rabbit food. First step to a healthier lifestyle is to get this erroneous notion right out of your head. Healthy cooking can be as much fun as you make it. Here are a few simple ideas that you will soon find make a whole lot of difference to the way we eat.

  • Avoid cooking in fat such as butter and oil. If you need oil choose olive oil or vegetable oil containing unsaturated fats rather than cooking in saturated fats.
  • Cut out the salt in your food; try to substitute with flavored vinegars, lemon juice, herbs and spices. Avoid excessive use of tomato sauce and other processed sauces like soya sauce; they have a high salt content.
  • You need to be firm in your resolution where fried foods are concerned. All fried foods need to be replaced with steamed, baked, stir fried, grilled or roasted foods. An additional benefit is the foods retain most of their original nutrients when they are not fried.
  • As much as possible, choose to cook using fresh ingredients such as vegetables and meats. Try to avoid canned and processed foods – they have high sodium contents and are often full of additives. Natural foods have so many more benefits than processed or preserved foods.
  • Full cream and whole milk can be cut out and replaced with skimmed milk. This step is necessary if you have weight problems.
  • Avoid cooking your food more than is necessary. For example, if you can eat something by boiling it for 3 minutes, why insist on cooking it for 10 minutes? Overcooking kills the nutrients in the food and the body does not benefit from such foods. Follow these tips and you will soon become an expert at healthy cooking!