The way you prepare your meal can make a big difference in the total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol content. With simple changes to your cooking methods, you can cook leaner and still have great-tasting dishes. When deciding on a healthier cooking method, it is essential to understand key cooking methods and what they mean.
Most lower-fat cooking methods include braising, broiling, grilling, pan-broiling, poaching, roasting, simmering, steaming, stewing, and stir-frying.
|Braise||to simmer in a covered pot over low heat in a small amount of liquid such as water, broth, or fruit juice.|
|Broil||to cook with direct heat, usually under a heating element in the oven.|
|Fry||to cook food directly in hot oil.|
|Grill||to cook with direct heat over hot coals.|
|Pan-broil||to cook uncovered in a preheated, nonstick skillet without added oil or water.|
|Poach||to cook gently in liquid, just below the boiling point when the liquid is just beginning to show movement.|
|Roast||to cook with dry heat in the oven.|
|Sauté||to cook quickly in a small amount of fat, stirring often so the food browns evenly.|
|Simmer||to cook slowly in liquid, just below boiling; usually done after reducing heat from a boil.|
|Steam||to cook with steam heat over (not in) boiling water.|
|Stew||to cook in enough liquid to cover food, such as water, broth, or stock, for a long period of time in a tightly covered pot over low heat.|
|Stir-fry||to cook small pieces of meat, poultry, fish, tofu, and/or vegetables in a very small amount of oil over very high heat, stirring often as it cooks.|
Time-Saving Cooking Guidelines
Preparing a week's or more worth of meals at one time can help you eat healthy while saving time. Bulk cooking may make for a pretty busy weekend, but the payoff is a week or more of super easy and healthy dinners and more time for you during the week. A bulk cooking system is designed chiefly for main dishes, the most time-consuming part of a meal. Of course, they should be combined with vegetables, salad, and other healthy side dishes. Once you cook meals ahead, simply place them in freezer bags or airtight containers and freeze them. When you need a meal, it is as simple as taking it out of the freezer. Many foods freeze perfectly, especially soups, stews, spaghetti sauces, and chili. Let the food cool before you place it in the freezer, and be sure your freezer temperature is properly regulated (0 degrees or lower). Be careful not to stuff the freezer to the brim so air has room to circulate.
Fact: Try cooking rice, couscous, and other grains with herbs, fat-free broth, or juice instead of adding fat. Don't rinse rice when it is done cooking because you will wash away some of the vitamins, especially B vitamins.
Label your containers with contents and a date so you know what to use first and which dishes will keep for how long. As a rule of thumb, stews and casseroles will generally keep well for up to three months, while sauces will keep even longer. If you store frozen foods longer than what is recommended, they will generally still be safe to eat, but the taste and texture may be compromised.
If you don't have the time to make so many meals at one time, try cooking a double batch of whatever meal you are making and freeze it for another meal the following week. Another time-saving tip is to use cooking methods that make cooking and clean-up much easier—such as grilling.
Grilling is a great way to get outside and do your cooking at the same time. It's quick and it's a great way to cook low-fat, because you don't need to add any fat. Grilling does have a downside. Recent research has indicated that potential carcinogens (or substances that can cause cancer) are present in grilled foods. Fat that drips from the food onto the flames tends to create smoke that contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. These chemicals in the smoke can be potential carcinogens. The blackened parts of meat may also contain carcinogens. Just because grilled foods may contain some carcinogens does not mean that people who eat grilled food are going to develop cancer or that you should stop grilling. It is a smart idea nonetheless to reduce your exposure to carcinogens as much as possible. If you love to grill, follow these tips to help reduce your risk of exposure to possible carcinogens:
- To reduce grilling time, microwave or cook foods first that take a long time to cook on a grill. For example, cook ribs on low heat in the slow cooker or oven until cooked and then just put on the grill to baste with your favorite sauce.
- Use low or medium heat on the grill to avoid flames that shoot up and char the meat.
- Use leaner cuts of meat and marinades with little fat to avoid fat dripping on to the coals and causing flare-ups, smoke, and charring.
- Add glazes, sauces, or marinades only during the last few minutes on the grill; the sugar in the sauce causes flare-ups and increased smoke.
- Avoid eating the blackened parts of meat or other grilled foods.
More on: Nutritional Resources for Families
Copyright © 2002 by Kimberly A. Tessmer. Excerpted from The Everything Nutrition Book: Boost Energy, Prevent Illness, and Live Longer with permission of its publisher, Adams Media Corporation.
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