For many years, you have wanted to substitute that heavy beef curry with maybe a version of a grilled lean meat, or use baked crisps instead of fried food, but have always worried about the outcome for the taste of the food.
Will it be good enough?
Come to think about food without heavy cream, or oils, or cheese, and the foodie in you will probably have a mini-stroke.
Also, you are worried whether a healthy food option will separate you from the foods that you love and the comfort that you receive from them. But, you still want to try. You have decided that you owe your body and soul that much.
So you have finally taken the dive and are now actively trying to cook and eat healthy meals, but unfortunately the water is icy cold; you can barely see anything and have no clue in which direction you should swim; or maybe you are standing on the edge of the cliff staring at the water down below, scared of taking the dive, maybe because the cliff is just too high, what if there are rocks hidden under the water?
These doubts and uncertainties are only natural, questions that need to be answered crop up in every mind, and they will be answered in this article, some of them at least, and the literal ones, the ones which will really help and guide you. The others like the chances of being picked up by giant vultures while diving, or the secret location of the mermaids, they will be left to the realm of fantasy fiction.
Q: Why should we avoid cooking oil as much as possible, some of them are healthy, right?
A: Cooking oils need to be avoided as much as possible because the average American gets over 34% of their daily calories from fats, which is a very high percentage, and it reflects in the data, heart disease is the leading cause of death in America.
So even though you need at least 20% calories from fats, reducing the usage of cooking oils as much as possible is still ideal for a healthy diet. Ditch deep-frying; opt for boiling, steaming, baking, roasting and other such methods that don’t require the use of oil. You can also stir-fry, but make sure to use as little oil as possible.
Q: Fats are bad, right? Should I aim for a zero fat diet?
A: Not at all! All fats are not bad, in fact, some are essential. Our body cannot produce the essential fatty acids required for survival, so we must get them from food. It is not healthy fats, unsaturated fats, which are linked to the increased risk of heart disease; it is the excessive consumption of fats and a higher proportion of trans fats and saturated fats that accounts for the increase.
American Heart Association recommends that 20% to 35% of the total calorie intake should come from fats. The amount of healthy saturated fats consumed should only be 7%, while trans fats should be kept as close to zero as possible.
Q: Is healthy cooking more difficult than other types of cooking?
A: Not at all, healthy cooking does not take more effort or time than any other or “regular” type of cooking, it’s more about learning the proper techniques and how to cook healthier recipes and use healthier ingredients.
Healthy cooking includes a lot of grilled, baked and boiled foods. So the amount of time you take to fry or stir a meal, you could dedicate the same amount of time baking it. If anything, healthy cooking has a lot to do with slow cooked meals. You could just put it on (either in the oven or in the burner) and get on with life while the heat and time does wonders with your low calorie food.
Q: What are good fats?
A: The good fats are the monounsaturated fats and the polyunsaturated fats. Some examples are the fats found in natural foods like walnuts, avocados, olives, nuts (peanuts, almonds, macadamia nuts), flaxseed, tofu, sunflower pumpkin and sesame seeds, and fatty fish, rich in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, such as tuna, salmon, trout, herring, mackerel, sardines.
Q: Dishes just don’t taste good without oil and other fatty items like cheese and cream. What should I do to make them taste better?
A: Even though fats feel satisfying, you can still have the same quality of satisfaction by using the large varieties of herbs and spices for seasoning. Along with adding flavor, all of them have additional health benefits too. Go and get some of the commonly used ones to start your journey into the mystical land of mouth watering combinations of flavors.
You can easily find herbs like oregano, rosemary, basil, thyme, sage, mint, marjoram, etc. Also useful is marinating the food item to be cooked beforehand. This is a good trick when it comes to meats. Use of lemon, vinegar, or a mixed spice paste according to your preferences not only will make the meat tender but also induce a lot of flavor even before you have started cooking. You could leave it overnight for marinating with the herbs and spices and enjoy a hearty and healthy meal the next day.
Q: Can I cook my veggies?
A: When it comes to vegetables, eating a variety of them is the thing that matters the most. Many people have this erroneous notion that cooking destroys a majority of nutrients, this is not true. Some vegetables do some lose some nutrients when cooked, especially they are overcooked, gentle methods like steaming and boiling do not result in a major loss.
Some vegetables like tomatoes and carrots actually benefit from cooking, some of the compounds that function as antioxidants increase in number after cooking.
The important thing is to eat vegetables, if you can’t eat them raw, cook them and eat them. You don’t have to feel guilty; you are still getting their inherent goodness.
Q: What are the best pans for healthy cooking?
A: Depending on what you are cooking, using non-stick pans offers the great advantage of not having to use oil or butter, this is especially useful for dishes such as scrambled eggs and omelets, but, can be used for virtually anything. Hard Anodized cookware is a great choice that is not only no stick, but, high in quality. If you are planning on baking the meal, then normal baking sheets or trays suffice. The same goes for grilling. Healthy cooking need not mean splurging on new cookware. It is the best possible use of things you already have.
Q: How do I buy healthy foods in the supermarket?
A: First of all, steer clear of junk or processed foods. Also, organic foods are healthier in general. While in the supermarket, look at the information provide in the back of the packet – it will give you a general idea on the calories, fats, proteins, vitamins, etc. avoid anything with trans fats.
Take time out to compare various labels. Go for naturally processed food items. Instead of heading over to the supermarket, you could also go to the farmer’s market.
They have the best produce when it comes to various meats, eggs, vegetables, fruits and herbs. The less use of pesticides and other unnatural ingredients while growing the crop is preferable to goods found at the supermarket and instantaneously healthy.
Q: Are all packaged foods unhealthy? What are the alternatives?
A: Not necessarily, but most of the time they contain preservatives for making the food stay longer. It is therefore best to avoid them. Mostly, we tend to buy sauces/jams/oils in terms of packaged foods. You could make the sauces/jams needed for your food in advance at home and in bulk and store them in your freezer for safekeeping. A little bit of planning will go a long way in terms of healthy cooking.
The best thing about healthy cooking is that it lessens the burden on dieting. Dieting basically tries to limit the calorie intake by the body. Healthy cooking does the same by removing all sorts of unwanted fats from our daily food cycle.
It also stresses on a more holistic approach to food, slow cooked meals with use of vegetables, fruits, meats and a focus on herb seasoning instead of oils and creams. The food is sure to encourage a healthier lifestyle.
Q: Dips tastes so good. Is there a way to cut the fat?
A: Yes, substitute regular mayonnaise and full fat sour cream in dips and dressings with fat free sour cream, nonfat yogurt and healthier mayonnaises, such as, Olive Oil or Canola mayos to significantly lower the fat content in recipes.
Q: Is there a way to enjoy a healthier version of fried chicken?
A: Yes, coat the chicken with bread crumbs and bake instead of frying. This will eliminate a lot of the fat content and when baked at high heats, the chicken will be crunchy and delicious. Also, Shake and Bake makes it easy with tasty coatings and no frying.