20 Tips for Healthier Cooking
It’s a new year, and most of us have room for improvement when it comes to healthy cooking and eating. We don’t recommend completely overhauling your approach to food; it can be overwhelming and a recipe for failure. But we DO suggest you take doable, reasonable steps toward healthier cooking; these kinds of changes are sustainable. Here are our top 20 tips for healthy cooking. Take the ones that seem appropriate for you, and give them a try!
1. Steam Your Food
Tip number one for healthy cooking is to try steaming food as a regular cooking method. This works especially well for fish, chicken, and vegetables. You can steam with a covered, perforated basket; you can steam with parchment paper or foil; or you can use a bamboo steamer. Steaming seals in flavor during the cooking process, eliminating the need for extra fats. Steaming also preserves nutrients better than many cooking methods. Here’s a recipe for steamed broccoli that you can try.
2. Eat More Fish & Skinless Chicken
Tip number two for healthy cooking is to eat more fish and skinless chicken. Fish and skinless chicken have less saturated fat than other meats, making them healthier options. We’re not saying you should cut out all beef and pork, but just try adding fish (or chicken) meal every week. Take a look at this delicious, heart-healthy salmon recipe.
3. Make a List of Reasons You Want to Cook Healthy
Tip number three for healthy cooking is to make a list of reasons you want to cook healthier, and keep it handy to read in moments of weakness. Do you want to fit into your clothes better? Get off your blood pressure medication? Play with the kids more? Meet a fitness goal? Stop having headaches? Have more energy? Write it down and read it often.
4. Learn to Stir Fry
Tip number four for healthy cooking is to learn how to stir fry. Stir frying involves cooking food at a very high heat for a short amount of time. You will need a little oil to stir fry, but you can choose a healthy fat and use a small amount of it. A wok works best for stir frying, as the food comes in contact with the high heat in the belly of the wok and is then moved up the sides of the pan where the temperature is cooler. The secret to stir frying is having the food cut in small, uniform pieces so it cooks quickly and evenly. You can cook most meats and vegetables this way, as long as you prep them correctly ahead of time. Stir frying is a tasty way to enjoy lean meats (or even tofu) and a variety of vegetables. Here’s a stir fry recipe to get your started.
5. Decrease Fats and Increase Seasonings
Tip number five for healthy cooking is to cut back on added fats like butter and sour cream, but make up for it with more seasonings (garlic, vinegar, herbs, lemon juice, etc.). You’ll get to enjoy the flavor of your food without so many calories.
6. Substitute Two Egg Whites for One Whole Egg
Tip number six for healthy cooking is to try substituting two egg whites for one whole egg in recipes. This substitution will cut cholesterol, saturated fat, and calories. It takes some experimentation, but this trick works GREAT in some recipes! An egg separator makes this super easy.
7. Start Using Your Broiler
Tip number seven for healthy cooking is to start using your broiler. Broiling exposes food to high temperatures from above. It’s a dry cooking method, so we recommend marinating your meats and vegetables ahead of time so they don’t dry out. Salmon is a healthy but oily fish, and it tastes great broiled because it doesn’t dry out quickly. Some broiling tips are to preheat your broiler with the broiler pan in place so that foods sear quickly. You also will need to turn your foods (we recommend using long handled tongs) half way through broiling so they’ll cook evenly. Take a look at this recipe for broiled chicken, and give it a try.
8. Use Leaner Meats
Tip number eight for healthy cooking is to substitute leaner meats for the fattier ones you may be used to. Ground turkey makes an excellent, low fat substitute for ground beef. (You can even save money by grinding your own turkey at home.) You can sub turkey bacon for pork bacon. Purchase steaks and roasts that are “choice” instead of “prime” to reduce fat. Choose skinless chicken over skin on. These small changes will make a big difference if your fat and calorie count. Here’s a collection of ground turkey recipes to inspire you.
9. Don’t Deprive Yourself, Just Cut Back
Tip number nine for healthy cooking is to not deprive yourself. Instead, just cut back. If you love bread, have it! But have one slice of garlic bread instead of two. Have half a slice of pie instead of a whole slice. If you make a food or ingredient “taboo,” human nature is to become fixated on that item and therefore crave it. So we recommend you allow yourself to eat the Oreo–just not the whole package!
10. Substitute Reduced Fat Dairy Products for the Full Fat Ones.
Tip number ten for healthy cooking is to substitute reduced fat dairy products for the full fat versions. If you do this gradually, it’s a good bet that no one will even notice!
11. Add More Fruits & Veggies Into Your Diet
Tip number eleven for healthy cooking is to add more fruits and veggies into your diet. Are you used to bacon and eggs for breakfast? Add a small bowl of berries to go with it. Do you typically eat a sandwich for lunch? Try eating half a sandwich with a salad on the side. You’ll get more nutrition and more fiber from fruits and veggies, which will contribute to better health and a sense of fullness from the fiber (which can help you eat less).
12. Microwave Your Food
Tip number twelve for healthy cooking is to microwave your food. You heard us right! Microwaving preserves nutrients better than any other cooking method. Rumors about on the dangers of microwaving food, but the truth is that microwaves simply excite the water molecules in your food causing them to move, which creates heat. It’s actually a very simple and very safe method of cooking. Just make sure you use microwave safe containers and cover the food to maintain moisture. Foods that microwave well include fish, chicken, vegetables, and fruits. Here’s a collection of microwave recipes; pick one and see what you think!
13. Remove Fat from Meat Dishes After Refrigeration
Tip number thirteen for healthy cooking is to spoon the fat off meat dishes after they’ve been refrigerated. This is especially effective with chili, soups, broths, ground meat, etc. It takes a little extra time, but it will drastically reduce the amount of fat and calories in a dish. You can also use a fat separator to accomplish this goal. Removing the fat sometimes improves the mouthfeel of a dish, as well.
14. Use Reduced Fat and Fat Free Salad Dressings
Tip number fourteen for healthy cooking is to use reduced fat and fat free salad dressings. Sometimes we get used to the high fat versions, but those can be saved for special occasions. Dressings that are vinegar or citrus based are packed with flavor but not with calories! Changing your salad dressing an easy way to reduce your caloric intake without sacrificing flavor. You can easily whisk or shake up your own, as well. Click here for a fat free dijon salad dressing recipe.
15. Pressure Cook Your Food
Tip number fifteen for healthy cooking is to use a pressure cooker. It requires very little heat or time compared with other cooking methods, which helps preserve nutrients. The steam is trapped inside the pressure cooker, so you don’t lose any flavor, therefore you don’t have to add fats for flavor. When pressure cooking, make sure you use a timer since the process goes so fast. Here’s an interesting recipe for cooking artichokes in the pressure cooker.
16. Eat Vegetarian on Occasion
Tip number sixteen for heathy cooking is to add in an occasional vegetarian meal. You may want to try one vegetarian supper per week or maybe restrict your lunches to vegetarian. This will increase your fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes intake, plus it will lower your calorie and fat consumption. This recipe for a Roasted Cauliflower and Hummus Bowl is full of flavor and protein. It would be a great start to eating vegetarian on occasion.
17. Wait 30 Minutes Before Getting Seconds
Tip number seventeen for healthy cooking is to make your plate, eat it slowly, and wait at thirty minutes before getting seconds. Often, your food will “hit bottom” by then, and you will no longer feel hungry.
18. Substitute Whole Grains for Refined Grains
Tip number eighteen for healthy cooking is to work in more whole grains (whole wheat, rye, brown rice, oatmeal) instead of just refined grains (white bread, white rice). The fiber will keep you full longer, plus it’s good for your heart and digestive system. The whole grains are easier on your blood sugar than refined grains, and they have more nutritional value as well.
19. Use a Convection Oven or Air Fryer
Tip number nineteen for healthy cooking is to use a convection oven or air fryer instead of traditional frying. One of the best things we can do to eat healthier to cut WAY back on how often we fry food. Use a convection oven or air fryer to still get a crispy texture without the fat. Here’s a link to a convection oven chicken wing recipe, complete with tips for getting them nice and crispy.
20. Read Food Labels
Finally, tip number twenty for healthy cooking is to read the food labels. Often we THINK a food is healthy (and it may even be marketed that way), but upon closer inspection it is loaded with saturated fat, carbohydrates, sodium, or something else we’re trying to avoid. Read those labels and be intentional about the foods you buy.
Hopefully you find it encouraging to think that a few small “baby steps” can have a significant effect on your lifestyle, and those changes are more sustainable in the long run. Incorporate a few of these tips until they become habit, and then incorporate a few more. Before you know it, you’ll be eating better and feeling better!