21 Tips For Healthier Cooking


Healthy eating is one of the most important things a person can do for their overall health and their life in general. Many of us, however, think that cooking healthy is something which requires too much time and preparation and some of us give up on it for this reason alone.

In fact, there are plenty of things you can start doing that will make your homemade meals much healthier and even more delicious. This is why we prepared this list of 21 tips for healthier cooking. If you remember just a few of them, you will be on your way to a healthier kitchen and a healthier diet.

1. Veggie-Wrapped Sandwiches

Everyone loves a nice, fat sandwich. It does not matter what kind of a diet you have or what kind of foods you eat, we all crave a delicious sandwich from time to time. And what is the obligatory part of every sandwich (unless you use the Tracy Jordan Meat Machine, that is)? Bread, right?

Well, you might be surprised to hear that you do not need to have bread as part of your sandwich. All those refined carbs are never a good idea.

Instead, you can use something like Swiss chard leaves or a similar leafy green vegetable. Then, you just use it as a wrap and you have a mouth-watering but healthy sandwich that does not come with all those refined carbs you find in bread.

Some purists might not call this a sandwich, but it is.


2. Be Careful About The Smoke Point For Oil

We all know about olive oil and how healthy it is. For one, people who use olive oil in their regular diet are far less likely to develop cardiovascular conditions and illnesses. It has also been found that using olive oil regularly decreases your chances of experiencing strokes. In addition to this, olive oil has also been found to be beneficial to the mood of the user, especially when compared to users who stick with trans fats.

What is perhaps most staggering, however, is that frying food in olive oil does not raise the risk of heart disease, which is the case with other oils used for frying.

That being said, one needs to understand the importance of the smoke point, i.e. the temperature at which olive oil starts to smoke when heated. At this temperature (410°F or 210°C), olive oil starts to lose its health benefits and starts tasting bad as well. Avoid it.


3. Prep Everything In Advance

Most of us understand that we should try and cook at home as much as possible. This is such a well-known fact that the birds in the trees know it. Unfortunately, for many of us, there is the issue of time, or more precisely the lack of it. After a gazillion hours in the office and couple more running errands, many of us just do not have the time to prepare meals at home.

The way to mitigate this problem is to have everything prepared. For instance, when you buy a fresh batch of vegetables, set aside an hour or two, wash them, chop them, peel them, prepare them for future meals, even if you do not have any specific meals in mind.

Then, when the time comes for you to prepare a meal, you will be able to do it in no time. This is particularly useful for healthy meals which usually involve a lot of preparation.


4. Bake, Don’t Fry

Frying is one of the worst ways in which you can prepare food and if you are looking to eat and cook healthier, you should minimize frying. It adds fats (almost invariably bad ones) to the food you are preparing, increases the risk of stroke and other cardiovascular conditions and events and there has even been some evidence that suggests fried foods increase chances of developing certain types of cancer.

On the other hand, frying is also easy, quick and results in dishes that many of us consider our favorites. Many feel that there is no other way to prepare certain types of food such as chicken wings or fish.

In reality, baking them will often produce superior results when we are talking taste and aroma, while being a billion times healthier. Sure, it may take more time, but it is more than worth it.


5. Add Tofu To Your Burgers

Some purists will say that we are testing our luck with a suggestion like this – adding tofu to the ultimate American classic, His Majesty the Burger; but please, stay with us, we will justify our suggestion.

The first reason why you will want to add tofu to your burger mix is that tofu keeps the patties moist. This is something most burgers could use since they are often made with only lean meat which does not contain enough fat to keep the burgers nice and moist. No more dry burgers!

In addition to this, replacing some of the meat with tofu will decrease the amount of calories found in your burgers, thus making them more figure-friendly, so to say. Adding tofu will also lower the levels of saturated fats in your burgers and we all know how bad saturated fats can be for you.


6. Cook For One

This piece of advice is aimed mostly at people who live alone and who are looking to cook healthier for themselves primarily. Namely, most recipes are given for four or two servings at least. What this means is that most of the people who live alone and should cook for one, end up cooking for two or more either because they don’t want to bother with division or because they figure that they might as well cook two portions and have another meal prepared.

And therein lies the problem. You might think that you are cooking for two separate occasions, but this often results in eating more than a single serving, which is never a good idea.

Our advice is simple. Divide everything and cook a single portion. You will be surprised how much of an effect this will have on your waistline.


7. Not All High-Calorie Foods Are Bad

There used to be a time when calories were the alpha and omega of nutrition. They were the only thing that mattered. People were only concerned with how many calories a certain food or a dish contains and nothing else played any significant role.

These days, most of us understand that proper nutrition is more than just counting calories, but this antiquated view of calories being the only important thing still lingers and often influences our food choices.

In reality, a number of foods that are high in calories, such as nuts, olive oil and avocados are actually very good for you as they provide a whole range of nutrients that we all need in our diet. In many cases, these foods will be much better for us than some foods we might have replaced them with just because they had a lower calorie count.


8. Start Using Whole Grains

We hear about whole grains all the time, but what exactly are whole grains? Well, quite simply, whole grains are those grains that come in their entirety, meaning they have all the original parts – bran, endosperm and germ. With refined grains, you only get the endosperm. When processed and/or used in preparation of food, whole grains provide your body with a whole range of nutrients that refined grains do not.

For instance, with whole grains, you get almost three times the fiber, a heftier dose of minerals as well as proteins and other nutrients that will do you good.

You can start off by adding whole grain flour to our baked foods or by introducing brown rice to your rice-based meals. You can also use quinoa instead of rice altogether and whole grain farro instead of pasta. Whatever you do, start using whole grains!


9. Create Your Own Personal Spice Mixes

For many people, seasoning starts and ends with salt and pepper. Perhaps they will lather everything up in ketchup or mustard once the dish is prepared, but that is that. This is a huge mistake. Salt is one of the worst things for your system and ketchup and mustard are not far behind.

So, what is our suggestion? Creating your own personal spice mixes. If you do not know where to start, you can easily find plenty of recipes online or even consult the store-bought mixes for ideas. Here are just a few suggestions to research – harissa, Chinese Five Spice, togarashi, Herbes de Provence, Garam Masala, Jerk Spice, Baharat and Dry Rub.

When making these, it is essential that you use fresh, organic ingredients. Before you know it, you will eat super-delicious meals and also cut down on your salt intake.


10. Rinse Canned Food (If You Must Use It)

Canned goods are not good for you; it’s as simple as that. Foods are not meant to stay fresh for decades and in order to make them such, manufacturers need to use copious amounts of sodium, as well as other preservatives that are just not healthy in any conceivable way.

Unfortunately, we tend to find ourselves in situations when we have to resort to using canned goods to prepare certain meals, usually because we are in a rush, or because the food budget is tight. When such times come, the most important thing to do is rinse the canned goods, and rinse them well.

This will get rid of at least some of the sodium which is present in canned goods in amounts that are just exorbitant. They will still not be as healthy as the fresh stuff, but they will at least be somewhat healthier.


11. Go Crazy With The Veg

If there is one thing you take from this list of ours then it should be the fact that vegetables are really good for you. Like really, really, really good. They are even better than fruit which can often include a whole lot of sugar which can be a bit too much.

Because of all the healthy goodness found in vegetables, you can never go wrong by adding more to your dishes than the recipes call for. For instance, if a chickpea salad recipe calls for half a cup of tomatoes, add an entire cup. If your delicious quesadilla recipe calls for one cup of corn, just add two.

Of course, you will want to experiment and make sure the added vegetables do not stand in the way of the intended flavor, but in most cases this will not happen so just go for it.


12. Re-Organize Your Fridge

Okay, this one does not directly involve cooking, but it is still a food and kitchen-oriented tip that will help you eat better and cook healthier. We are talking about reorganizing your fridge so that you put the healthier foods front and center.

The reason for this is that nature has made humans inherently lazy, or at least the majority of us. When we open the fridge, we often go for the stuff that is closest to us and that does not require us moving things around in order to get to something buried deep within the bowels of our refrigerating buddy.

By putting the healthy foods and ingredients up front, you are investing in the future. The next day or a few days from your reorganization, when you are tired and lazy, the first thing you will grab will be some fruit or veg and not something that will clog your arteries.


13. Lean Cuts Are The Way To Go

Turkey, fish and chicken are usually the recommended meats, at least from the standpoint of cholesterol and saturated fat content. When compared to red meats, they contain lower levels of these substances which you will want to limit in your diet if you know what’s good for you.

Fortunately, that does not mean that you should give up on red meat altogether. You can eat pork, beef and veal and if you want to make them as healthy as possible, always go for lean cuts. Believe it or not, lean cuts are actually defined by the USDA as 3.5 ounce servings that contain less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol and 4.5 grams of saturated fat.

If you want lean beef, stay away from prime cuts which have a lot of marbling. Instead, go for “select” or “choice” cuts. These are your lean cuts.


14. The Greeks Know What They’re Doing

The Greeks know how to eat and if you ever travel to Greece, make sure to pick up a few things from their cuisine. One thing that does not require traveling to Europe and learning about a millennia-old cuisine is starting to use Greek yogurt in your diet.

When compared to regular yogurt, the Greek version contains lower levels of sugar and carbohydrates while packing added protein punch. In addition to this, Greek yogurt is full of probiotics that help your digestive tract operate at its full capacity. Potassium found in this amazing food will also help your body deal with sodium and the B12 levels will only add to the health benefits.

The best thing about it is that it can be used to replace a number of unhealthy foods in your diet, such as butter, sour cream and mayonnaise. All hail Greek yogurt!


15. Measure Twice, Cut Once

We live in an age where nutritional science has come a long way and where many meals are concocted and put together with very specific nutritional values in mind. If you are on a certain diet which requires you to be very exact about the amount of certain foods you use for certain recipes, then do just that. Be precise.

Many people, especially those who have been cooking for some time, believe that they can freestyle the measurements and quantities thanks to their experience. In reality, there are no people in this world who can approximate ½ of a tablespoon without actually using a measuring spoon.

If you are already going to great lengths to eat carefully constructed dishes and meals, there is really no point in ruining it all by putting in imprecise amounts of ingredients. It makes the whole thing completely and utterly pointless.


16. Make Different Dishes With The Same Ingredients

This tip is for people who live with a partner or a family and who have found it difficult to get everyone on the same wagon when healthy cooking is in question. For instance, there are plenty of families where one of the parents wants (or needs) to eat healthier and they often encounter situations where someone at the table either ends up hungry or not adhering to their new diet.

In order to avoid this, it is important that you realize not all people like the same foods and that your family members might not be as interested as you are in eating very healthy.

To solve this problem, it is best to have variations on your healthy meals. For instance, you can enjoy a very healthy taco salad with pico de gallo and avocado while the rest of your family enjoys full-blown burritos. Be creative.


17. Stop Wasting Produce Nutrients

Fresh vegetables and fruits are usually packed full of all kinds of nutrients that contribute to your health and make the healthy cooking and eating worth it. Unfortunately, many people do things to these fruits and veggies and actually get rid of a certain nutrient content, often a lot of it.

For instance, when preparing vegetables, it is best to steam them and do it for as little time as possible. Cooking in water makes vegetables lose a lot of their nutritional value. When chopping, you should go as rough as possible, meaning large chunks.

Many foods also pack a ton of their nutrients and most beneficial substances in the skin. For instance, carrots, tomatoes, grapes and many others keep a ton of goodness in the skin and it would be a shame to waste it.

In short, learn about nutrients and how to keep them.


18. Go Fancy With En Papillote

En Papillote is one of those cooking terms that seem too fancy for a regular human being to master. In fact, this is one of the easiest ways to prepare food, and as it turns out, also one of the healthiest. In case you are not familiar with the term, it denotes cooking meat (usually fish or chicken) in packets made of foil or parchment.

This is actually one of the simplest way to cook foods as you simply put everything in the packet (which will take you ten minutes to master making), stick it in the oven and cook for a fixed period of time. There is no worrying something might burn or be insufficiently cooked.

In addition to being simple, it is extremely healthy as you use no oil or butter and you get very light, steamed dishes that preserve all the nutrients that can humanly be preserved.


19. Be Smart About Your Dairy

Some people insist that drinking and using milk and dairy products in our diet is completely pointless and not healthy. And while there may be some truth to dairy products not being too healthy, the fact is that we love dairy products and that they can be quite healthy, actually. If you are smart about them, of course.

For instance, if you are a fan of having cereal for breakfast, go with almond milk. If you are more parfait-oriented, go with soy yogurt instead of regular one. Also, not all pizzas need cheese to work. Some of the best pizza recipes do not even include cheese.

Of course, if you want to stick with the classic, straight-from-the-cow milk and dairy products, you should try and go low-fat or fat-free as often as possible. There is really no need to ingest all that fat.


20. Make Your Breakfast Green

No matter how much we learn about healthy cooking and eating and no matter how healthy we actually go with our meals, there is one meal that somehow feels left out of the talk – the most important meal of the day. Even the healthiest eaters among us cannot help but go for something greasy and unhealthy early in the morning.

Those who manage to keep it healthy usually end up with grains (preferably whole grains as we learned) and fruit. Well, why not start including veggies in your breakfast as well? There is really no reason not to, when you think of it.

For instance, you can serve your sunny side up eggs on a bed of roasted veggies or blend up some produce for a vitamin and nutrient-rich breakfast smoothie. It may take a few mornings to get used to it, but once you do, you will feel more energized than ever before.


21. Veggie Alternatives To Pasta

There are probably more pasta dishes out there than any other type and the only problem with them is they involve pasta which is often packed with carbs and gluten which many people want to remove from their daily food intake. So what can you do and still enjoy your favorite pasta dishes?

Well, there are a few substitutes that will work just fine. For instance, there is the spaghetti squash which is made from, you guessed it, squash. There is also something called broccoli slaw which may not sound too appetizing but which is actually quite delicious. You can also use carrot ribbons in what used to be pasta salads. Zucchini noodles are another option.

The best thing about these is that they will work perfectly fine as pasta-substitutes in dishes that are usually not really about pasta in the first place. Give them a try!

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