More Than 30 Tips For Healthier Cooking
If you grew up in a house where red meat and fried foods always took center stage, then healthy cooking techniques might feel a bit foreign in your kitchen. Whether you're a seasoned chef looking to make conscious changes or a cooking novice ready to get comfortable in the kitchen, there's a healthy and helpful tip on this list for everyone.
— Additional reporting by Michele Foley
Consider the Smoke Point
It's important not to heat olive oil (or any cooking oil) over its smoke point, the temperature at which a cooking fat or oil begins to break down and the oil smokes or burns, giving the oil (and food) an unpleasant taste. Olive oil begins to lose its health benefits and unique flavor when it starts to smoke, but luckily it stands up well to high temperatures, with a smoke point of 410ºF (210ºC).
Prep Produce in Advance
One of the most cumbersome parts of cooking is all that chopping and mincing! Prep produce in advance and chop everything early in the week. Even if you don't have specific recipes in mind, wash, chop, and peel your favorite veggies. From there, you're just 10 minutes away from a healthy stir-fry, soup, or pasta dish.
Bake Up Favorites
Frying up fish or chicken is not an ideal technique for everyday eating. Baking these proteins may be more time consuming, but the reduction in calories and fat make it worth the effort. Even with classic, decadent appetizers, there are plenty of healthier baked versions — like these baked buffalo wings: they might just be better than the original.
Mix In Tofu
For a healthier burger, add crumbled tofu to your ground meat mixture. Replacing part of your mix with tofu not only helps keep the patties moist, which is especially helpful if you are using a lean meat, and it also lessens the calorie and saturated fat count.
Use Your Blender
There are plenty of ways your kitchen can help you lose weight, but one appliance in particular is key — a blender. It can help you whip up a variety of low-calorie recipes that will satisfy your appetite, without adding inches to your waistline.
Cook One Serving
When people eat healthy but aren't seeing the weight-loss results they're striving for, portion size is often the culprit. It takes a little math, but simply divide your favorite recipes accordingly to cook one serving. For example, if a recipe serves four, then divide each ingredient measurement in the recipe by four.
Don't Be Afraid of (All) High-Calorie Foods
Be careful about snubbing certain high-calorie picks like avocados, nuts, and olive oil. They might be pushing the calorie count, but they also offer essential nutrients to your diet. Just use them wisely and be mindful of your portion sizes.
Add Whole Grains
Stripped of their bran and germ, refined grains lack essential nutrients, which is a reason to swap out the refined grains with whole grains when it comes to your snacks and sides. The whole grain farro is a great substitute for pasta, and quinoa can be used in place of rice.
If you just can't get on board with the taste of whole grains, experiment while baking by adding equal parts whole grain flour to regular white flour. Or try mixing white rice with brown in order to reap some whole grain benefits.
Make Your Own Spice Mixes
Instead of relying on sugar or salt to flavor your food, get creative and make your own spice mixes. Look to ready-made spice mixtures in the supermarket to inspire your personal creations. You'll be able to season your meat, pastas, or even snacks at a fraction of cost — not to mention, a fraction of the salt.
Crush Your Garlic
To maximize garlic's healthy benefits, give it a good crush! Crushing garlic will conserve its healthy compounds — the same compounds that break up blood clots. Like any vegetable, you get the most bang for your buck when it's raw, but past studies show that after crushing your garlic, allow it to sit for about 15 minutes. Crushing it triggers a reaction that boosts the healthy compounds in garlic, even after it's cooked.
Always Rinse Canned Goods
Canned foods tend have higher sodium levels than their fresh counterparts. If you're in a pinch and need to use canned beans or veggies, be sure to rinse them well before you cook them up. Whenever possible, plan ahead and opt for dried beans!
Bring Beans to Dessert
Between their fiber, protein, and iron content, everyone should include more legumes in their diet. If you're having trouble stomaching a bowl of beans, you can still reap the healthy benefits without your taste buds even realizing it. There are tons of bean-loaded dessert recipes to appeal to your sweet tooth.
Double the Veg
Does your chickpea salad call for half a cup of diced grape tomatoes? Add one cup instead. Your quesadilla recipe says to use one cup of corn? Add two. Feel free to get creative and add veggies that aren't in your recipe in order to enhance flavor and increase fiber.
Make Over Your Fridge
By placing the healthy stuff front and center and keeping more indulgent foods out of sight, you'll find that reorganizing your fridge can make a big difference in your cooking and diet. Simplifying and constantly cleaning it out will help you on your healthy journey, too.
Reducing the calories of your sandwich is as simple as one little subtraction: halve the bread. Instead of placing all your fillings in between two slices of bread, remove the top piece and go open-faced. You'll still enjoy all the flavors and textures you crave with a classic sandwich. Here are some open-faced sandwich ideas to inspire your next meal.
Love Lean Cuts
Yes, chicken and turkey are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than their red meat counterparts. However, using lean cuts of beef, veal, and pork can go a long way to creating a healthier diet. The USDA defines a lean cut of beef as a 3.5-ounce serving that contains fewer than 4.5 grams of saturated fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol. When choosing beef, opt for cuts graded "choice" or "select" rather than "prime" and have the least visible amount of marbling.
Skip oil, butter, and heavy cream, and bump up levels of calcium, protein, and probiotics by using Greek yogurt. It can easily sub in for mayo, sour cream, or heavy milk in your favorite recipes.
Make Everything a Salad
If you don't have the energy to cook a healthy side dish of veggies or prep an elaborate salad, throw some greens on whatever you're eating. It doesn't matter if it's pizza, pasta, or curry, a handful of leafy greens always seems to make a dish more delicious.
Measure With Care
If you're following a healthy recipe with nutritional information, stick to the measurements used in the recipe. While you may think it's easy to eyeball oil, sugar, or salt quantities, you may not realize just how many tablespoons you're using if you don't use measuring spoons.
Same Ingredients, Different Dish
Recognize that your dietary needs might be different than your partner's or roommate's. Nutritionist Cynthia Sass explained the compromise she made with her husband. "We can't [always] split a meal, so when we cook together we'll have similar ingredients, but make different things." For example, on taco night, Cynthia enjoys a healthy taco salad with avocado and pico de gallo, while her husband goes for a big burrito with all the fixings.
Maximize Produce Nutrients
Whenever using fresh fruits and veggies, make sure you maximize their nutritional content with proper cooking techniques, like steaming rather than boiling. Resist the urge to peel produce since a lot of essential nutrients are found in the skin.
Sub In Citrus
Instead of topping your favorite vegetables with heavy sauces or cheese, fresh citrus juice adds a bright flavor. Lemon and orange juice also make delicious bases to light and tasty salad dressings. You can forget the store-bought stuff that is heavier in calories and fat and make your own. Try this citrus hemp-seed dressing with your next salad.
Go En Papillote
Cooking chicken or fish en papillote — or wrapping in a parchment or foil packet — creates light, steamed dishes and can help you avoid cooking in butter and oil. If you're a little intimidated by using parchment paper, watch Bob Harper's four-ingredient fish recipe that uses foil. This simple technique keeps the calories down, but the flavor profile high.
Pair Two Grains
If you're not a fan of a grain's texture, adding in an additional grain you like can disguise the texture a little, making it more palatable. Be sure to pair grains with similar cooking times. You might need to experiment with adding extra water or increasing the cooking, but once you perfect cooking two grains together, you'll never look back.
Choose Smarter Dairy
Eating too much dairy can cause tummy troubles, congestion, and acne for many folks. So mix it up! Pour almond milk into your cereal, make your breakfast parfait with soy yogurt, or go cheese-free on your pizza. If you can't give up all dairy for good — and we don't blame you! — make sure you always choose low-fat options when available.
Add On Herbs
Herbs add a depth of flavor to just about any dish. A sprinkle of fresh parsley or a sprig of thyme can elevate a light pasta or plate of fresh veggies from pedestrian to sublime. And whenever possible, choose fresh herbs, since they offer more nutritional value.
Bake With Applesauce
Applesauce works as a substitute for both eggs and butter. The ratio of applesauce to butter is one to one: if a recipe calls for 1/2 cup of butter, simply sub in 1/2 cup of applesauce. For every large egg a recipe requires, toss 1/4 cup of applesauce in its place. Try out this banana apple chunk bread where the applesauce complements the other fruity flavors while keeping each bite dreamy and moist.
Bring On Broth
To save calories and add a new depth of flavor to your vegetables, forget the oil and use vegetable broth instead with the technique known as a wet sauté. Simply use twice as much vegetable broth as you would have of oil. If a recipe calls for two tablespoons of olive oil, try four tablespoons of broth.
Reduce the Butter and Oil
It's tempting to add flavor to your food by adding copious amounts of fats, sugar, and salt, but these are not the makings of a healthy diet plan. Reduce oil and butter when cooking by spraying a thin layer of on your pan, using a nonstick pan, or finding an alternative with less saturated fat.
Bring Veggies to Breakfast
Most breakfast options favor fruits and grains, but adding vegetables to your morning routine kick-starts your energy and provides plenty of vitamins, straight from the source — no supplements required. Serve up roasted veggies with an egg, substitute jicama for your morning apple, or blend leftover produce hiding in your crisper into a smoothie.
Skip the Pasta, Sub In Veggies
Swapping out noodles for veggies is all the rage for good reason! It's an easy technique to cut carbs and bring more nutrition to your plate. Check out these veggie noodle recipes to see how to make best use of you spaghetti squash, zucchini, and more!