• Posted by CERC India
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15 secrets to cooking healthy

Learn how to tweak recipes and use certain techniques to dish up tasty fare


Many of us may feel that cooking healthy is synonymous with unexciting fare. But that is not so. You can cook healthy and still dish up tasty preparations. Cooking healthy is both about choosing the right ingredients and employing the right techniques.

For instance, it involves using whole grains that have more fibre, vitamins and minerals than refined grains. It also means replacing whole-milk dairy products with low-fat ones and minimising the use of anything sweet, including artificial sweeteners. Using a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables in cooking ensures that your body gets the required nutrients. Follow the suggestions given below to cook a healthy meal.

Rinse fruits and vegetables well: This is very important not just to clean them but to minimise the pesticides that may be on them.

Steam vegetables: Boiling and overcooking vegetables robs them of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Instead, steam them. That preserves more nutrients than boiling, stir-frying, or even blanching.

Use salt sparingly: Remove the salt shaker from your table – your tastebuds will adjust to less salt over time. Also, avoid ready-to-eat processed foods and high-sodium add-ons such as ketchup.

Use herbs and spices generously: Go for healthy flavour enhancers like lemon juice, vinegar and fresh herbs and spices like pepper, cumin, oregano, basil and coriander leaves.

Try oven frying: This method uses little oil but still delivers a crunch. Coat the food in something crisp that adds nutrients and contains few calories – such as crushed cornflakes. Spray a little oil and bake. 

Roast and toast: If you don’t like your vegetables raw roast them in the oven. They come out sweet and delicious. Or, toast ingredients – lightly toasting sesame seeds before grinding them to make hummus adds flavour. 

Not all fat is bad: Opt for unsaturated fats like olive oil and avoid saturated fats such as butter. Add a dash of olive oil in a salad dressing, as fat is needed to absorb certain nutrients in vegetables. But use fats in moderation. Use a good non-stick pan and dry fry or roast whenever possible instead of using oil.

Treat garlic with care: Chopping or smashing garlic triggers an enzyme reaction that increases its healthy compounds. But since heat prevents this reaction, use raw garlic or wait for 10 minutes after chopping before cooking.


Learn to swap ingredients:  You can cook healthier versions of your favourite recipes without losing the taste by simply swapping one or two ingredients. For instance, swap mayonnaise for low-fat yogurt in a salad dressing. 

Use quality ingredients: When you’re cooking in a healthier way, it’s crucial to use good quality ingredients. Without using a ton of butter, sugar, or salt, you can’t make up for poor quality.

Cook seasonally: In-season produce tastes much better, is likely to have travelled a much shorter distance to reach your market, and has more vitamins and antioxidants.

Get the right kitchen tools: Keep the proper cooking tools handy. These include a rice cooker, vegetable steamer, food processor with shredding attachment and an immersion blender for soups and smoothies.

Plan ahead: Do some preparation in advance such as clean and chop the vegetables and put them in the refrigerator. Or, make a vegetable or chicken stock for soup. You could pressure cook beans and lentils and freeze them.

Cook vegetarian: If you don’t want to go completely vegetarian, try to eat a more plant-based diet. Doing so is better for your health and the health of the planet.

Have a varied menu: Preparing the same type of meal over and over and limiting the type of food you cook and eat, restricts nutrient intake.

Finally, cook more often. Resist the temptation to eat out or order in. One of the best ways to watch what you eat is to make it yourself. Cooking is the healthiest thing you can do for yourself and your family. You will automatically make better choices that have you eating less saturated fat, sodium, added sugar, and processed foods. The journey to health starts in the kitchen.


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