Healthy Cooking Tips


Healthy Cooking Tips

The spring and summer months offer a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables. If you have not done so already, now is the perfect time to integrate more fresh, whole foods into your eating plan. Eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods can help reduce your risk for many of the chronic diseases. How you store and prepare these foods can have a significant effect on their vitamin, mineral, and fat content.


Tips to Minimize Vitamin and Mineral Losses

Vitamin losses occur primarily due to exposure to oxygen, light, or heat. How fruits and vegetables are stored and prepared significantly influences the nutrient content of the food. Following are some storage and preparation suggestions for minimizing vitamin and mineral losses:


Storage and preservation of fruits and vegetables

  • Keep the freezer temperature at 0 degrees F or below to minimize nutrient losses.
  • Use frozen foods within two months.
  • Fresh greens like kale, spinach, broccoli, and chard keep best when refrigerated at low temperatures and high humidity.
  • Leave peas in the pod until ready to use.
  • Store sweet potatoes, potatoes, and carrots in a cool, moist place to prevent withering.
  • For longer storage, blanch vegetables prior to freezing to deactivate the enzymes that destroy vitamins.

Preparation and cooking of fruits and vegetables

  • Wait as long as possible before cutting up the food. The smaller the pieces the greater the nutrient losses due to light and oxygen exposure.
  • Do not thaw frozen vegetables before cooking.
  • Use cooking techniques that minimize bringing the food in direct contact with water such as steaming, pressure cooking, roasting, grilling, and stir-frying. It is preferable to steam vegetables and cook them only until slightly tender.
  • Cook potatoes in their skins.
  • Do not add baking soda to cooking water.

Low-fat Cooking Tips

Substitute fruit purees for fat in baking
Fruit purees can substitute for most of the fat in your recipes. They act similarly to fat by providing moisture and giving loft to the baked goods. Some good fruit purees include applesauce, prunes, pumpkin, squash, and plum sauce. They not only cut out the fat but also provide soluble fiber, vitamins, and minerals!

Use egg whites instead of whole eggs
The egg yolk contains the fat and cholesterol of the whole egg. Whole eggs in recipes can be replaced by using only the egg white. In baking, the egg white(s) are typically lightly beaten before adding to the batter. There is no hard-fast rule for egg white substitutions, but a general guide is to replace 1 large egg with 2 egg whites and 2 medium whole eggs with 3 egg whites.

Use vegetable cooking sprays when possible
There are many types of vegetable cooking sprays available such as butter flavored, olive oil, and canola oil sprays. They can be used instead of oils or butter to coat baking pans, sautéing, and to lightly coat foods before baking or grilling to give a crisp texture.

Use low-fat dairy products
Most dairy products are now available in low-fat or nonfat versions. They can be added to sauces, casseroles, and used in baking. The substitutions are typically done one to one. For example, substitute 1 cup of whole milk with 1 cup of buttermilk or skim milk. Evaporated skim milk is an excellent substitute for cream in baked products. Because it has a slightly sweeter taste than cream, it works best in baked goods or sauces that already have a sweet flavor.

Substitute reduced fat margarine for butter
This is also a one to one substitution. By replacing butter with reduced fat margarine, you will be reducing the total and saturated fat in the recipe.

Another suggestion to reduce the fat and retain the nutrient content of your foods is to invest in quality non-stick cookware or use a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet. This cookware allows for cooking with minimal fat or water.

Overall, it is best to minimize the amount of fat used during the cooking process. To reduce vitamin and mineral loss, cook for the minimal time and in a minimal amount of water.

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