Healthy But Often Overlooked Home-Cooking Techniques

By in Food & Nutrition on 10 September 2011

A home-cooked meal is most often the healthier option when deciding what to eat. That’s because you know exactly what goes into your food when you cook it, and that means less grease and sodium to start with. Cooking healthy food for the family ought to be a household priority because healthy food makes up a healthy body.

Healthy eating habits, especially of kids, are developed from home. The choices they make outside the house may reflect what they normally eat at home. While there really is no need for formal training in cooking for your family, it’s good to know different techniques in cooking to make meals healthier. Together with fresh ingredients, these often overlooked cooking techniques can keep bellies full with satisfaction, guilt-free.

STEAM COOKING

Steaming is one of the easiest cooking techniques in the kitchen because it only requires a pot of boiling water to cook the food. This cooking technique is widely used in cooking asian dishes – from dumplings to seafood. Many stock pots and electric cookers have a steaming basket included with the pan and lid.

Steaming, unfortunately, is often associated with bland taste which is probably why it is not practiced more often in home-cooking. To keep the flavors trapped in the food, it must be steamed for the right amount of time and the lid must be closed throughout the process. Vegetables like sliced carrots, broccoli and asparagus takes about 5 minutes to steam. Quickly drench them in cold water after steaming to retain their color and crispiness.

A 1-inch thick fish fillet should be steamed for about 10 minutes. The fish is ready when its meat can be separated with a fork. Steam time for chicken and dumplings is 10 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Bony fish and chicken may need a longer time to cook. Make sure the meat is cooked through by using a kitchen thermometer.

GRILL

The thought of grilling may invoke heavy outdoor grill sets and tiresome clean up. Conventional grilling may indeed involve those things, which can discourage anyone from doing it more often. Contrary to this belief, grilling can also be done indoors. When grilling, the food is cooked over a high temperature medium such as charcoal.

As with steaming, this type of cooking uses little to no oil, which in other words, is healthy. To grill food in your kitchen, you can use a stove-top grill pan or an electric grill instead of firing up wood fuel. This is more convenient especially during winter season. Pretty much anything can be grilled – fruits, vegetables and all kinds of meats.

BOILING

Boiling food in water is simple. Homemade baby food can be made by boiling vegetables like sweet potatoes and peas. Mash them together with formula milk or breast milk for a healthy meal. Instead of frying eggs for breakfast, you can prepare hard-boiled eggs instead. Vegetable side dishes can also be made by blanching (quickly immersing food in hot water). Blanched spinach and green beans go with almost anything. Try to use the least amount of water when boiling vegetables to minimize the loss of water-soluble vitamins in the food.

But boiled food doesn’t have to stop there. Soup stocks are also made my boiling ingredients in water. Here, water-soluble vitamins are kept in the stock. Homemade soup stock may also contain less sodium and artificial flavorings than store-bought soup stock. Slow cookers also create wonderful dishes by slowly boiling food. It doesn’t require a lot of work to prepare slow cooked dishes in the morning, to serve for dinner.

HEATING FOOD

Fast-paced living has created the habit of instant cooking by heating up pre-cooked food using a microwave. That is perfectly okay; In fact, according to studies, the mechanics of microwave heating actually lessens the breakdown of vitamins from food. Since microwaves work by exciting water molecules in food, it requires less time to cook. This means that the nutrients are less exposed to heat, therefore they are not destroyed. Avoid overheating food in the microwave and use microwaveable glass containers as much as possible to reap the benefits of microwave cooking.

It’s easy to get used to unhealthy cooking techniques but it can be avoided with a little effort. Even with healthy cooking techniques, it’s also important not to get carried away with unhealthy ingredients. The next time you whip up something from the kitchen, consider your different cooking options to make the dish healthy and delicious at the same time.

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