Cooking is a skill that is passed on from generation to generation. I learned to cook helping my mom. She was a wonderful southern cook and liberally used the three main southern food groups: salt, sugar and lard! Ha! So, while what I learned to cook was delicious, it was not the healthiest fare.
Obviously, many of the cooking approaches we all learned aren’t always in line with what we now know about eating more healthfully.
Here are some simple strategies you can apply to your favorite meals to give them a healthier twist.
- Invest in some quality non-stick cookware. When you use quality non-stick surfaces, you can greatly reduce or even eliminate the oil required for cooking. For example, with a good non-stick griddle, no oil is necessary when making pancakes. Not only is that healthier, but those gluten free pancakes without the grease taste so much better!
- Do less frying and more baking, steaming, poaching and grilling. Instead of fried chicken, coat and bake it instead. Instead of French fries, slice some potatoes; place them on a baking sheet and bake until golden.
- Choose leaner cuts of meat and trim fat before cooking. If you’re cooking with chicken, consider removing the skin first. Because this can dry out the chicken, you can cook with the skin on, but remove it before serving. However, realize that cooking with the skin on increases the fat and cholesterol of your finished product.
- Go meatless at least once a week. Not every meal needs to have meat. Try beans, tofu or just a nice meatless pasta. Very few meat-eating Americans are at risk of protein deficiency, so don’t worry about missing protein in a single meal. Even better, try not eating meat at a specific daily meal. For example, have meat at lunch, like chicken on a salad, but then skip meat altogether for your evening meal.
- Eat fish at least once a week. Fish is a high-quality protein that is generally low in fat. Many fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids and are a good source of minerals, making them a healthy choice that promotes heart health.
- Reduce the refined ingredients you cook with. Choose whole-wheat or gluten free flour instead of all-purpose white flour. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, instead of canned. Instead of refined sugars like white sugar and corn syrup, choose sweeteners like unrefined honey or maple syrup.
- Cooking sprays are often touted as a healthy alternative to cooking with oils, but aerosol cans are probably not your healthiest choice. You can purchase spray pumps specifically for oil and use that instead.
- Instead of reaching for the butter or other unhealthy flavorings, experiment with herbs, spices and other flavors. Herbs and spices have vitamins, minerals and some even have antioxidants. Plus, they are fat-free and a healthy way to add a little something to your favorite foods.
- Reduce sodium by waiting to add salt after food is cooked, and only when it’s necessary. Avoid canned and other prepared ingredients in your food. Use fresh wherever possible.
If this list is full of changes you need to be making in your cooking, take it one step at a time instead of trying to do everything at once. Small changes add up to big results. So, choose one tip and make it a goal each week. Every little step toward healthier cooking and eating counts.
Publisher of Great Living Today, your one-stop source for greater living featuring tips, techniques, and programs in the areas of health & wellness, wealth, time management, business, love, relationships, and happiness. Marty is a life, business, and wellness coach helping his clients to live their best lives.