Easy cooking hacks for higher diet
Healthy cooking doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. Unfortunately, preparing a nutritious meal on busy schedules and days can still prove to be an epic challenge. Aside from overhauling your entire pantry, the solution to your eating problems could be as simple as swapping one ingredient for another, or preparing your food in a different way. Check out these ideas to instantly improve your meals and results.
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Just because you've always cooked chicken a certain way doesn't mean you can't improve your skills. Here are some methods to consider that can replace a less healthy technique like cooking, frying, or deep-frying.
Braising slowly cooks food in a liquid so that the flavors can mix while the meat or other proteins are tenderized and nutrients are retained. Braising takes a little longer and the texture may be softer than you're used to, but the ingredients in your favorite meal can stay the same. "You can stew even with minimal kitchen equipment," says Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD, LD, which can reduce cleaning time.
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- Since stew makes a meat / protein so tender, you can use a less expensive cut like chuck beef that might otherwise be considered chewy.
- Vegetables take less time to cook than meat. Add it later in the stew so it doesn't get mushy.
- Cooking a stew takes about two hours. Keep this in mind when planning your prep time.
Roasting is a great cooking option because you can flavor meat, fish, poultry, and vegetables with a simple dry rub instead of oil or other fats. And because it's dry, the spice sticks to the food and, according to Harbstreet, doesn't run onto the bottom of the baking dish.
- The recommended temperature for grilling is around 500 degrees. So give your oven enough time to preheat before putting your food in it.
- Speaking of 500 degrees: meals that are not watched can be easily burned. So keep an eye on your food as you cook.
- In general, steaks take between five and 10 minutes to cook, and chicken, fish, and vegetables around 15 minutes.
"Grilling is a nutritious way to prepare lean protein like chicken or beef because you avoid batter and excess oils," says Chrissy Carroll, MPH, RD, LDN, ACSMCPT. Grilling can also allow the fat in your protein from your food to drip into the grill, which means you're eating less fat. "Some people fear that barbecuing can create cancer-causing compounds, but you can minimize your risk by marinating meat beforehand," says Carroll. Also, make sure your grill isn't so hot that you see high, visible flames licking between the grilles.
- Preheat your grill. When you're ready to cook your food, turn the flame down to avoid charring.
- When cooking, close the lid to retain heat and better control the temperature.
- Reduce the sticky (and gross) factor of a grill by cleaning it with a wire brush after each use. This also reduces the risk of fire.
There is nothing more pathetic than a limp, boiled vegetable or a gummy cooked protein. Roasting is a healthy, dry cooking method in which a vegetable maintains its crispness and meat and poultry retain their nutritional value. In other words, the vitamins and minerals in your food are not sucked into the boiling water and thrown down the drain.
- Throw your food in a little good quality oil for a delicious crispy crust, says Carroll. Use just enough to lightly coat a food, not soak it.
- The ideal temperature for roasting is 400 degrees, a little less than for roasting. So give enough time to preheat.
- Cook vegetables until they're a deeper color and the sugar starts to caramelize, Carroll recommends.
Eating food as close to its pure form as possible is ideal, and this is where steaming is a superstar for dinner time. “Steaming cooks food quickly and retains much of its nutritional value without adding any other ingredients,” explains Carroll. And because it only requires water as a heating vehicle, there are no additional calories.
- While you want food to be completely surrounded by steam, you shouldn't submerge it in water. Otherwise, just boil it.
- Do not over-steam a meal or it will become just as damp and limp as something cooked. For most articles, 10-15 minutes should be enough.
- Covering a saucepan, steamer or basket will catch the steam and make cooking faster.
- You can use a top steamer, bamboo steamer basket, or metal folding vegetable steamer for quick and efficient cooking.
Which has more calories, oil or air? (Hello, Captain Obvious.) "Instead of dipping the food in oil, air circulates around it to create the same crispy, crunchy texture," says Harbstreet. Air frying is versatile, so you can use it on vegetables, potatoes, egg whites, and more.
- Do not overfill your air fryer. There must be space between the objects so that the hot air can circulate.
- Make sure to preheat your fryer to bring the air to the ideal temperature and speed up the cooking.
- Do not use marinade, batter, or liquid. It just drips into the floor from the food.
- An air fryer not only saves calories, it also saves you a lot of kitchen cleaning – no greasy pans or oil splashes on the stove!
Switching one ingredient for another can instantly make a meal healthier. Change only one ingredient at a time in a recipe so that it doesn't come as a complete shock when something tastes different.
Sub for: sour cream, mayonnaise, or heavy cream.
Yogurt is a healthy source of protein, calcium, and probiotics. "Try dipping plain Greek yogurt into recipes that traditionally use something like mayo or sour cream," says Carroll. "Not only do you save some calories, you also add extra protein." Yogurt does not go well with every dish, but is well suited for creamy sauces and dips or for dishes like potato salad.
Sub for: rice, potatoes and pizza crust.
Known for its fiber, B vitamins, and anti-cancer nutrients, cauliflower adds a hearty component to any meal. You can use it rice and instead of traditional rice to save carbohydrates, or you can steam / cook and mash it to use instead of potatoes in a side or for flour in pizza crust.
Pink sea salt
Sub for: Standard table salt.
Adding salt to a dish may work for you rather than against you. "Using Himalayan pink sea salt adds trace elements while enhancing the other flavors in a recipe," said Kathy Smart, HTC, PTS, CEO of Live the Smart Way. This particular type of salt contains minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium that can stabilize electrolytes and reduce the risk of dehydration. It also helps improve metabolic function, strengthen bones, and lower blood pressure.
Sub for: fruit-flavored yogurt or protein powder.
Fruit-flavored yogurt often has added sugar – between 13 and 17 grams per 100-gram serving. Reduce your sugar without losing protein and nutrients by trading in cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is a great source of protein, B vitamins, and calcium. It only contains about 160 calories per cup and has a whopping 25 grams of protein, including casein, which is slow to metabolize and makes you feel full. "Use cottage cheese to boost the protein content of a smoothie instead of using highly processed powders," says Harbstreet.
Sub for: Other vegetable oils.
Avocado oil is low in saturated fat and high in potassium and vitamin E – important nutrients for optimal heart health. Try it instead of vegetable oil for dressings and sauces. Because it has the highest smoke point of any oil, you can use it in high heat dishes like stir-fry dishes, says Smart.
Sub for: Processed Flavor Packs.
Using some lemon, orange, or lime peel in a recipe instead of a commercially available flavor package that may have added preservatives and chemicals is a healthier choice for flavoring a favorite dish. And while most people only focus on the inside of a citrus fruit, the peel contains many health-promoting nutrients like vitamins B and C. "It also gives baked goods, soups and stews a little zipper," says Smart.