If you think of cooking as an act of creation, then it is not such a stretch to realize that one of the ways to become a healthier cook is to just cook more often. The more we cook, the better at it we become. Pretty basic thinking. By cooking and choosing the ingredients yourself, you control how much fat, sugar, sodium and processed foods you eat. This is one of the healthiest things you can do.
• Use salt wisely. There is a reason you see more coarse salt being used in recipes. Because these crystals or flakes are bigger, they hit the tongue first so you naturally use less.
• Embrace affordable aquaculture. Purchase sustainable seafood when you have the chance.
• Use quality ingredients. Again, this is a control issue. Cooking healthier means choosing the freshest and best ingredients that you can afford.
• Buy an instant-read thermometer. Using a thermometer during all of your cooking will ensure that your food is cooked well but not overcooked. Roasting turkey and red meat, tempering chocolate, making custards and curds — all benefit from the use of a thermometer.
• Cook seasonally. Most of us have gotten used to eating seasonal dishes that correspond to what is available from grocery stores and farmers markets. It just makes sense that seasonally produced produce will taste better.
• Since the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests limiting added sugars to 10 percent of daily calories, skip the sweet breakfast options. Instead, try a veggie omelet or a breakfast salad.
• Get used to weighing meat, cheese and pastas. What looks like a good 6 to 8 ounce portion can in fact be double that, which means double the calories.
• Marry bold flavors with whole-grain pasta. Think garlic, red pepper, anchovies, tomato sauces and strong cheeses.
• Stock up on healthy convenience items. Select cans of beans, tomatoes, brown rice and unsalted chicken stock; they can help you make healthy meals when you don’t have all day to cook. Use these convenient canned goods with fresh produce and citrus.
• Eat a more plant-based diet. Try a meatless Monday or use meat as a side dish rather than the center of your meal. When you do eat meat use the 50/25/25 rule — half the plate devoted to vegetables and fruit and a quarter each to starch and protein.
• Use a timer. Nothing makes me crazier than when my husband doesn’t just use a timer thinking he’ll automatically know how long the potatoes need to cook. Get used to using a timer. You will save time and heartache in the long term.
• Embrace the idea of culinary yin and yang. Learn to balance textures and flavors. Add a crunchy topping to a salad or soup. Add a little hit of citrus or vinegar to dishes to liven up the taste of bland foods.
• Make snacks count as opportunities to get your daily fruit and vegetable quota.
• One of the most important ways to be healthier is to be good to your gut. Get into the habit of eating probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt. Having a thriving bacterial community in your gut translates to a lower risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia and depression. Try to avoid using artificial sweeteners and highly-processed food, and cut back on sugar.
• The link between the cholesterol you consume and the cholesterol that ends up in your blood is not as direct as once thought. Try to eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible and try to eat a healthy diet; you shouldn’t have to worry about your cholesterol much.
• Eat mindfully. Don’t scarf down food without thinking about it. Enjoy and savor foods with an awareness of what you are putting into your body and you will be healthier.
(Source: Cooking Light)
Susan Woody has been a food writer for more than 25 years and is a member of the Association of Food Journalists.