Unfortunately, by February, nearly 80% have abandoned their resolutions – or at least put them on the back burner. This often happens because of poor planning and preparation, like learning healthier cooking methods and alternative ingredients. The good news is that you really only need to know a few basic cooking techniques to help develop healthier eating habits. Here are some tips and methods for cooking to help put you back on the path of healthy eating:
- Cook with healthy fats. It’s true that fats are essential to our health, but there are good fats and there are bad fats. Bad fats are called trans fats — they have no known health benefits, increase the bad LDL cholesterol, and create inflammation. Good fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and they essentially do the exact opposite to our bodies than bad fats. Healthy fats are liquid at room temperature, such as olive oil, canola oil, and flaxseed oil. Substitute these oils for butter, margarine, or solid fats for a healthier meal.
- Steam your veggies. You may have heard that boiling can destroy certain vitamins and minerals in foods, especially vegetables. Gently steaming them, however, will leave them a bit crunchy and full of nutrients. You can use a metal steamer or even a bamboo steamer with the lid on for a few minutes over boiling water. Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, green beans, asparagus, and leafy greens cook well with this method. Adding a little seasoning or a squeeze of lemon juice can help enhance flavors, too.
- Enhance foods with healthy flavors. If you’re used to reaching for the ketchup or soy sauce to add flavors to foods or meals, it’s time to change your game. Condiments are often loaded with a high amount of sodium – some most people don’t need to add to their diet. A lot of pre-made seasonings contain too much salt as well. Use fresh herbs, spices, citrus, and vinegar blends to marinate food before cooking. Instead of adding salt, try a splash of vinegar, squeeze of citrus juice, or a handful of chopped herbs. Don’t forget garlic and chili peppers — both of which can enhance flavors significantly.
- Roast your foods. Roasting is one of the healthier methods to cook foods, even though some veggies can lose some nutrient content. Healthy cooking oils can be used, but aren’t necessary and can be omitted if you’re trying to reduce calories. Roasting can be used for poultry, seafood, meat, and veggies such as artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, eggplant, onions, and more.
- Prepare meals ahead of time. You’ve probably heard a lot about pressure cookers such as the Instant Pot recently, and you may even own one. It’s a great option for cooking quick meals, or making a large batch of healthy food — such as soups, stews, or large servings of lean meat — to help you be prepared throughout the week. While there’s some debate on nutrient loss in veggies in the pressure cooker, the upside is that being prepared with healthy meals is better than making a really unhealthy choice in a pinch. Pressure cookers can also hard boil huge batches of eggs quickly, which are great to have on hand.
A dietician can help you plan healthier meals if you need some extra help. The Health Library & Resource Center at El Camino Hospital offers a free consultation with a registered dietitian. Call 650-940-7210 to make an appointment.
This article first appeared in the February 2018 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.