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The Food you Buy - Food preparation and cooking

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
Photo: Home-cooking - Preparing meals at home allows you to choose the best ingredients and to use the healthiest cooking methods. © Provided by DKBooks Home-cooking - Preparing meals at home allows you to choose the best ingredients and to use the healthiest cooking methods.

Satisfying pasta - Pasta is cheap, filling, and quick to prepare. Whole-wheat pasta is an excellent source of B vitamins and folate.

Photo: Adding flavor - Marinades help tenderize meat, poultry, and fish as well as adding healthy flavoring. Here chilis, garlic, and ginger add a Chinese flavor to chicken. © Provided by DKBooks Adding flavor - Marinades help tenderize meat, poultry, and fish as well as adding healthy flavoring. Here chilis, garlic, and ginger add a Chinese flavor to chicken.

Adding flavor - Marinades help tenderize meat, poultry, and fish as well as adding healthy flavoring. Here chilis, garlic, and ginger add a Chinese flavor to chicken.

Photo: Satisfying pasta - Pasta is cheap, filling, and quick to prepare. Whole-wheat pasta is an excellent source of B vitamins and folate. © Provided by DKBooks Satisfying pasta - Pasta is cheap, filling, and quick to prepare. Whole-wheat pasta is an excellent source of B vitamins and folate.

Home-cooking - Preparing meals at home allows you to choose the best ingredients and to use the healthiest cooking methods.

Make the most of nutritious ingredients by adopting healthy cooking methods.

Cooking food in a healthy way does not take extra time, effort, or special cookware. A few simple adjustments to your usual cooking methods may be all you need to improve the nutritional quality of the food you cook, without losing flavor or appeal. In many cases, the food will taste even better.

Reducing the amount of saturated fat in your diet is one of the most important changes that you can make to benefit your health. This means choosing ingredients carefully, removing all visible fat, adding as little extra fat as possible while cooking, and discarding any excess. The cooking techniques listed opposite are all healthy and retain the nutritional content of food as well as enhance natural flavors and textures.

Reducing added salt is another dietary change that will benefit your health, especially if you have a tendency for high blood pressure. This requires a gradual reduction in the amount of salt you add to your food and becoming accustomed, instead, to healthier flavorings, such as seasonings, herbs, and spices.

In the following sections, we give you a few ideas to help you find healthier ways of preparing and cooking food at home.


Experiment with seasoning

Healthy food need not taste bland or uninteresting; it does, however, require an adjustment in your sense of taste if you are used to seasoning everything you eat with salt and enjoy the flavor that fat gives to meat, poultry, breads, and pastries. You can try using different herbs and spices, or marinating foods in juices before cooking.


Healthy seasoning

By experimenting with different ways of flavoring food you will soon begin to appreciate the lighter, fresher flavors of herbs and other natural seasonings.

For the best flavor, dry roast and grind your own spices.

Lemon or lime juice squeezed over food during and after cooking imparts a fresh, tangy taste; grated lemon zest can also be added during cooking.

A dash of balsamic, wine, herb, or fruit vinegar added toward the end of cooking time adds a zesty flavor.

Sprinkle some toasted nuts or seeds over a dish for a crunchy topping.

Garnish a dish with roasted bell peppers for a sweet, smoky taste.


Benefits of marinating

In addition to flavoring poultry, meat, fish, and vegetables, marinating tenderizes meat, reducing the need to add fat during cooking. Studies have shown that marinating foods prior to cooking reduces the harmful hydrocarbons that are produced during grilling. Marinades containing herbs such as sage, oregano, or marjoram also provide antioxidants that may help protect against cancer.

Use any combination of citrus juice and fresh herbs; pour the marinade over the raw ingredients, cover and refrigerate for a few hours before cooking.


Stock up on pantry basics

Keep a stock of pantry basics—cans, jars, and basic ingredients (including frozen foods)—that can be transformed into healthy meals, either alone, or with the addition of other fresh products. If you choose wisely, these basic items can form the foundation of a healthy diet: for example, if you have whole-grain pasta and brown rice—rather than regular pasta and white rice—in your cabinet, then you are already halfway to a nutritious meal.

Copy our healthy shopping list, amending it to fit your food preferences, and stick it to the refrigerator door. Have your family add to it, and bring it with you to the supermarket every week.


Healthy shopping list

Stock up on these healthy basics, then you can prepare a nutritious meal at any time.


Cans, jars, and cartons

Apple sauce (no added sugar)

Beans

Egg whites or substitutes

Fat-free evaporated milk

Fat-free refried beans

Fruit in own juice

Fruit juice (no added sugar)

Lentils

Low-salt chicken broth

Low-salt crushed tomatoes

Low-salt soy sauce

Low-salt tomato paste

Low-salt tomato sauce

Low-salt vegetable juice

Peeled whole or crushed tomatoes

Salsa

Sardines in olive oil

Tuna in water

UHT (long-life) fat-free milk


Frozen foods

Chicken and turkey breasts

Low-calorie dinners

Low-fat frozen yogurt

Low-fat waffles

Mini whole-wheat bagels

Pizza crusts

Popsicles (made with fruit juice)

Salmon steaks

Sherbet and sorbet

Vegetable burgers

Vegetables (no added salt)


Grains and cereals

Brown rice

Buckwheat (kasha)

Couscous

Low-sugar granola

Oatmeal

Whole-grain cereal

Whole-grain pasta


Desserts

Gingersnaps

Graham crackers

Jello

Pudding (made with low-fat milk)

Vanilla wafers


Snacks

Baked potato chips

Baked tortilla chips

Dried fruit

Fat-free crackers

Fig bars

Low-fat or fat-free popcorn

Pretzels

Rice cakes

Unsalted nuts (almonds, walnuts)


Oils and spreads

Apple butter

Canola oil

Fat-free or low-fat margarine

Low-sugar preserves

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

Olive oil


Drinks

Bottled water and diet soda


Tips on safe microwave cooking

The speed and convenience of microwave cooking has ensured the popularity of these appliances, which can be used for defrosting, reheating, and cooking. However, it is important to be aware of the potential hazards of this form of cooking in order to avoid health risks. Microwaves do not enter the oven uniformly and cold spots can occur in food being cooked, allowing bacteria to survive and possibly leading to food poisoning.

To minimize uneven cooking, stir the food once or twice during microwaving, arrange foods uniformly, and turn large items upside down halfway through cooking.

Remove plastic wraps and foam trays from store-bought food before defrosting, since these may melt and allow chemicals to be absorbed by the food.

Frozen meat and poultry may begin to cook during microwave-defrosting and should be cooked immediately.

Never use any metal or foil utensils or wraps in the microwave oven; this includes brown grocery bags, colored paper towel, and newspapers, which may contain metal.

If microwaves are used to heat baby food, always stir well to ensure even cooking and no hot spots.

Use a meat thermometer or probe to check that food has reached a safe temperature. Check in several places when cooking large pieces of meat.


Fast, homecooked healthy food

If you have followed our suggestions on pantry basics, you will be in a position to create quick, nutritious meals for yourself and your family at short notice and at any time. Here are some suggestions:


Pasta

Serve with store-bought, fat-free sauce—or make your own sauce and freeze in serving-size portions until required. If there is any leftover pasta, use it in a salad, adding chopped raw vegetables and a little low-fat dressing.


Rice

Brown rice forms the basis of a satisfying meal. For a spicy pilaf, add chopped cooked vegetables, shredded chicken breast, or tofu, and season with cumin, coriander, and ginger.


Pizza

Top a store-bought pizza crust with chopped tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers, finishing with grated low-fat cheese.


Omelet

An omelet takes just a few minutes to prepare and cook, but can make a satisfying light meal. Add lightly steamed vegetables to the eggs before cooking. For a low-fat cheese omelet, you can blend ricotta cheese in a food processor until smooth then mix with egg whites only (no yolks).


Broiled chicken or salmon steak

Rub ground spices or herbs over a chicken breast or salmon steak then broil until cooked through; serve with steamed vegetables and steamed rice.


Stir-fry

Buy a commercially prepared mixture of beansprouts, carrots, onions, and mushrooms, and stir-fry with tofu cubes, shrimp, or chicken breast for a satisfying dish. Season the meal with a little low-salt soy sauce.


Baked potato

Bake a medium-sized potato in the microwave for about 12 minutes and then place it under the broiler. Serve with store-bought salsa, vegetarian chili, grated low-fat cheese, or refried beans.


Vegetable couscous

This is a type of pasta that is quick and simple to prepare. While the couscous absorbs water, stir-fry cubes of tofu and some sliced vegetables and add a little vegetable broth. Top the couscous with the vegetable–tofu mixture .


Vegetarian burgers

For a quick and nutritious meal, grill a vegetable burger and serve in toasted ciabatta with sliced tomato, salsa, and a green salad.


Cottage-cheese dip

For a simple dip to serve with vegetable crudités, or as a quick pasta sauce or salad dressing, purée fat-free cottage cheese in a food processor, then add garlic powder and dill, basil, or Italian seasoning to taste.


Grilled vegetables

Brush vegetables with a little olive oil and grill for between 3 and 5 minutes on each side. Serve with French bread, as an appetizer, as a side dish to accompany an entrée, or with rice or pasta as a satisfying meal. Vegetables that are ideal for grilling include broccoli florets, baby carrots, slices of eggplant, mushrooms, slices of onion, quartered bell peppers, asparagus tips, strips of summer squash, sweet potato rounds, and tomato wedges.

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