In order to maintain a well-functioning and illness-free body, it is important to eat healthy meals that have been prepared using healthy cooking methods. This is common knowledge, yet many people completely ignore the facts and choose not to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
As suggested above, a critical component to healthy eating is how the food is cooked. You can start with fresh, delicious, and healthy raw ingredients, but if you choose the wrong method of cooking, you will end up with a meal filled with fat and calories.
All raw ingredients can be cooked using a number of different methods. In this post we will discuss the healthier cooking options for meats, fish and poultry.
Please take note: Healthy does not mean bland!
Frying in oodles of butter or deep frying in fat are not the only methods which produce a delectable meal, but they are among the least healthy methods because they add a lot of fat and calories.
As you know, there are different cuts of meats and poultry, and each of them has different characteristics. However, a common factor that determines the nutritional value of any cut is the way the animal or the bird was raised. Be a selective shopper and a health-conscious cook:
- Avoid meats and poultry from factory farms.
- Buy “choice” or “select” grades of beef as opposed to “prime.”
- “Loin” and “round” red meat and pork have the least fat.
- When buying poultry – keep in mind that white meat is less fatty than dark meat.
- Trim all excess fat from red meat.
- Remove all skin from poultry – eliminates 45% of the fat.
Healthy Cooking Methods
Roasting is a delicious and extremely easy method for cooking meats and poultry. You can make it even healthier by not adding oil or butter. Meats should be roasted on a metal rack that is placed in a large pan so that the fat can drip off.
You can roast tender cuts at high temperatures, 425 °F. Less-tender cuts can be slow-roasted, pot-roasted, or cooked in a slow cooker.
Yes, the pan drippings are wonderful; but, if you can resist the temptation to use them for basting, you will have an even healthier meal. As a substitute for basting – use tomato juice, lemon juice, or wine.
Another closely-related, healthy cooking method for fish and small pieces of chicken is to wrap the pieces with a few diced vegetables, herbs, and spices in an aluminum foil tent, and bake in the oven.
Grilling and Broiling
Grilling is a direct heat method that requires no oil yet delivers an end result that is utterly delicious. The best part is that it is suitable for almost all kinds of meats and poultry – and you keep the heat outside during the hot summer months.
One word of warning: avoid charring your meats and poultry. Studies have shown that eating a lot of excessively charred food increases the risk of various cancers.
Broiling is also a direct heat method similar to grilling, but it is done in an oven. You do not get the wonderful “smoky grilled” flavor, but since the meat essentially cooks in its own juice, it is still very good. This is an ideal method for the rainy season or cold winter months.
Tender cuts are best for this cooking method. Cuts that are less tender can be braised or stewed.
Grilling fish is wonderful and provides a tasty dish. BUT – since fish cooks very quickly, you must be careful not to overcook (which is a sure way to ruin good fish). All you have to do is lightly sprinkle the fish with your favorite herbs and spices, grill for a few minutes on each side (until barely cooked through), and you will have a flavorful, healthy main course ready to serve in a very short time.
Using a Pressure Cooker
Tougher cuts of meat can be prepared in a pressure cooker with excellent results. It helps in tenderizing the meat and retaining the nutrients by reducing exposure to high temperatures. This method is easy to learn with new-age pressure cookers. You can also make wonderful soups and stews with this method.
Stir-frying is a quick, easy, and relatively healthy method of cooking. The relative healthy term comes from the fact that it does require the addition of some oil – but can be done with a minimum amount. Be sure to use only healthy oils such as good quality olive oil, grape seed and canola – and use just enough to coat all the ingredients.
Poaching and Steaming
When it comes to cooking fish, poaching is undeniably one of the best methods. Steaming is a nice alternative. Both are done without the use of cooking oils.
Poaching – place the fish in a pan that has been lightly sprayed with PAM and quickly brown (very lightly) on each side. Add enough liquid to barely cover the fish (water, white wine, or non-fat broth are good choices). Then, cover and bring liquid to a light simmer and cook until the fish is barely cooked through. DO NOT OVER COOK.
This is a gentle method that preserves the original flavor and also keeps it tender and moist. The end result is juicy and incredibly delicious.
Different liquids like wine, broth or even vegetable soups can be used; each will impart its own unique flavor to the fish.
Poaching is particularly a good choice for fish with firm or thick flesh, like halibut or salmon (this is definitely my favorite way to cook salmon.) It also works well with tilapia.
Steaming – this method offers a different taste treat. It produces a mild-flavored fish dish that can be served with a strong-flavored sauce such as Ginger-Soy Sauce.
Good cooking and healthy living!