Healthiest Ways to Cook Tasty Meals
"These are healthier options which can help make sure that you’re getting the most nutrients out of the foods you’re eating."
We've talked about the safe way to grill foods, but what about other cooking methods. On today’s episode, Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD holistic nutritionist, will take a look at the best cooking methods not only for health, but for great taste and convenience as well. We’ll discuss some favorite cooking methods including steaming, baking, sautéing, blanching, roasting, and grilling, just to name a few.
- 3:29: Steaming
- 8:18: Blanching
- 13:25: Frying
- 15:24: Baking
- 17:34: Sautéing
- 22:15: Poaching
- 23:53: Broiling
- 28:15: Grilling
- 30:30: Going Raw
- 32:35: Wrap Up
Steaming is a quick and easy method of cooking. In addition to keeping your foods’ vital nutrients locked in, steaming can result in some big time flavors. You really get all of the essence of that vegetable locked in and you don’t have to add any kind of spice, salt, or extras.
When you steam meat, fish or veggies, you’re allowing them to simmer in their own natural juices, not water, butter or oil. This is a very healthy, and really flavorful way to cook. It is also a lot easier on your stomach to digest cooked foods most of the time than raw foods, especially big flavor foods which can be really enjoyed with steaming if you marinate them first in some delicious anti-inflammatory spices like garlic, black pepper, ginger, or sage and lemon.
Steaming is super easy in addition to being super healthy. If you don’t have a steamer, you can pour about an inch of water into a pot and place a bowl upside down in the pot. Boil the water on medium or low heat and put the vegetables or whatever you want to steam on top of the bowl and put the lid on the pot over it. You can steam broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, really anything that you want, and steam for about five to six minutes. Steam it to whatever doneness you like, whether al dente or softer, and simply use a fork to test whether the vegetables are done. Then just take the vegetables out and put it into your bowl and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil, lemon, or Himalayan salt, and serve. This is super yummy, and healthy!
Blanching your food is another healthy cooking method because you boil your food very quickly. It is a good solution because when we boil our foods for longer periods of time, a lot of important minerals and nutrients can escape from the food and get lost in the water. We don’t want to put all the good nutrient dense foods into the water and then lose the nutrients. Blanching solves this problem, as it takes as little as a minute.
To blanch Brussels sprouts, for example, plunge them into medium heat boiling water for about 60 seconds before you roast them. This will allow them to be cooked all the way through. Once you boil them, wash with ice water to lock in the flavor. Blanching is going to prevent you from losing all of those great vitamins and minerals, while plunging them into ice water will prevent the important vitamins and minerals from sipping out. This softens the vegetable just a little bit so that you can more easily roast your vegetables.
Eating fried foods is a big no-no as it is very inflammatory. When you eat something that has been deep fried, this means the food has been cooked for a short amount of time, which is generally a good thing. The problem is that frying foods involves cooking them in oil that is extremely high in saturated fat. High in saturated fats translates to high in calories. Consuming fried foods can have several negative impacts on your health, such as:
- Chronic inflammation
- It can lead to stroke
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- Blood pressure
- It can cause weight gain and obesity
Fried foods are very harmful to your body. However, there is a healthier option, which brings us to our next topic: baking.
One great thing about baking is that you don’t have to add any oil at all. One piece of baked chicken has about 150 or 160 calories. If you were to eat the same exact piece of chicken fried, that number would jump up to about 400 calories—a huge leap—not to mention all the saturated fats and other things that you’d be ingesting. Baking involves less than half the calories, and nowhere near as much unhealthy fat, which makes a big difference. Baking is a great alternative. If you do choose to bake using oil, make sure that you’re using a healthy option like olive oil or coconut oil, and load up on all of those delicious spices that are great in fighting inflammation.
When you sauté your food, you’re probably cooking food that’s either been cut into smaller pieces or very thin pieces. Because of this, you do not need to cook your food for too long and that’s what makes sautéing a great cooking option. Remember, smaller portion sizes and shorter cooking times are going to equally keeping nutrients locked in. Keep in mind though, that what you sauté your food in makes a big difference, so be sure to always use healthy oils like olive oil, coconut oil, or avocado oil. You can also use a healthy fat like ghee (or clarified butter) which can handle a higher amount of heat.
You can water to sauté your vegetables as well. All you have to do is add a little bit of water instead of oil and cook your vegetables as you would if you were using oil. To sauté spinach, add some garlic in a frying pan, add one or two cups of spinach on low to medium heat and cook for one minute or less. You can pair with some quinoa or some nice baked chicken, for a healthy, tasty meal cooked the healthy way.
If you want a really delicious meal, try a piece of poached salmon with some lemon, garlic, salt, and pepper with a little bit of cilantro on top. When poaching food, you’re cooking in hot water that’s kept to a simmer, just below boiling. Be sure to poach your food in a pan that fits the food in the best possible way. This allows you to use the least amount of water possible, which will reduce cooking time and keep food as nutritious as possible.
Broiling is another healthy cooking option, as you’re cooking your food at a very high temperature for a short period of time. This helps to retain all the vital nutrients. You can broil chicken, fish, or even veggies like asparagus.
Want to try broiled asparagus?
First adjust your oven rack to make sure the food you’re broiling is as close to the heat elements as possible. Set the oven to broil and then snap off the ends of your asparagus. If your vegetables are sad and kind of leaning because you set them in the refrigerator and they’re wilted and soft, all you have to do is cut off the end and put them in water and let them soak it up. Spread the asparagus evenly out on a broiler pan and lightly coat with some olive oil, or spray avocado oil if you want. The key here is to keep the amount of oil you are using to a minimum. Also feel free to add any seasoning that you like, then place it onto the oven rack and broil for about six to eight minutes. Sprinkle with a little bit of Himalayan salt and lemon and that’s all you need.
The big caution with grilling is to avoid char. When food becomes charred, or if it is exposed to the flare-up of the flame, then what you get is an increase in harmful HCAs and PAHs. These chemicals are residuals of toxins, they are carcinogenic, and you don’t want them on your food. To avoid all of these toxins and carcinogens, choose lean cuts of meat, trim off any of the visual excess fats, flip the meat frequently to avoid char from forming, and cook in the center of the grill to maintain a consistent temperature.
Cooking smaller portions for shorter amounts of time will help reduce that char. Also, marinate your meat with some DIY marinades to reduce the formation of HCAs. Dab your meat from the excess marinades after you take it out then pat it dry before grilling. This will prevent marinades from dripping off the meat and into the flame, and prevent flare-ups.
The raw diet involves cooking your food at less than 118°F. You can also eat a lot of raw fruits and veggies, which is a great way to keep inflammation down in the entire body. It’s very healthy and your body will be much less inflamed from the inside out. Remember Dr. Nancy’s equation of inflammation which is: Less Inflammation In + More Inflammation Out = Healthier and Happier you.
When choosing the raw method, be very mindful not to consume anything that’s pasteurized, homogenized, or loaded with potential pesticides. Try to choose organic foods whenever you can, and non-GMO fruits and vegetables exclusively. You can also use Dr. Nancy’s anti-inflammatory guide for your favorite fruits and vegetables, as well as healthy options to include and which ones to avoid.
Frying your food is never a good thing, as it can contribute to more inflammation in your body and lead to a host of other conditions and diseases. However, other methods such as sautéing, grilling, steaming, broiling, blanching, and poaching are healthier options which can help make sure that you’re getting the most nutrients out of the foods you’re eating.
You can also go raw if you like, which doesn’t mean just eating salad. It can include spiralized zucchini, and things like raw pesto sauce. There are so many different methods other than frying, that can produce a delicious, healthy meal. Remember to load up on anti-inflammatory herbs and spices, and use only healthy fats like avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil or ghee, but don’t use too much. Water sautéing is an alternative to using oil as is using no fat at all, especially when baking.