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Healthy Cooking and Baking

Timeless Nutrition Tips...

Simple Techniques for healthy cooking and baking!

Good nutrition is not just a matter of selecting the "right" foods to eat. It is also important to prepare these foods in ways that will maintain their nutritional benefits. Careful decisions about cooking techniques can have a profound effect on the nutrient content of the foods we prepare.

These cooking strategies and ingredient substitution ideas can help retain and, in some cases, improve, the nutritional value of your most popular dishes. They can also help you meet the American Institute for Cancer Research's recommendations for lower cancer risk and better overall health.

Healthy Baking and Cooking

Make Low-Fat Treats Taste Great!
Next time you make low-fat baked goods like brownies or muffins, be sure you don't overbake them. Since "light" versions have less fat than the originals, you run a greater risk of drying them out if they're in the oven for too long.

Reducing Fat in Graham Crusts
To reduce fat in a graham cracker crust, moisten with 1 to 2 tablespoons melted butter for each cup of crumbs used. Then add just enough corn syrup or honey so that the mixture barely holds together. Press the crust into the pan.

Healthier Baked Bread
Add nutrition to any bread with the Cornell Enrichment Formula. Before measuring flour into measuring cup, add 1 tablespoon each soy flour and nonfat milk powder, and 1-teaspoon wheat germ. Spoon in flour and level off. Repeat for each cup of flour used in the recipe.

Boil, Steam, Microwave of Stir-Fry Veggies
Boil, steam, microwave or stir fry vegetables in your diet plan but do not use butter or oil for flavoring because this will add too many calories and fat. Instead, use seasoning and herbs for flavoring and vegetable spray in place of oil. Avoid cooking at high temperatures (except for quick stir-frying) and long cooking times. Both extended heat and liquid can destroy or leach out valuable nutrients. Microwave cooking is a healthful way to cook vegetables because the short cooking time reduces nutrient losses and usually no added water or fat is needed.

Cut Salt.
Cut the salt in half in your favorite recipes. Most of the time this will not produce a noticeable taste change. Consider replacing part of the salt with an herb or spice, flavored vinegar, citrus juice or peel. Garlic or onion power (not garlic or onion salt) work well in meats, soups, and sauces. Make your own mix of garlic, onion, paprika, and parsley flakes.

Do Eat Vegetable Fat
Those who eat an average of 41.7 grams of vegetable fat a day have a 22-percent lower risk of developing diabetes than those who consume animal fats. Think peanut butter, olive oil and avocados for your fat intake.

Healthy means happy Finding Commercial Fruit Sweeteners
You can find commercial fruit sweeteners, ordinarily a combination of concentrated peach and pear juices and unsweetened pineapple syrup, in health food stores, gourmet food stores and large grocery outlets. It tastes 1-1/2 to 2 times sweeter than refined sugar.

Make Your Own Fruit Sweetener
If a recipe calls for 1/2-cup fruit sweetener, substitute 1/4-cup concentrated apple juice plus 1/4-cup granulated fructose. This applies to both healthy cooking and baking.

Home Made Goodies
Reduce the fat in home baked goodies by substituting applesauce, pureed prunes, mashed bananas, or yogurt for up to half of the shortening. It works! Obviously prune puree would discolor a yellow cake but does well for chocolate cake and brownies. The end result is moist and fat content is reduced.

Bouillon Cubes
When combined with water, bouillon cubes are a convenient way to add robust flavor to a variety of recipes that call for beef, chicken or vegetable stock. For a flavor boost, use the broth in place of water when cooking rice or beans. Or add it to stir-fries and reduce the amount of fat needed for cooking and to add flavor.

The Healthy Tomato
There is no need to buy fresh tomatoes to reap the benefits of lycopene, an antioxidant that may help prevent heart disease and certain cancers. Lycopene can withstand the high heat used in processing and cooking, so all canned and bottled tomato products (including tomato paste) offer the health benefits of fresh tomatoes. The body will absorb lycopene better when you eat tomatoes are with a small amount of fat, such as olive oil.

Make Homemade Ice Cream Richer and Lower in Fat
Substitute evaporated skim milk for whipping cream in homemade ice cream to cut the fat and keep the creamy taste.

Reduce Fat in Sauces
Use evaporated skim milk in place of half-and-half. Another bonus to this tip is that evaporated skim milk is not as perishable as half-and-half.

Nutritious Soup Thickener
Bread crumbs are a quick, nutritious thickener for soup. Try whole-wheat or rye crumbs for hearty meal soups or stews. They can also be used to thicken sauces, or in sauced dishes or casseroles.

Basting Broiled Food
If you're watching calories, baste broiled food with low-calorie salad dressings.

Vegetable Spray
Use veggie spray or non-stick pans for grilling or stir-frying.

Eat More Veggies.
Add vegetables whenever possible to ensure your five-a-day intake. Experiment with more veggie variety in salads, try new vegetable mixes, include some shredded vegetables in casseroles, and add different vegetables to soups and stews. Use chopped red or yellow peppers to "pep" up the flavor. Try vegetable salsas and fruit chutneys as accompaniments to meat or poultry in place of heavy gravies or sauces.

Don't Peel Away the Nutrients
There are great fiber and nutritional advantages and almost no risk of chemical residues in eating unpeeled fruit. The FDA reports that, during annual random produce testing, 99 percent of the produce is either residue-free or well below EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) limits.

Chef Walk Grilling Chicken
If you're watching your weight or cholesterol, you'll want to remove the skin from chicken. But don't do it until after it's grilled--the skin holds in the meat's natural moisture. Chicken grilled sans skin can quickly become dry and tough.

Healthier Hamburgers
Add nutrition and cut down on meat consumption by substituting 1-cup of lightly sauteed, finely grated potato or carrot (or half of each) for a quarter pound of the meat.

A Healthy, Tasty Meatloaf
Choose ground round for making meatloaf - it has less fat (which would be absorbed by bread crumbs) than regular ground beef and more fat than ground sirloin, which would produce a dry meatloaf.

Salad Dressing Substitutes
Cut down on the oil content of any salad dressing by substituting up to a third of the oil with wine, vegetable or defatted chicken broth, vegetable or tomato juice, hot water, etc. Whisk the substituted ingredient into the dressing after the other ingredients are combined.

Add a drop of lemon juice to the water you cook pasta in and leave out the salt and oil.

Vinegar or Citrus Juice
Sprinkle vinegar or citrus juice on food to give flavor a wonderful boost, but add them at the last minute of cooking so the flavor stays at its strongest.

Healthier Crusts on Baked Meats
For a healthier crust on baked meats, fish and even fruits or vegetables, grease the pan with vegetable oil and add ground nuts or crumbs.

Pasta, rice, dried beans or peas and lentils are great subsitutes for meat when preparing casseroles, stews or soups. They are excellent protein sources and very economical.

Seeds, Nuts and Spices
Toast seeds, nuts and whole spices to bring out their full flavor. Cook in a dry skillet over moderate heat or on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven, stirring frequently to toast evenly and prevent burning.

For breakfast, subsitute two egg whites to one whole egg in omelets. Eat as many egg whites as you like - they don't contain any cholesterol and are an excellent source of protein.

Try more fruit desserts (fresh, stewed, and cobblers) instead of cakes and cookies. Choose frozen yogurt, sherbet and sorbet instead of ice cream. Serve cake with fruit sauce instead of frosting or whipped cream.

Reduced Fat Substitutes
Try some lower-in-fat substitutes such as low fat cheese, salad dressing and evaporated skim milk. Try low cholesterol egg products. Use two egg whites instead of one whole egg to significantly reduce the fat and cholesterol content of some baked goods.

When you must use oil, select olive or canola oil. Drain off visible fat while cooking, blot pan-fried foods on paper towels to absorb extra grease, and allow soups to chill before reheating and serving so that the fat can be skimmed off the top.

Using sensible cooking methods, less fat, and adding more vegetables, fruits and whole grains to recipes are guaranteed winning techniques to set a better nutritional table. These steps can also help lower risk for chronic diseases.

Quick Tips to Make Your Meals Lighter Without Sacrificing Flavor

To adjust to healthier eating habits, you really need only learn to use smarter cooking techniques as well as better choices when you eat in restaurants. Most techniques can be applied to the recipes you make now so you will still be able to enjoy your favorites but in a more healthy fashion.

Learn to use less meat in your meals. When you do use meat, keep the portions down. Suggested serving sizes are 2 to 4 ounces per serving.

  • Add pasta, rice, beans, vegetables or fruit to make up for the missing meat.
  • Use fat-free or light salad dressings, Parmesan cheese, mozeralla cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, yogurt, skim milk, pasta sauces and fruit spreads. These products are actually quite good these days! And you get used to them in short order.
  • Love sausage, bacon or ham? Use turkey based versions. Ham you can purchase in very lean varieties - do it!
  • Only purchase meats with word "loin" or "round" in the name. These are the leanest cuts.
  • For ground beef, go with the "round" - ground round, that is. It has much less fat. Also, in dishes called for browned hamburger but consisting of other ingredients, use 1/2 the amount you usually do. For example, in Hamburger Helpers. You do not have to use an entire pound to get the same flavor. One-half pound will suffice.
  • Incorporate more turkey or chicken breast meals. There are umpteen ways to perk up the flavor so you are not stuck with a bland meal.
  • If you are time-stressed, purchase extra-lean deli-slices of turkey or roast beef. Rotisserie-style chicken is an excellent choice, as well.
  • Substitute whole-wheat flour for 1/2 the flour in all your recipes. This adds fiber and other nutrients.
  • When you purchase breads and/or grains, check the label to be sure it has whole-wheat or other whole-grain flour as the first ingredient.
  • Use a variety of grains. Good choices include couscous, barley, brown rice, oatmeal, rye, wild rice, bulgar, whole-wheat pasta, corn tortillas, and rye crackers.
  • Use fresh and dried fruits in desserts and other dishes. You can add them to just about anything that sounds good to you. You can puree them for sauces, salads, cold pasta dishes, side dishes, casseroles or meat stuffings.
  • Use more of dark green, leafy vegetables. Add spinach or kale to sandwiches, salads, vegetable dishes, and stir-fries.
  • Use shredded cabbage, especially red cabbage, as a high-fiber addition to salads, stir-fries, sandwich fillings, soups, and even meat loaf.
  • Incorporate apricots, cantaloupe, carrots, peaches, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, spinach, broccoli, and Swiss chard. These are high in Vitamin A, among other nutrients.
  • For creamy soups, dips and sauces, replace high-fat ingredients with non-fat yogurt, non-fat sour cream or non-fat/light mayonnaise.
  • Never use whole milk again! Use skim, buttermilk and/or evaporated fat-free milk. Yes, even in sauces, soups and other baked items.
  • Use only fat-free refried beans and regular beans. One would not think of beans as laden with fat, but some are due to the addition of meat flavor or some such thing. Watch the labels. Non-fat beans do not taste any different in your dishes than those with fat.
  • If you find using canned fruit more convenient, purchase only those packed in water or their own juices.
  • Watch for high fiber cereals. Read cereal labels, too, watching the serving sizes carefully. They can be very misleading.
  • Go easy on avocados, coconut and cheese (unless light or fat-free).

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Healthy cooking and baking flavor enhancers you may wish to keep on hand.

Herbal flavors and seasonings

Orange juice
Reduced-sodium soy sauce
Less Sodium Teriyaki Sauce
Low-calorie fruit spreads
Red and green onions or shallots
Salsas -- all types
Fresh cilantro
Fresh parsley
Fresh or dried herbs, from basil to thyme
Curry powder
Fines herbes
Cajun seasoning
Bottled Sauce
Salt-free herb seasonings in a variety of flavors
Lemon-pepper and garlic-pepper seasonings
Fat-free salad dressings
Mild-flavored vinegars, such as balsamic, rice, or raspberry
Fresh garlic
Grated fresh ginger
Grated citrus peel (lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit)
Mustard -- any type you prefer
Fresh or canned chili peppers; your preference

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