We may have cut down on salt, sugar and oil or we may have changed our methods in order to prepare enticing healthy meals. The basic step to healthy meals is the preparation. Indians love deep fried food, but that’s slowly changing. To help you cut down on oily, pan-fried food, we dish out the best healthy cooking methods for healthy eating.
Why: It may seem boring; the popular notion is that steamed food is bland. Foodies believe that steamed food is hospital food. But this isn’t true; steaming is the best way to retain nutrients and minerals that are otherwise lost in the boiling or saute process. Retaining nutrients also equates to retaining natural flavours and taste. Therefore, steaming makes the food a lot more flavourable and delectable. Also steamed ingredients are easy to digest.
Health benefits of steaming food: If you believe in low fat eating, then steaming should be your favourite cooking method. Steaming requires less, if any, oil depending on the ingredients; for example, vegetables don’t require any oil for steaming. Since it is easy to digest, steaming avoids flatulence, bloating and indigestion. This method can help you lose weight, along with exercising.
Ideal food for steaming: Vegetables are the most ideal ingredients for steaming as it preserves the flavours, colour, fiber and barely reduces the mineral content. When it comes to non veg ingredients steaming reduces the amount of fat in the meat, making it healthier than boiling and frying.
Why: Grilling your food reduces fat intake and gives the dish a delicious flavour, especially when cooked over coal. That’s for a summer day, but grilling your food indoors also makes it fun and healthy. Grilling requires a short amount of cooking time, which is good as the vitamins are not lost in the cooking process and the ingredients remain succulent.
Health benefits of grilling food: Grilled food is friendly to the heart and the waistline. It is especially good for individuals with cardiovascular diseases, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. Just like steaming, grilling retains moisture from the product and uses less oil. Grilling is also a must-try cooking method if you’re trying to improve your child’s health.
Ideal food for grilling: Grilling is favourable to meat products, it uses no oil for cooking and reduces the fat from the meat too. More importantly, grilling preserves vitamins, specifically riboflavin (produces red blood cells and prevents cataracts) and thiamine (fights anti aging), which are essential for your body.
Why: When you bake a dish the natural flavours are overpowering, plus baking consumes less time; rather, baking takes less effort in terms of waiting and watching. Whip it up, bung everything in, set the timer, and you’re set to spend some quality time with your better half or books. No wonder then that baking is a favourite with love-struck couples, and families. If you’re cooking meat then baking can also be fat free as the heat releases or ‘sheds’ the fat from the product and cooks in it. A slight disadvantage is that you need to bake at a particular temperature and time or chances are it will be under cooked or over cooked.
Health benefits of baking food: Baked dishes offer fewer calories, and are great for weight loss. It saves time and maintains the natural vitamins to an extent. This makes it a good option for those trying to avoid heart diseases and live a healthy lifestyle.
Ideal food for baking: Baking is friendly to both, veg and non veg ingredients. You just have to get the heat and timing right to enjoy a healthy meal with baking.
Why: Stir frying is quick movement of raw products in a heated pan. It consumes less time which is good as the ingredients do not lose minerals and vitamins. But there are chances that you may over cook the food if you are distracted for even a few minutes.
Health benefits of stir-frying food: Mind you, stir fry requires oil, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be a lot of oil; a teaspoon or tablespoon, depending on food volume, is good enough. Stir-frying also needs very few ingredients, therefore it’s a first-time cook’s favourite cooking method. A little bit of seasoning goes a long way in stir-frying. Stir-frying brings out the colours and juices in meat and vegetables and is great for a daily diet that relies on moderation and portion control.
Ideal food for stir-frying: Stir frying suits most ingredients, from vegetables to meat, poultry and seafood. Remember to cut the ingredients into small pieces, and don’t forget the recommended cooking time. Add ingredients to the stir-frying pan as per their separate cooking time. Therefore, if carrots and peas take longer to cook add them first in your pan; this will avoid overcooking and help keep nutrients intact.
Why: Cooking your food in minimum oil, over a hot pan and in quick movements is called saute. Most Indian/Asian dishes ask that the spices (masala) be sauteed at the initial stage of the recipe, but we tend to saute in too much oil. For healthy benefit saute the food briskly on the pan, something like stir fry. The oil retains the colour and consistency of the product, without losing it or burning away.
Health benefits of sauteed food: This method too should be used with caution; saute your food but not in too much oil. Saute the vegetables and meat to bring out the flavours in your food. You can also use less salt for those with high blood pressure.
Ideal food for saute: As with all great cooking methods, sauteeing works excellently with vegetables, meat, poultry and seafood. Again, you need to add ingredients according to their cooking time.
Why: Firstly, do not confuse poaching with boiling, you do not throw the water away. Poaching involves using water, broth, milk or wine; when one of these ingredients is simmering, add the meat or vegetables to it. The raw product cooks in this broth, and this same broth is used later to make a sauce for the dish. With poaching you do not lose any vitamins and minerals that you would when you boil your food. This is a shallow style poaching.But you can also poach your product in shallow style where the ingredient is cooked in less amount of water and is not brought to the boil. And you still use the broth with the vitamins for the dish.
Health benefits of poaching: Poaching is a great cooking method for healthy eating. You do not have to use oil; you have the core nutrients in the same dish and this makes it easier to digest. It is beneficial for those who want to retain nutrients in food for various deficiencies and for weight conscious people.
Ideal food for poaching: Veg and non veg products are friendly when it comes to poaching. But chicken and fish make some of the best dishes with the poaching method.
Why: This is one method that every Indian swears by. Pressure cooking is fast and consumes less time compared to other methods of cooking. It is somewhat similar to steaming, where the raw ingredient cook in their own steam. But the difference is that pressure cooking reaches a boiling point for the ingredient to cook. Pressure cooking maintains the flavours, nutrients, and preserves the moisture in the meat, making it succulent.Pressure cooking should be used with caution as it breaks down nutrients like folate and vitamin C, due to the high heat and pressure; hence it is advisable to use the water too. Indians of course have no issues here, as we use the cooker to pressure cook complete meals like dals, curries and pulaos. The flavours and nutrients seal and therefore remain healthy.
Health benefits of pressure cooking: If you ensure that you use the water that you have used for cooking then pressure cooking is good for boosting your vitamin intake. Pressure cooking is ideal for weight loss and packing your meal with nutrients.
Ideal food for pressure cooking: This method is preferable for cooking meat products as it retains the iron and reduces the fat.
Let’s start making our own healthy meals..let’s cook healthy!