Friday, April 29, 2011

Cooking for Your Health

Another reason to cook for yourself and your family? It's good for your - and their - health. I know I've said this before (if not to you, then to everyone else I know); everything you cook at home is so much healthier than what you get in a restaurant. Although maybe I shouldn't generalize. If you're deep frying Twinkies for breakfast, lunch and dinner, then yes, a meal at the local Old Country Buffet might actually be an improvement. But for the rest of us, I think it's safe to say that when we're cooking from scratch, our meals are less likely to be drowning in fat, sodium and all that other bad stuff.

When you cook your own meals, you get to decide everything. The type of ingredients (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats), the preparation method (grilled, baked, roasted) and the portion size. When's the last time you got to make all those choices at a restaurant?

Don't be afraid to tweak recipes you already use to make them more healthy. I typically follow a recipe according to the directions the first time I make it. But after the meal is finished, I take a minute to think about what I might do differently the next time. Maybe I loved the sauce, but felt the steak was too rich for an everyday meal. I might switch from a sirloin to a flank steak because it's a leaner cut. Or maybe I loved the whole dish, but was frustrated when part of it stuck to the pan during the cooking. I might try a different cooking method (oven roasting, broiling) or simply add more oil to the pan.

Add more oil to the pan, you say? Isn't that the opposite of healthy? Well, it's all about balance, in my book. And as much as I love Cooking Light magazine, sometimes their recipes err a bit on the lean side. When a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of oil to saute 4 skinless chicken breasts, I don't care how new your nonstick your pan is, the chicken's going to stick unless you add more fat. Trust your instincts. Your body needs fat to function, after all. Just try to make sure you're choosing healthy ones.

Need more in the healthy tips?
Check out Experience Life (thanks for the link, Becky!) - a site and  magazine devoted to healthy eating, exercise and wellness. Whole Living magazine (from Martha Stewart) has a similar focus, with an additional emphasis on green living. Cooking Light is also a great resource with cooking techniques, recipe makeovers and healthy menus for entertaining. Or check out another site that's new to me, Skinny Tastes, and sign up for their daily recipe email. Aside from some suggestions to use reduced fat cheese, the recipes are all about using whole foods to make healthy meals.

I'm off to find a recipe for the fresh peas in the picture above. Let me know if you have any suggestions - I'd love to hear them!

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