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Implement Healthier Cooking Methods

Implement Healthier Cooking Methods

Mama’s fried chicken just can’t be beat, but if you ate it every day you’d have a good chance of developing heart disease, high blood pressure and any number of ailments. Decades ago, much of the population worked hard and burned off excess calories and most of the damage fried foods can cause.


Today, many of us are still eating the same type of fried foods from fast food places and right in our own homes. Mindful eating techniques include implementing healthier methods of cooking into your life, but still getting the same satisfaction and taste.


Some ways of cooking that will lighten the meal include grilling, baking, roasting, poaching, sautéing, steaming and broiling. You can also stir fry meats and veggies together in a wok and use a bit of vegetable stock, wine or a bit of olive oil for seasoning.


There are so many ways to boost flavor and cut calories in your cooking techniques that you’ll soon be able to look at your old, calorie-laden recipes and immediately know which substitutions to make for health and weight loss.


Don’t think you have to take gourmet cooking classes or invest in an entirely new set of cookware to prepare healthy food. Mindful cooking techniques include such simple changes such as using olive oil and vinegar on salads and adding seasonings for flavor can perk up a recipe and lighten the calorie load.


A Quick Course in Healthy Cooking Techniques


You don’t have to be a chef to prepare quick and healthy meals for yourself and/or your family. Frozen and prepackaged meals sometimes contain harmful preservatives and are loaded with unnecessary calories.


If you’re challenge is to develop healthier eating habits, you should know some basic techniques to cut calories, choose food high in nutrients and how to avoid excess fat – without losing flavor.


You may be familiar with some of the techniques, but others will be new and different and you’ll be amazed at how little time it takes to master them and use them in your daily meal preparation.


Steaming is one method that can be used to cut calories and seal in the true flavor of whatever you’re cooking. Steaming can be accomplished in several ways – using a covered metal basket (perforated) that fits above a pot of boiling water, using parchment paper or foil or make it even more convenient by investing in an electric steamer pot.


Steaming eliminates the need for oil or other fats, seals in the flavor of the food and preserves the nutritional value. Best of all, it helps keep the food moist and tender – especially fish.


Don’t salt foods during the steaming process as it just evaporates – and try flavoring with lemon, garlic, fresh grated ginger, basil and onion. Broiling is another technique for healthy cooking which differs from grilling in that the heat for grilling comes from below the food and broiling requires heat from above it.


You may want to marinate meat first before broiling because it’s a dry heat that can dry out the meat if not prepared correctly. Chefs prefer to broil salmon and beef over other types of meat because they are naturally oily and won’t tend to dry out as easy.


Other foods that are great for broiling include Cornish game hen and veggies such as squash, onion and bell pepper. Be sure to preheat the broiler for a while so the food will be seared when you place it under the broiler.


Turn the food at the halfway point of cooking and for a quick clean up method, line the broiler pan with foil. Pressure cooking takes very little time and retains the vitamins and minerals of your food.


Steam also seals in the flavors of the food, eliminating the need for oils or fat. You can also season the food, but it won’t need much – especially if you’re making stews or soups.


Chicken, risotto, soups, stews, beans and beef are just a few of the foods that can be pressure cooked and enjoyed in a brief amount of time. The pressure cooker does all the work and you get all the benefit.


Be sure to follow the instructions on your pressure cooker for safety and the best way to cook certain foods. Pressure cookers can range from $25 to $300 and become one of the best investments in your arsenal of cooking utensils.


The ancient cooking method of stir-frying is a wonderful way to cook your meals in a hurry and enjoy amazing flavors and other benefits. When you stir-fry, you’re cooking the food on very intense heat for a very short amount of time.


This requires that your food is prepared by cutting into small, exact pieces so you’re sure that everything is cooked done in the same amount of time. You’ll need to constantly monitor and stir the food while cooking to be sure it doesn’t stick to the pan.


You may want to invest in a wok to achieve the best method of stir-frying. A wok is a round-bottom and slope-sided pan that’s specially designed to be able to move food up around the sloping sides after it’s done.


There are some amazing recipes for stir-fried meals, but the best foods to use include cabbage, bell peppers, mushrooms, shrimp, chicken, tofu and broccoli. The price of woks varies a great deal – from $20 to $200 (electric).


You may use your microwave only to heat up frozen dinners or warm up leftovers, but microwaving is also a great way to quickly cook fresh foods while preserving nutrients and leaving off oils and fat.


A microwave actually steams your food. Vegetables are great for microwaving because they retain their beautiful colors as well as their vitamins and minerals. Broccoli, potatoes, carrots, fish and chicken are great candidates for microwaving.


To get the most out of your microwaving experience, be sure to cover the food so that the steam retains moisture. You can use plastic wrap, but many chefs recommend a covered casserole dishes or cover a plate of food with another plate to cook.


Use your microwave’s instructions to time the food. Microwaves vary in wattage, so it may take some trial and error to get it right. Some have carousels which turn the food as it’s cooking, helping it to cook evenly.


Other methods include baking, which doesn’t require adding fat to the food; poaching allows food to be cooked in water or a liquid consisting of broth, wine, vinegar or a combination; braising to sear the food and cook with a small amount of liquid; roasting is a method which uses the oven to cook the food until done.


Try new methods of cooking to expand your knowledge and your culinary experience. Use your old recipes to spur your creativity and find ways to cook that you’ll enjoy and that will reduce calories and provide a healthier meal for you and your family.


Using Herbs and Spices to Jazz Up Your Meals


Adding aroma, taste and color to your foods is a great way to jazz them up without using oil, salt or fat for flavor. They’ve been used for centuries to create culinary delights all over the world and they’re now being added to food for health reasons.


Herbs are fresh or dried leaves of certain plants that are normally green in color. Spices, by definition, are the fruits, seeds, flowers, roots or barks of mostly tropically grown plants. They vary in color from black to brown or red.


Spices usually have a more intense flavor than herbs, but it’s possible for one plant to provide both a spice and an herb. Plants which provide spices and herbs have been recorded as far back as the 1500s and some are medicinal in value.


People have been studying herbs and spices for centuries and now we have an abundance of selections from the most common to the most exotic – and most can be ordered online.


As part of your mindful eating techniques, you’ll want to add spices and herbs to bring out the color, taste and smell of your food. Your salt intake can be drastically cut with the use of herbs and spices and you can use many of them fresh or dried.


A few of the top spices and herbs you should be sure are in your kitchen for mindful cooking are basil, thyme, oregano, unrefined (coarse) salt, chili powder, cumin, garlic, cayenne, rosemary, black peppercorns (for grinding), sage, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.


With the above spices ready for use in your kitchen, you can make any meal sing with good flavor and good health. A word of caution: Avoid spice mixes. They usually contain salt and preservatives and could have been sitting on the shelf for quite some time so the ingredients have lost their intensity.


Slow Cookers and Blenders


The benefits of preparing meals with slow cookers and blenders include health and speed. You can use a slow cooker to prepare a meal in the morning and then enjoy it that evening without doing anything in-between.


A blender can whip up shakes and smoothies in seconds and you can use healthy fruits and veggies that will taste better than an ice cream shop when you’re finished. Your kids will be begging for more and you don’t have to tell them all the good things that are in it.


Slow cookers have been making a comeback lately and are being enjoyed for the ease and the mouth-watering aromas that make you hungry all day. Now, you can purchase small slow cookers for one (or a couple) or large ones for family meals.


Soups and stews become more savory and meats can be cooked to fall-apart goodness and aroma with the use of herbs and spices for flavor. And, keep in mind that a slow cooker can turn some processed foods, such as canned tomatoes, into nutrition-packed products because of the slow cooking process (similar to the benefits you get from canning).


Other foods such as corn and spinach also release important nutrients while being heated. A recent study proved that the healthy carotenoid content (zeaxanthin and lutein) of frozen, fresh or canned corn are released during a slow cooking process.


Legumes such as lentils are also improved with heat – and they contain nutrients that aren’t found in other food products. Also, when you heat meats at a low heat and in a bit of liquid, you can decrease the amount of cell-damaging (AGEs) compounds which can be produced by grilling or broiling.


Using a blender is another mindful method of preparing healthy and fast food. The benefits include ingesting more fiber from fruits and veggies, less raising of blood sugar than juicing, uses every bit of the ingredients (no waste), lets you prepare superfoods by using ingredients such as flax seeds, goji berries and chlorella during the blending process and is a filling way to eat a meal.


Blending is also an easy way to get your daily amount of vegetables and fruit, plus it’s less time-consuming. Just pile on the kale, parsley, spinach, broccoli, some cilantro and other greens into the blender then drink your way to health.


Healthy fats are also easy to consume with a blender. Avocados, coconut milk, flax seed oil and extra virgin olive oil can be added to other ingredients in your blender to provide fats that are crucial to your brain, nerve, blood and cholesterol health.


When you’re stressed for time, these two methods can save your sanity and provide exactly what you’re looking for in a meal for yourself and those you love. They’re just a couple more ways that you can take advantage of mindful eating in today’s world.


Recipes for healthy blender and slow cooker meals abound, both online and in books. Take advantage of these two healthy and fast methods of preparing mindful meals for yourself and your family.


Meditation in the Kitchen


It may seem odd to see “meditation in the kitchen” as a mindful cooking technique, but when meditation becomes integrated into your daily life, it tends to be more meaningful – and what better place to bring peace into your life than the kitchen?


Meditation while preparing meals helps you explore your mind for the challenges you’re facing and helps you pay special attention to the love and devotion you’re putting into the preparation of each meal.


It can be a fun practice to think about each ingredient and each cooking process that goes into every recipe. Make it enjoyable rather than serious and intense. Tradition says that your emotions are transmitted from the chef to the food and to avoid contaminating your ingredients, you should think loving thoughts as you’re cooking.


When you cook a meal in meditation and loving thoughts, you’re not only providing food for your body – you’re adding peace to your mind and spirit. Foods that are factory produced don’t bring that element to the table.


That’s why Mom’s home cooking can’t be replaced by Kentucky Fried Chicken or Taco Bell. Mom puts an element of meditation and love in her cooking that can’t be duplicated. Enjoy the creativity and peace that can be found when cooking mindfully in your kitchen.

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