Healthy and Helpful: 30 Cooking Tips for Your Kitchen

POPSUGAR FitnessSource: Healthy and Helpful: 30 Cooking Tips For Your Kitchen

If you grew up in a house where red meat and butter always took center stage in your kitchen and on your plate, healthy cooking techniques might feel a bit foreign. Whether you're a seasoned chef looking to make conscious changes or a kitchen novice, there's a healthy and helpful tip on this list for everyone.

  • Pair Two Grains Together: If you're not a fan of a grain's texture, adding in an additional grain you like can disguise the texture a little, making it more palatable. Be sure to pair grains with similar cooking times. You might need to experiment with adding extra water or increasing the cooking, but once you perfect cooking two grains together, you'll never look back.
  • Make Your Own Spice Mixes: Instead of relying on sugar or salt to flavor your food, get creative and make your own spice mixes. Look to ready-made spice mixtures in the supermarket to inspire your personal creations. You'll be able to season your meat, pastas, or even snacks at a fraction of cost - not to mention, a fraction of the salt.
  • Maximize Produce Nutrients: Whenever using fresh fruits and veggies, make sure you maximize their nutritional content with proper cooking techniques, like steaming rather than boiling. Resist the urge to peel produce since a lot of essential nutrients are found in the skin.
  • Bake Up Favorites: Frying up fish or chicken is not an ideal technique for everyday eating. Baking these proteins may be more time consuming, but the reduction in calories and fat make it worth the effort. Even with classic, decadent appetizers, there are plenty of healthier baked versions - like these baked buffalo wings: they might just be better than the original.
  • Add on Herbs: Herbs add a depth of flavor to just about any dish. A sprinkle of fresh parsley or a sprig of thyme can elevate a light pasta or plate of fresh veggies from pedestrian to sublime. And whenever possible, choose fresh herbs. They offer more nutritional value.

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  • Make Over Your Fridge: By placing the healthy stuff front and center and keeping more indulgent foods out of sight, you'll find that reorganizing your fridge can make a big difference in your cooking and diet. Simplifying and constantly cleaning it out will help you on your healthy journey, too.
  • Bake With Applesauce: Applesauce works as a substitute for both eggs and butter. The ratio of applesauce to butter is one to one: if a recipe calls for 1/2 cup of butter, simply sub in 1/2 cup of applesauce. For every large egg a recipe requires, toss 1/4 cup of applesauce in its place. Try out this banana apple chunk bread where the applesauce complements the other fruity flavors while keeping each bite dreamy and moist.
  • Measure With Care: If you're following a healthy recipe with nutritional information, stick to the measurements used in the recipe. While you may think it's easy to eyeball oil, sugar, or salt quantities, you may not realize just how many tablespoons you're using if you don't use measuring spoons.
  • Prep Produce in Advance: One of the most cumbersome parts of cooking is all that chopping and mincing! Prep produce in advance and chop everything early in the week. Even if you don't have specific recipes in mind, wash, chop, and peel your favorite veggies. From there, you're just 10 minutes away from a healthy stir-fry, soup, or pasta dish.
  • Mix in Tofu : For a healthier burger, add crumbled tofu to your ground meat mixture. Replacing part of your mix with tofu not only helps keep the patties moist, which is especially helpful if you are using a lean meat, and it also lessens the calorie and saturated fat count.
  • Go Greek : Skip oil, butter, and heavy cream, and bump up levels of calcium, protein, and probiotics by using Greek yogurt. It can easily sub in for mayo, sour cream, or heavy milk in your favorite recipes.
  • Love Lean Cuts: Yes, chicken and turkey are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than their red meat counterparts. However, using lean cuts of beef, veal, and pork can go a long way to creating a healthier diet. The USDA defines a lean cut of beef as a 3.5-ounce serving that contains fewer than 4.5 grams of saturated fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol. When choosing beef, opt for cuts graded "choice" or "select" rather than "prime" and have the least visible amount of marbling.

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  • Sub in Citrus: Instead of topping your favorite vegetables with heavy sauces or cheese, fresh citrus juice adds a bright flavor. Lemon and orange juice also make delicious bases to light and tasty salad dressings. You can forget the store-bought stuff that is heavier in calories and fat and make your own. Try this citrus-lime dressing with your next salad.
  • Swap in Produce For Carbs: Loading up on bread products isn't the best tactic for a balanced diet. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to swap in produce for carbs. For a tasty wrap, Swiss chard leaves hold things together nicely, and cucumber slices are far more refreshing than the standard crackers.
  • Consider the Smoke Point: It's important not to heat olive oil (or any cooking oil) over its smoke point, the temperature at which a cooking fat or oil begins to break down and the oil smokes or burns, giving the oil (and food) an unpleasant taste. Olive oil begins to lose its health benefits and unique flavor when it starts to smoke, but luckily it stands up well to high temperatures, with a smoke point of 410ºF (210ºC).
  • Crush Your Garlic : To maximize garlic's healthy benefits, give it a good crush! Crushing garlic will conserve its healthy compounds - the same compounds that break up blood clots. Like any vegetable, you get the most bang for your buck when it's raw, but past studies show that after crushing your garlic, allow it to sit for about 15 minutes. Crushing it triggers a reaction that boosts the healthy compounds in garlic, even after it's cooked.
  • Same Ingredients, Different Dish: Recognize that your dietary needs might be different than your partner's or roommate's. Nutritionist Cynthia Sass explained the compromise she made with her husband. "We can't [always] split a meal, so when we cook together we'll have similar ingredients, but make different things." For example, on taco night, Cynthia enjoys a healthy taco salad with avocado and pico de gallo, while her husband goes for a big burrito with all the fixings.
  • Double the Veg: Does your chickpea salad call for half a cup of diced grape tomatoes? Add one cup instead. Your quesadilla recipe says to use one cup of corn? Add two. Feel free to get creative and add veggies that aren't in your recipe in order to enhance flavor and increase fiber.

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  • Bring Veggies to Breakfast: Most breakfast options favor fruits and grains, but adding vegetables to your morning routine kick-starts your energy and provides plenty of vitamins, straight from the source - no supplements required. Toss veggies into a scramble, substitute jicama for your morning apple, or blend your leftover dinner veggies into a smoothie.
  • Reduce the Butter and Oil: It's tempting to add flavor to your food by adding copious amounts of fats, sugar, and salt, but these are not the makings of a healthy diet plan. Reduce oil and butter when cooking by spraying a thin layer of on your pan, using a nonstick pan, or finding an alternative with less saturated fat.
  • Make Everything a Salad: If you don't have the energy to cook a healthy side dish of veggies or prep an elaborate salad, throw some greens on whatever you're eating. It doesn't matter if it's pizza, pasta, or curry, a handful of leafy greens always seems to make a dish more delicious.
  • Go Open-Faced: Cutting half the carbs and reducing the calories of your sandwich is simple with one little subtraction: halve the bread. Instead of placing all your fillings in between two slices of bread, remove the top piece and go open-faced. You'll still enjoy all the flavors and textures you crave with a classic sandwich.
  • Bring Beans to Dessert: Between their fiber, protein, and iron content, everyone should include more legumes in their diet. If you're having trouble stomaching a bowl of beans, you can still reap the healthy benefits without your taste buds even realizing it. There are tons of bean-loaded dessert recipes to appeal to your sweet tooth.
  • Don't Be Afraid of (All) High-Calorie Foods: Be careful about snubbing certain high-calorie picks like avocados, nuts, and olive oil. They might be pushing the calorie count, but they also offer essential nutrients to your diet. Just use them wisely and be mindful of your portion sizes.

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  • Always Rinse Canned Goods: Canned foods tend have higher sodium levels than their fresh counterparts. If you're in a pinch and need to use canned beans or veggies, be sure to rinse them well before you cook them up.
  • Bring on Broth: To save calories and add a new depth of flavor to your vegetables, forget the oil and use vegetable broth instead with the technique known as a wet sauté. Simply use twice as much vegetable broth as you would have of oil. If a recipe calls for two tablespoons of olive oil, try four tablespoons of broth.
  • Choose Smarter Dairy: Eating too much dairy can cause tummy troubles, congestion, and acne for many folks. So mix it up! Pour almond milk into your cereal, make your breakfast parfait with soy yogurt, or go cheese-free on your pizza. If you can't give up all dairy for good - and we don't blame you! - make sure you always choose low-fat options when available.
  • Use Your Blender: There are plenty of ways your kitchen can help you lose weight, but one appliance in particular is key - a blender. It can help you whip up a variety of low-calorie recipes that will satisfy your appetite, without adding inches to your waistline.
  • Go En Papillote: Cooking chicken or fish en papillote - or wrapping in a parchment or foil packet - creates light, steamed dishes and can help you avoid cooking in butter and oil. If you're a little intimidated by using parchment paper, watch Bob Harper's four-ingredient fish recipe that uses foil. This simple technique keeps the calories down, but the flavor profile high.
  • Cook One Serving : When people eat healthy but aren't seeing the weight-loss results they're striving for, portion size is often the culprit. It takes a little math, but simply divide your favorite recipes accordingly to cook one serving. For example, if a recipe serves four, then divide each ingredient measurement in the recipe by four.
  • Add Whole Grains: Stripped of their bran and germ, refined grains lack essential nutrients, which is a reason to swap out the refined grains with whole grains when it comes to your snacks and sides. The whole grain farro is a great substitute for pasta, and quinoa can be used in place of rice.