Cooking healthy, doesn't mean second grade food! Sounds like a cliche or a tag line from a magazine? It is very true. There are many ways to cook and many food choices to make that will help you remain healthy, yet savour good food. In this post, I want to dispell some myths, and move on to how that applies to everyday cooking. I hope it will inspire you to adopt healthier eating habits.
Food choices & daily Diets - The Myths & The Facts
When it comes to healthy eating, the most basic approach is to increase fibre, reduce fats & sodium, choose complex carbohydrates - instead of simple, processed or refined carbs - as well as choose right - ingredients for their healthy properties, kind of what we call super foods. In essence these are the general guidelines. But these guidelines are very open ended and within them lies a variety of options and ways to go to help you cook and eat healthy.
Most people would choose to drop certain food types when thinking of cooking healthy. There is a common belief that if you drop fats altogether, for instance, it makes up for a healthier meal. This cannot be further away from true! Your body needs fat to burn fat! It also needs fat for a proper digestive function. The key thing here is what type of fats? There are those that are actually good for you, and needed by your body, and there are other choices that are best avoided. Essentially, you want to steer away from Saturated Fats and compound fats. Go for polyunsaturated fats, and fish oils instead.
Examples of healthy fats include: Extra Virgin Olive oil, Sesame oil, Peanut oil...etc. When it comes to animal fat, then oily fish types - Tuna, Salmon, Trout, Macarel... - are extremely good for you. They contain what is known as Essential Lipids or Essential Fatty acids that are super good for your body. These fatty acids cannot be manufactured by the body, and therefore have to be obtained through our diet. These include the OMEGA-3 & OMEGA-6 fatty acids.
There are many benefits for these super fats, amongst which are:
- Reduction of bad cholesterole levels & blood pessure
- Prevention of some fatal diseases
- Make for a healthy heart and circulatory systemme
- Reduce the risks of developing depression, and promote healthy psyche
When it comes to carbohydrates, do go for complex carbohydratess instead of the simple ones. Choose Brown Pasta, for example, instead of white. The only difference between the two is that brown or whole wheat carbs include lots of fiber, which is very good for you, and much needed by your body for healthy digestive function. Fiber, helps you feel full as well, which takes away cravings, and necessary snacking. It also aids your metabolism, as you body has to work extra hard to break it down, which leads to burning more calories. Complex carbs include: whole wheat, bran, potatoes, legumes, unrefined cereal grains, whole meal, seeds, sweet potatoes...etc
Sodium, and salts Should be limited and reduced whenever possible. They should not be fully omitted as they are necessary for your body's fluid circulation, but must be limited.
Proteins, being the building blocks of our bodies, they are a very essential food type. Protein exists in every cell in the body. It is the building block of our muscles, bones, blood and tissues. Our body uses protein to repair tissues, make enzymes, hormones and body chemicals. Unlike fats and carbs, the body does not store proteins. Therefore we must consume the amount of protein needed by our body on daily basis. Excess consumption of protein though is not healthy! Stay away from high protein diets, and go for a well balanced healthy diet instead.
High protein consumption leads to:
- Loss of calcium (released into blood stream and out of the body through urine), which eventually leads to osteoporosis.
- An elevated level of Ammonia in the body.
- Animal proteins also include saturated fats, which are not healthy for your heart. So excess consumption will elevate these fats and bad cholesterol levels in the blood.
- Excess protein consumption, causes the body to release fluids into urine, eventually causing water weight loss rather than actual weight loss. This also means that you can get dehydrated.
High Protein diets, do help you lose weight, but the effects are short term, and have many consequential results on your health in the long term.
Fruits & Vegetables are super foods that can cause no harm. In fact they include all things good for your body. They are high in fiber, minerals and vitamins essential for proper functioning of your whole body. They help your body stay hydrated, and each type has direct effects on many of the body functions. Fruits and vegetables are essential to have in varieties in your every day diet. They can be consumed as snacks as well, which will not harm your diet at any point.
You see, just because the fashion industry had been promoting size zero, and ways to achieve it, under the insinuation that 'Being Fit & Healthy = Size Zero', does not really mean it is "healthy". Don't drop food types from your daily diet, in order to lose weight or confuse that with making healthy choices. In the same effect don't adopt any specific food type to be your main or only type you consume, as it can have consequences that will negatively affect your health.You have got to consume all food types each day, in order for your body to function properly, as it is meant to be. With that said, you have got to be moderate. Just because oily fish is healthy, doesn't mean you get to have lots of it and get away with it. Bring back the good fats into your diet, the complex carbs, the lean proteins, the fruits and vegetables... all in Moderation.
How does that Translate into cooking?
Meal Planning Take all this information into account when planning your family meals. Make sure that you are offering your family a well balanced diet each day, and base your choices upon that. They have to consume all food types in moderation, so if breakfast was high in carbs for instance, choose a lunch option that includes less carbs and more fiber and proteins, and the same applies to dinner.
Cooking Ingredients Understanding the facts, allows you to make better choices. When you read recipes and decide on the type of food you would like to cook, substitute the good stuff for the bad stuff. i.e. Instead of using vegetable oil to sautee your fish fillet, go for sesame oil, olive oil...etc. Follow the techniques in the recipe, just play around with the ingredients, choosing those that are healthier.
Alternative Cooking Methods While some fats are good for you, excess is still bad! The method of cooking, say deep frying, determines whether or not you are consuming healthy food. It is one thing to sautee fish in 1 tbsp of oil, and completely another thing to deep fry the fish! Stay away from deep frying, and use alternative methods to cook the same food. My recipe 'Baked Chicken Tenders' is a perfect example of alternative cooking methods. You are still getting the same eating experience as you would with fried chicken tender, the flavours are there and delicious, but you just took out the "unhealthy Factor" from the equation. Another excellent example is Oven Roasted Potatoes, which if cut like you would french fries, would give the same experience of eating french fries!!
Go Fresh Cooking from scratch at home, ensures no additional fats, artificial flavours -chemicals - are being used. You know exactly what went into your food, and exactly what you are offering your family. Home cooked food is safe, healthy and packed with love. Take those extra 10 minutes to make the sauce yourself. Most store bought sauces, stocks, mixes... contain additives and preservatives. They are usually high in saturated fats, sugars and sodium. It is best you make it yourself!
Remember, food is about balance, nutrition and living well. Your health is important, and so is the health of your family. Don't poison your minds with the marketing slogans that are created to derive sales of products and fashion. Yes be fashionable, and be fit by all means, but do it healthily. A balance is all there is to all things good in life. Size zero deprives your body of all the nutrients, that is why it is at zero! Don't get desperate to look like a runway model, enough to follow the shams and schemes of the dieting industry! Omitting food types, ingesting pills and simply stop enjoying the simplest and best of life's pleasures: FOOD!!
Cook & Eat in moderation. Find your balance, and be happy. Enjoy the simple pleasures in life, they turn out to be the best!
PS Download My Parent's Guide to Healthy Eating for Kids - FREE. It is an interactive guide on healthy eating habits and raising kids with healthy attitudes towards food.
Hope you found this post helpful. Please let me know if you need any further help RE Healthy Cooking.
Check out my healthy cooking recipes, and I continue to post new ones.
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