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Healthiest Cooking Methods

Let’s just jump right in…

  1. Steaming.  I’m sure it’s no surprise but steaming is ideal because foods retain their nutrients (vs. boiling, where some nutrients can be lost).  Plus, when steam doesn’t required any added fat.
  2. Broiling and Grilling. Indirect heat with little added fats.  It doesn’t take the top spot because the only foods that can be fully cooked via broiling are fish and some desserts.  Grilling is a great method for cooking – it’s quick and healthy fats (like vegetable oils) make great marinades.  Though an open flame provides a lot of flavor, charring food creates free radicals which could send grilling to the end of this list.
  3. Poaching and Boiling.  Though some nutrients can be leeched by the cooking liquid (which is usually broth or water), there is no additional fat needed when you poach or broil. That being said, choose your poaching liquid wisely because poaching in oil would negate the healthfulness of the dish.
  4. Roasting, Baking, and Braising.  Braising is a slow cooking method that develops flavor over time; it’s healthy but you run the risk of overcooking some ingredients.  Using non-fat or low fat liquid (such as broth) maximizes the healthfulness of these methods.  Plus, adding a little healthy fat can add flavor and improve palatability.  You’re probably wondering the difference between baking and roasting. At least if you weren’t, you are now! Generally, baking refers to grain based items, such as breads or pastries.  Roasting covers everything else (meats, fruits, or vegetables) but honestly, I use the terms interchangeably.
  5. Sautéing (aka stir frying).  This can be a great and healthy option!  However, excess butter or other ingredients are often added in sautéed dishes at restaurants, so they’re something to watch out for.
  6. Pan frying.  Pan frying doesn’t attempt to minimize fat used.  While pan fried foods are not submerged in fat, a significant amount is often added.
  7. Microwaving.  If you use a microwave safe dish, this isn’t terrible, but it’s easy to overcook foods.  Also, if you choose the wrong container, research indicates that your food may leech chemicals from the container you use.
  8. Deep frying.  Well, we all knew this was coming.  Obviously deep frying yields the least healthy dishes; however, there are better options within the category of deep fried foods.  Choose, thick cut items (like potato chips or fries), which absorb less oil during cooking than thin cut.  So if you simply can’t resist or you just want to indulge, you can knowingly make a better choice (but I won’t tell if you don’t).

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