Studies have shown that eating healthy can lower your risk numerous diseases, like high cholesterol, obesity, stroke, heart attack and diabetes. But although we know we need to eat healthy, we often don’t realize that choosing healthy foods is not enough.
Potatoes, for example, are very healthy. But if you overcook them in water, they will lose many nutrients. If you fry them in fat or serve them with a cheese sauce and top them with extra cheese, they will be overloaded with calories and health-harming saturated fat. Many healthy foods like vegetables become unhealthier because of the many high-calorie foods like oil and full-fat dairy products we add.
If you want to get the maximum benefits from your healthy foods, you need to cook them with as little fat as possible to prevent adding unnecessary calories, and in a way that retains nutrients well. Here are three low-fat cooking methods that will help you to prepare meals high in nutrients but low in calories:
Low-fat cooking method #1: Baking
Many foods can be baked in the oven with a minimum of fat. Cut vegetables into bite-sized pieces or slice them thinly. Mix them with a bit of oil (which will result in a nicer crust) and some spices, spread them evenly on a baking tray covered with non-stick spray or baking paper and bake until they are just soft. Turn after half of the baking time to ensure even baking and crispiness.
Many foods that are normally fried in oil, like chips, fish fillet in batter and even patties can perfectly be baked in the oven without fat.
Low-fat cooking method #2: Sautéing
This method fries foods quickly in an open pan in hot fat, without adding any water. Make certain to stir the food frequently so that it won’t burn. Sautéing is a great cooking method for small pieces of vegetables or meat.
For health conscious cooking, it’s advisable to use healthy fats like canola or olive oil or a good margarine instead of butter. Especially marrows, pepper and carrots taste great when sautéed in olive oil.
Low-fat cooking method #3: Gratinating
This means baking foods on high heat. The foods are covered with grated cheese, béchamel or cheese sauce, cream or eggs which give them a golden crust on top. Harder foods should be sliced thinly or precooked al dente, softer ones can be baked on moderate heat without precooking.
If you have a non-stick ovenproof dish, you won’t need to add any fat. Alternately, use a non-stick spray or give the dish a slight coat of vegetable oil or margarine with a brush. Avoid pouring oil directly into the dish, as you will then most likely add more fat than you actually need.
Tips for optimal use of these low-fat cooking methods
All three cooking methods allow you to prepare delicious healthy meals with a minimum of fat. But it’s still up to you to make sure you don’t add a drop of fat more than absolutely necessary.
When you bake foods in the oven, don’t pour the oil over them out of the bottle. Use a tablespoon to get a proper measure, or use a brush to coat your veggies with oil. The same applies for sautéing. Add a bit of fat first, and rather add a bit more when you see you need it.
Also, you should choose healthy fats. Use canola or olive oil, and a good margarine instead of butter, because vegetable fats are mainly unsaturated and much healthier than animal fats. Olive oil even has a positive impact on your cholesterol level. As for dairy products which are the essence of gratinating: Choose low-fat milk and cheese, and don’t go overboard with the amount you use. You can even prepare a béchamel sauce with chicken stock instead of milk to keep calories low when you want sauce and cheese topping.