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Thursday, 6 October 2016

Cooking at Home: Tips for Healthy Meals


      We are spending more money eating away from home than ever before. In fact, we now spend just about half of our food money at restaurants, up from only 25% in 1955, according to the National Restaurant Association. But research has shown that eating out frequently, particularly fast food, is associated with a number of health issues, including obesity, insulin resistance, and increased risk for cardiovascular disease. As a result, many people have become more health conscious with their food selections and are even considering a return to home cooking.
     Many people find the transition from eating out to cooking at home challenging for one big reason—time constraints. If you are working two jobs or have an on-the-run lifestyle, you may think that you will not have the time or energy to cook a meal at the end of the day or to prepare food for the week. However, by learning a few cooking tips and tricks, you can turn a multihour cooking ordeal into a quick meal that will enhance both your health and wallet.
   Certain tasks can significantly lengthen or shorten the time you are in the kitchen. This handout will provide a number of methods, substitutions, and low-cost options that you can use to make quick, tasty, and healthy meals at home. 
Choosing the right recipes
 Choose recipes that have quick cooking times or ones that allow you to do something else while the food cooks. Certain styles of cooking, such as stir-fry (healthy version included in this handout) and grilling, cook food quickly, so you can sit and enjoy a meal within 5-10 minutes. However, other cooking options, such as braising and roasting, allow you to do other tasks while the food cooks, such as preparing other food or cleaning up!  
Using the oven
 Baking is a great way to cook meat without added fat. You can even “bread” foods in healthy mixtures, such as crushed spices and almonds, and then bake for 30-45 minutes for a juicy, flavorful main dish. Do not forget the vegetables. Roasting vegetables is quick and easy. Just slice your favorite vegetables, such as peppers, onions, eggplant, sweet potatoes, or beets, toss with a little olive oil and spices, and place in a 200ºC oven for 15-40 minutes, depending on the thickness of the slices. Thinner slices cook faster. Try roasting some thinly sliced sweet potatoes and beets with fresh rosemary or garlic for 15-20 minutes as a healthy potato chip alternative.  
Using the stove top
 Stir-frying and sautéing are great cooking methods for preparing healthy foods quickly, provided you make a few small adjustments. Cutting your meat and vegetables into smaller pieces will result in decreased cooking time. Try using cooking spray and just a little flavorful oil, such as olive, peanut, or sesame oil, to enhance the taste without adding too many extra calories or much fat. Rely on spices, such as garlic, ginger, cinnamon, thyme, or rosemary, to pack a zesty kick without any extra calories. A simple meat and vegetable stir-frywith a few teaspoons of sesame oil, garlic, and ginger can go from cutting board to table in less than 30 minutes. You can perform one of the healthiest cooking methods on the stove top—steaming. Stackable bamboo steamers are available for about £20-£35, which allow you to cook multiple foods at once. You can steam seasoned fish and vegetables at the same time. You can even roll the fish filets in some fresh spices, such as ginger or lemongrass, to infuse the flavor and aroma as it cooks. With this cooking method, you can have many fish and vegetable recipes ready within 10-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the food. 
     You can use the stove top to cook large batches of food, such as a stir-fry, stew, or chili, which you can then portion into containers for future meals. Some of these large batches may need to simmer for a while to cook, but you usually can do something else during that time and just stir the contents every 5-10 minutes. If you are sitting at home reading this article, you probably could have made a large batch of food at the same time.   
Using the microwave
 In addition to reheating leftovers in a snap, microwaves also can cook certain foods very quickly, particularly potatoes. You can have a raw sweet potato ready to serve in about 7 minutes. Poke many holes in the sweet potato with a fork, and then cook it on high for 6-7 minutes, turning the potato onto its other side halfway through the cooking. Once it is done, cut it open and allow it to cool for 1-2 minutes. Top with some cinnamon and a few spoonfuls of low-fat yogurt for a healthy side dish. You also can cook many frozen foods in the microwave oven, including vegetables. Just make sure that the ingredients listed on the packaged are healthy. If you do not know how to pronounce half the ingredients in a packaged food or do not know where those ingredients come from, you probably should not make it!  
Using the grill
 Grilling can cook meat and vegetables quickly, while allowing excess fat to drip away from the food. Adding just a dash of olive oil will prevent vegetables from sticking to the grill, and you can toss them with different spices, such as garlic, rosemary, or thyme, to bring out some unique, satisfying flavors. If you do not want to use an outdoor grill, indoor grill pans and specialty grills, such as the George Foreman Grill . Because of the heating elements on both sides of the grill, your food will cook quite quickly, usually within 10 minutes. If you invest in a slightly larger grill surface, you can cook your vegetables and meat at the same time, so dinner is ready faster. Another option it to make a large batch of grilled food and save some for the next day’s meal!  
No-cook and reheat options
 If you are really pressed for time, do not forget about making a quick salad or sandwich. A dash of mustard or hummus, a few slices of turkey breast, and some fresh sliced vegetables can result in a quick and satisfying meal. Leftovers also can go a long way when you are in a pinch. Reheating on a stove top or in a microwave takes much less time than cooking from scratch. You can freeze many foods for weeks or months, so you can enjoy leftovers long into the future. This is yet another reason to cook in bulk when you can!

BOTTOM LINE: You do need to be a lttle organised but once you create your own system after a while you won't know any other way. Remember this, your not aiming for perfection !

 

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