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Healthy home cooking

Updated on March 25, 2010

The standard American diet depends heavily not on healthy foods, but on processed foods with layer upon layer of various combinations of fat, sugar, and salt. Low fat products have more sugar and salt than regular versions of the same thing.

Food industry research has determined the precise balance of fat, sugar, and salt that tastes the best. They have combined the most tasty amounts of all three of these ingredients in the same product and made many products available.

Unfortunately this abundance of foods with similar ingredients overwhelms our ability to feel satisfied. Our industrial food makes people crave more and more, not because the food industry is evil, but because of  how the human brain works. Eating healthy foods requires cooking at home, using fresh ingredients. Here are some tips.

White rice and black beans: good combination for complementary protein. Brown rice is healthier, but the beans supply plenty of fiber here.
White rice and black beans: good combination for complementary protein. Brown rice is healthier, but the beans supply plenty of fiber here.

1. A healthy diet requires between 2.000 and 2,500 calories per day to maintain a person's ideal weight. People who want to lose weight must eat even less than that. Healthy cooking requires not only fresh ingredients, but also reasonable portions.

2. Avoid using large amounts of fat, sugar, and salt in the same dish. Individually, they don't overstimulate our brains. Healthy foods do not hijack our brain, so we can be truly satisfied with much less.

3. Cook ahead. Leftovers are not a bad thing. Make a casserole or soup that makes two or three times as much as you can eat at one meal. You can serve it later and not have to cook that day.

4. Use smart fats in moderation. There are four basic kinds of fat. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are healthiest and include some essential fatty acids that our bodies need but cannot make. Use saturated fat (which is solid at room temperature) sparingly and transfat (partially hydrogenated vegetable oil) not at all. Study labels carefully before buying packaged ingredients.

5. Use meat more for flavoring than as the centerpiece of the meal. No one needs more than three ounces of meat (a serving about the size of a deck of cards) at one sitting. Do not make up for less meat by using more eggs, cheese, or other full-fat dairy products. You can get good quality protein from plant sources.

6. Use sweeteners judiciously. Desserts may need to be sweet, but the rest of the meal does not. If a recipe for a main dish calls for sugar, always use less. Refined sugar can give a temporary high, followed by a crash. Beware of overly sweet (and fat) salad dressings. Healthy foods are no sweeter than they need to be.

7. Eat fruits and vegetables by colors: red, blue/purple, white/brown, yellow/orange, and green. Each color has high amounts of particular nutrients. Eat one serving of each color per day, and you have gotten the recommended five servings of fruits. and vegetables. Colors refer to the outermost edible layer. Red potatoes are red (if you eat the peel). Bananas are white (because the peel is inedible).

Shop the perimeter of the store. That's where the fresh ingredients are. As always, check labels on the prepared products you find there.
Shop the perimeter of the store. That's where the fresh ingredients are. As always, check labels on the prepared products you find there.

8. Along with refined sugar, be careful about refined flour. The refining process strips away the bran and the germ. These two components contain not only important nutrients, but also the fiber that our bodies need. Fiber has no calories. It helps us feel full without overeating and keeps our lower digestive tract running smoothly.

White whole wheat bread, by the way, is not an oxymoron. It is made from a white winter wheat instead of the usual red spring wheat. It keeps a white color along with the bran and the germ. The distinctive taste of regular whole wheat flour comes from the tannins in red wheat, which white wheat lacks.

9. Always use less salt than recipes call for and refrain from adding more at the table. Herbs, spices, and citrus also enhance flavor and can make food tasty without adding excessive sodium to your diet.

10. Plan a week's menu at a time. You can plan for particularly hectic evenings by serving leftovers from a previous meal. Without menu plans, you are more likely to settle for pizza or something to be delivered. You can't do healthy cooking if you don't cook at home at all!

11. Canned soups and many other packaged ingredients are not worth whatever convenience they may provide. Remember? They are engineered, deliberately or otherwise, to promote food cravings, not to satisfy hunger. Home cooking can be more healthy once you learn to make your own sauces. It's not hard or time-consuming.

12. When you serve your creations, take time to savor them. Be mindful of what you are eating and enjoy it slowly. It takes about twenty minutes to start to feel full. Shoveling food into your mouth while watching television encourages overeating even of healthy foods.

In short, with planning and knowledge of what foods are healthy, you can cook healthy meals at home in not much more time than it takes to prepare packaged foods and certainly in less time than it takes to eat out or wait for delivery.


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    • Cari Jean profile image

      Cari Jean 7 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      great information!