Healthy Cooking, Baking and Preparing Food Tips

This last week I was asked to do a segment on healthy cooking for my ward's (church congregation) Relief Society Enrichment meeting (Relief Society is the women's organization in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Enrichment meetings are designed to help women learn ways they can enrich their home, personal and family life). I had to laugh, because Tips does most of the cooking, but Megan (the sister who asked me to speak) said that it was alright because she knows that I'm the one that helps to get the healthy part in our meals. She's right about that one.

I talked about some basic things that probably weren't that new, but then I also made a green smoothie for everyone to try and also talked about my 'beloved' kefir (which I'll do another post about in the future). I failed to refer to my notes, and so I completely forgot to mention some other things that can help with improving the 'healthy' quality of your cooking/baking. I'll list 10 of my tips now:

1. When cooking vegetables, the best way to optimize and retain nutrition is to cook it in the least amount of water possible and for the least amount of time. Steaming is one of the best ways to do so. Eat fruits and vegetables in season - another great reason to have your own garden. The longer amount of time it's been since a vegetable has been harvested, the more nutrients it loses and you don't get!

2. Salt: all this hype about lowering your salt content is kind of ridiculous. If you eat a lot of canned, boxed, or fast food, then yes, you should reduce your salt because you are getting more than enough in your diet. But if you are like me and already have low blood pressure, then eating salt isn't going to kill you. Get a physical and find out what your own specific health needs are. I recommend REAL SALT, Himalayan Crystal Salt, or sea salt for when you do use salt in cooking or salting your food. The typical table salt we use today has been changed from it's natural state, so it may cause more problems than it helps. However, I am not a purist and I use regular Morton salt for baking as it is not in my budget yet to use Real Salt 100% of the time, someday, just not yet.

3. I like to use more natural whole foods for cooking instead of 'foods' that have been overly processed - so virgin olive oil and butter are my favorites and not margarine or other vegetable oils (all though I do still have and use oils, but I haven't ever bought margarine my entire adult life).

4. We make mashed potatoes from scratch and we use the ENTIRE potato - we leave the skins on and mash them up with the potato flesh and it's pretty good. Most of the nutrients in potatoes are in the skin, so make sure to eat the skin when you have baked or boiled potatoes!

5. Frozen vegetables retain a lot of their nutrients from when they are harvested, so if I didn't take it out of my own garden to eat, I like to use frozen vegetables. It is so easy to grab a handful of broccoli or peas and throw them in a bowl in the microwave with a little bit of water to cook them. Better yet, I recently discovered that if I ran frozen peas under hot water, it warmed them up just enough to eat. Peas & broccoli have been blanched or lightly cooked for a minute or so before being frozen, so this is a way to avoid over cooking the vegetables.

6. Don't buy whole wheat flour - buy wheat and grind the wheat into flour as you need it yourself for two reasons: 1) weevil will multiply faster in whole wheat flour (yuck!); and 2) because wheat is still a living organism, it has a lot of nutrients and vitamins in it (even if it's 30 years old), but as soon as you grind it, it's like harvesting vegetables, it will begin to lose nutritional quality. If you grind more wheat than you need, stick it in a bag or container and freeze it, as freezing it will preserve more of the nutrients.

7. Even in these tough economic times as we begin to feel the money crunch, it is easy to economize on food and buy foods in the middle part of the store (packaged, processed and convenient foods that have little or no nutrition). DON'T!!!! Food is the one place we should NOT economize according to Elder John A. Widstoe because the quality of the food we place into our bodies will help our overall well-being. If we don't take care of our bodies now, we should not be surprised as we get older when we have to pay the consequences of not nourishing our bodies with good foods. Also, if you can prevent chronic onset diseases such as diabetes type II and some cancers by your diet, then regardless of how much the fresh fruits and vegetables cost, it would be a lot cheaper than hospital visits, doctor bills and paying for medications and missed work . Not to mention that if the majority of your diet comes from vegetables and fruits that your immune system works better anyway, so your body is better optimum shape and then you aren't missing work or time with your family.

8. Don't eat low-fat or sugar-free foods. I read somewhere that a tip for losing weight is to eat so many almonds or cashews 20 minutes before dinner would trick your body into thinking it was full or satiated because of the fats/oils in it. Another thing I once read about low-fat foods is that because you aren't getting the fat, your body doesn't think it's full or satiated, so you end up eating even more calories to make up for it. Moderation and sticking to the recommended SERVING SIZE really is the key. Same thing with the sugar-free foods or 'diet' sodas. They are finding that people who drink diet sodas are more likely to be overweight than people who drink regular sodas. They don't know if it's because the sweetener whets your appetite for more sweets or if because you think you are being good that you splurge on other sweets. I won't even go into all the other reasons to avoid aspartame, splenda and the likes. If you want a low-glycemic sweetener, try Agave Nectar or Stevia.

9. Green Smoothies! One of the best and tastiest ways to incorporate leafy greens into your diet. Too many different smoothie combos out there to list here -but the basic one I've done and liked is to blend up a handful of greens (romaine, spinach, kale) with some water. When it looks like chlorophyll, then it's ready to add a frozen banana and a cup of fresh pineapple to. I can't always afford fresh pineapple, so the next best thing is canned pineapple, but make sure it's in pineapple juice and no sugar or corn syrup added to it! If you want more smoothie variations, just google "Green Smoothies" to see what comes up!

10. You don't have to give up all of your yummy baked goods, just try using whole wheat flour instead. I've read that anywhere it calls for white flour you can substitute half of it with wheat flour, for example: if it calls for 2 cups of flour try one cup white flour and one cup of whole wheat flour. But I think this is just because it doesn't alter the texture or taste of the baked goodies too much to be noticeable. On the other hand, when you have a dense food like brownies or cookies, you can substitute whole wheat flour 100% straight across and it doesn't affect the taste so much (probably because of all the white sugar). I'm not a purist (absolutely no white sugar), so I have no problem using all whole wheat flour in my chocolate chip cookies, mega chocolate cookies, brownies, chocolate cake or even sugar cookies! The only difference with sugar cookies is that the cookies aren't white - but they taste the same, and the 2-4 year olds I made them for last Easter sure didn't mind!


Kristen's Raw said…
That's so cool that you shared green smoothies :) I love them!


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