Most of us want to eat healthier food, but the idea of making it ourselves can be intimidating. The hesitation can stem from a shortage of healthy recipes, lack of culinary skills, scarcity of time, and more. But, it might be easier than you think.
Menu planning, meal prep, and complicated recipes can be overwhelming for beginners. We’ll focus on a simple start. There’s nothing wrong things like meal prep, but that alone could fill it’s own article.
The crux of eating healthier is making meals at home. Research has shown that home cooked meals tend to be less processed and have lower amounts of sugar. You have greater control of what goes into your food and where it comes from.
Get your proportions right
For the simplest healthier food, focus on making your plate mostly vegetables. About half of your plate (or more) should be vegetables. Fruits are good too, but they’re more expensive in the winter and have a good deal of sugar. You don’t want to splurge on them, but they can make a healthier alternative to a processed and sugary dessert.
Your meat, dairy, or other protein should be no more than 25% of your plate. It may be tempting to drop a big, juicy steak on the plate with a small side of veggies but you’re missing out on important nutrients and fiber.
The same goes for fats and grains. No more than 25%. They should be used sparingly. Both have important nutrients, but can quickly spoil a diet and potentially lead to health problems. Stick with natural, healthy fats and whole grains. Avoid white breads and trans fats whenever possible.
Okay, but what about how to cook healthier food, you might ask. Well, this part takes a bit of practice. No one starts off a master chef, but luckily there are some easy ways to prepare the main ingredients on most plates… vegetables.
You don’t have to plan out extensive recipes to start eating healthier. In fact, you probably shouldn’t at first. Especially if you want to work on your cooking skills. Instead, find a variety of vegetables at the store and prepare them with one of the following to maximize your nutrients.
The simplest form and easiest to prepare. Simply wash, cut, and serve. The most common form is usually a salad, but be mindful of how much and the content of your salad dressing.
However, raw isn’t necessarily the most nutritious way to consume some vegetables.
Steam, don’t boil
Limiting the time and amount of water is a generally a good rule for most vegetables. Steam helps accomplish. Boiling causes many of the water soluble vitamins to leak out into water. So unless you plan to drink the water along with the vegetable (like soup) stick with steaming.
A study found steaming was the best way to maximize the nutrients gained from broccoli. It cooks the vegetable without direct water contact and requires very little culinary skill. The trickiest part is usually the timing, but with some practice you can find what works best for you.
Saute, don’t fry.
Deep-fat frying really saturates the food with oil and can dehydrate it. It usually requires some extra equipment or a lot of oil. Sauteing, on the other hand, can maximize nutrients and utilize a variety of healthy oils!
A study found sauteing tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant produced higher amounts of antioxidants compared to frying and boiling. With sauteing, you can control the temperature, letting you avoid high temps that could zap the nutrients.
Baking and Roasting
These styles can be hit-or-miss depending on the vegetable, but are simple enough to be included in this article. They are also the most time consuming due to the long time they need in the oven. Remember, high temperatures and long times can ruin nutrients. So be wary.
One study found artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, celery, eggplant, green beans, onions and spinach kept their antioxidant capacity after baking. Green peppers lost antioxidant capacity. Tomatoes do well with cutting and roasting. It boosts their lycopene availability.
It’s never to late to start cooking at home. Having a few easy ways to prepare vegetables can take your meals to the next level. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us with questions and enjoy your healthier food!