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To Your Health: Tips for healthy cooking at home

Stir-frying vegetables can help lock their nutrients.  |  File photo

Stir-frying vegetables can help lock in their nutrients. | File photo

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Updated: December 14, 2013 6:20AM



A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons in the fight against heart disease.

One of the best ways to maintain a healthy diet is by eating at home. When you prepare and cook meals at home, you have better control over the nutritional content and the overall healthfulness of the foods you eat. And you can also save money!

Here are some tips to help keep your cooking healthy and satisfying:

When veggies are overcooked, they lose their color and may lose some nutrients. Preserve their nutrients and colors by cooking them quickly by either steaming or stir-frying.

Use your time and your freezer wisely. When you cook, make the results last longer by preparing enough for several other meals. Freeze them and have a ready-made healthy treat for the next time you are simply too tired or busy to cook.

A smoothie can cover a multitude of needs. Throw a banana (you can keep them in the freezer for weeks) into your blender along with frozen berries, kiwi or whatever fruit is around, 100 percent orange or other juice, and fat-free or low-fat yogurt (no added sugars). You can get four to five servings of fruit in one glass of a yummy shake. Try getting your loved one to sip on a smoothie. It’s easy, cool, refreshing and healthy. Just be careful; smoothies can be high in calories when they are made with full-fat ice cream or full-fat yogurt and sugar.

Canned, processed and preserved vegetables often have very high sodium content. Look for “low-sodium” or “no salt added” on canned veggies or try the frozen varieties. Compare the sodium content on the nutrition facts label of similar products (for example, different brands of tomato sauce) and choose the products with less sodium.

Prepare muffins and quick breads with less saturated fat and trans fat and fewer calories. Use three ripe, very well-mashed bananas instead of a half-cup of butter, lard, shortening or oil; or substitute one cup of applesauce per one cup of these fats.

Use herbs, vinegar, tomatoes, onions and/or fat-free or low-fat, low-sodium sauces or salad dressings instead of creamy-based ones for better health — especially if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Choose whole grains for part of your ingredients instead of highly refined products. Use whole-wheat flour, oatmeal and whole cornmeal. Whole-wheat flour can be substituted for up to half of all-purpose flour. For example, if a recipe calls for 2 cups of flour, try 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon whole-wheat flour.

Prepared seasonings can have high salt content and increase your risk for high blood pressure. Replace salt with fresh herbs and spices or salt-free seasoning mixes. Use lemon juice, citrus zest or hot chilies to add flavor.

In baking, use plain fat-free or low-fat yogurt or fat-free or low-fat sour cream instead of butter, whole milk or heavy cream.

Another way to decrease the amount of fat and calories in your recipes is to use fat-free milk or 1 percent milk instead of whole or reduced-fat (2 percent) milk. For extra richness, try fat-free half-and-half or evaporated skim milk.

For more information on healthy cooking at home, including recipes, visit the American Heart Association’s website at www.heart.org.



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