What’s the Healthiest Way to Cook My Food?

Eating healthy isn’t just about making smart food choices. How you prepare your food can seriously impact its nutritional value.

So, what are the healthiest ways to prepare your food?

From new-age kitchen gadgets to traditional stovetop tactics, here’s a full breakdown of the healthiest ways to cook your food.

Steaming

Healthy cooking with a food steamer

When steaming your food, boiling water evaporates into steam, which then cooks the food. One reason people love steaming food is it doesn’t require the use of oils or sprays. As such, no extra fats are added during the preparation process. It also helps preserve nutrients sensitive to less-healthy cooking methods, such as B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc and phosphorus.

From meats to produce, most foods are suitable for steaming. However, tough, thick vegetables are the most commonly steamed foods, as it helps improve the consistency making them easier to chew.

The simplest way to start steaming your food is to purchase a food steamer. However, for those seeking more budget-friendly tactics, you can also use a pot and steamer basket or add a small amount of water to a well-covered microwave-safe dish.

Stir-Frying

Cooking healthy by stir frying veggies

Stir-frying is a healthy cooking method that originated in China and has since become a worldwide culinary practice. It’s a fast and efficient way for busy, health-conscious individuals to quickly prep a bowl with their favorite produce and proteins. It also makes it easy to work more fiber-rich veggies into your diet.

Classic stir-fry involves high heat with minimal oil. Cooking at high temperatures helps sear your food, helping it maintain its natural flavors while also preserving the nutritional value. Traditionally, stir-fried food is prepared using a wok. However, you can also use a generic stovetop pan if you’re not looking to invest in new equipment.

Stir-frying can be fun, as it allows you to customize your cuisine based on your diet and taste preferences. You can easily craft a custom plate using any combination of vegetables, herbs, plant-based proteins, seafood and meats. However, be sure to cut your ingredients into small, thin pieces to avoid lengthy preparation times.

Broiling

Broiling as a healthy cooking method

Broiling is a dry heat cooking method that closely resembles grilling. The process uses direct, high heat to quickly and evenly cook food and doesn’t require cooking oils, which helps lower fat content. It also helps preserve vital nutrients – such as healthy fats, vitamins and minerals – that are often lost when using less-healthy cooking methods, like deep frying.

If you have an oven, broiling is pretty straightforward! For optimal results, be sure to place your food onto a pan directly above the broiler. Most ovens will automatically have the broiler setting at 500° F. However, if yours doesn’t, be sure to use a minimum heat of 500° F!

While there’s no shortage of food you can broil, some foods benefit more from this preparation process. Peppers, asparagus, zucchini, pineapple, apples and other types of fresh produce taste amazing with a little char. Proteins, such as seafood and meats low in fat (e.g., tilapia, shrimp, chicken), also get a taste boost from broiler-induced blackening.

Pressure Cooking

Pressure cooking a meal

Before there were Instant Pots, there were stovetop pressure cookers! Pressure cooking is done in a sealed pot to contain the steam. When the pot heats, steam is formed, causing the pressure to rise and liquids to boil. Pressure cookers also help prevent the loss of heat-sensitive nutrients, such as vitamin C.

Unfortunately, in order to pressure cook, you need to own or purchase a pressure cooker. However, there are many different types, and some offer specific features for certain food groups. So, be sure to shop smart if you don’t already own one.

Pressure cookers are capable of cooking almost any type of food! Meats, grains, stews, mashed potatoes and veggies are among the most common pressure-cooked foods. Pressure cooking also makes quickly and evenly cooking tough cuts of meat and other thick ingredients easier.

Roasting

Roasting as a healthy cooking method

Roasting is a simple and popular cooking method that involves circulating dry heat evenly throughout the dish. This process enhances the flavor of food through caramelization and a process known as the Maillard reaction.

When roasting food, minimal heat-sensitive nutrients are lost. However, while the impact is marginal, longer cooking times and higher temperatures can decrease the nutritional value. B vitamins are particularly susceptible to more extreme roasting conditions.

To start roasting, all you need is a conventional oven. From vegetables and fruits to red meats and seafood, you can roast just about any recipe! For added flavor, consider adding a hint of olive oil and seasoning.

Air Frying

Air frying chicken

Air frying is a healthy cooking method that provides the mouth-feel of deep-frying, sans the excessive fat! During the cooking process, electricity conducts heat in a compact chamber as air causes it to circulate, penetrating all the surfaces of your food. The result? Crispy, evenly cooked eats!

Air fryers can also reduce the fat content of foods, as no extra oil is needed. They can also reduce the number of harmful compounds produced when grilling or frying foods.

In order to air fry, you need to own or purchase an air fryer. Fortunately, air fryers come in all shapes, sizes and price points, making it easy to find a low-cost or specialty option.

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written by

Brenna Wallace

Brenna Wallace

MS, RDN, LDN

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