How to Get Started with Healthy Cooking

We all know that we should be cooking healthy meals, but not all of us know how. Luckily, there are some simple steps you can take to improve your diet without having to be a world-class cook. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Aim to Eat Whole Foods

The term ‘whole foods’ refers to things with a single ingredient, such as olive oil, chicken or broccoli. The opposite is processed foods, which are typically convenience foods with a long list of ingredients, many of which are artificial.

If you aim to cook with whole foods it will give you greater control over what you are eating. This way it is easier to moderate your diet and ensure that it is healthy. Furthermore, it makes it easier to monitor exactly what you eat.

Use Different Fats

It is well known that there are good fats and bad fats. In general, it is best to use pure oils when cooking, such as olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil rather than generic vegetable oil. Vegetable oils contain linoleic acid that when heated releases polyunsaturated fatty acids, which have been linked to obesity, heart disease, and other illnesses.

Don’t Neglect Salt

There is a widespread myth that a high sodium intake can cause heart disease. However, there is virtually no evidence for this, especially when it comes to those without a genetic predisposition to heart disease. Salt will help replenish electrolytes, so if your doctor hasn’t warned you off it, you can use it to season all of your food. You can also make your food tastier with ground pepper, paprika, garlic power, and so on.

Prepare Your Work Environment

There is no way that you are going to spend time cooking if you are not comfortable in your kitchen. This means that you should make sure that it is organized and contains all that you need, and that it is a room you are happy to spend time in. You should also take the time to clear out any food stuff that you don’t need as well as kitchen tools and gadgets that are just taking up space.

Start Planning Your Meals

If you want to be sure that you are eating healthy meals, then it is worth taking the time to plan them in advance. At the start of each week, spend a few minutes to think about your meals for the coming days and prepare a shopping list. This will make it easier to stick to buying whole foods and healthy ingredients. If you don’t have a food plan and you find yourself in a rush, then it is far more likely that you will turn to unhealthy alternatives.

Set Time Aside for Cooking

In addition to planning your meals, you also need to plan to make sure you have time to prepare them. It doesn’t necessarily take long to prepare a delicious, healthy meal, but if you don’t ensure you have the time, then you are far more likely to opt for something unhealthy such as takeout. You can use your free time to prep your ingredients, e.g. chop the vegetables or cut up meat into portion sizes.

Look for Healthy Alternatives

Many of us feel that our favourite foods are unhealthy and that there is nothing that can be done about it. However, more often than not there will be some kind of healthy alternative. For example, if you love pasta, then instead of regular pasta you could swap to chickpea or lentil based pasta. Instead of a sandwich, consider a lettuce wrap. With a bit of creativity, there is bound to be a way to make your favourite foods healthy.

Change Your Cooking Methods

There was a time when healthy cooking meant steaming, poaching, and no fat. However, healthy fats will help you feel and stay full, which means that you will eat less. In regards to cooking methods, you can use steaming and poaching, but you can also use high heat methods, such as roasting, and low and slow methods, such as braising.

For example, you can easily roast vegetables. The result is delicious and healthy. For meat, consider braising, while it takes time, the result is flavoursome and healthy.

Invest in Equipment

Cooking with poor quality equipment makes the task far harder than it needs to be. If you are going to try to get into the habit of regularly cooking then you should try to get a good quality chef’s knife, non-stick frying pan, saucepan, cutting board, measuring cup and spoons, baking sheets.

They are the absolute minimum that you need at home. If you have the funds, then you can also invest in more advanced appliances such as an Instant Pot and a food processor. The better quality your equipment, the less arduous cooking will seem.

Look for Exciting Recipes

If you do not like the sound of the food that you are cooking, then you will not last long as a healthy cook. Take the time to research recipes that excite you. It will help motivate you to cook and maintain your interest. Ideally you want to enjoy both the cooking process and the results of it. Start by writing a list of your favourite meals and then see if they can be made healthier by swapping ingredients or changing the cooking process. You can also look at recipe sites, such as this one, which are packed full of healthy meal ideas.