Patience in Preparation – How Cooking Methods Add and Detract from Optimal Health

This is a guest post by Isabella York.

steaming
Creative Commons License photo credit: miheco

As a mother, proper nutrition for my children is first and foremost on my mind. To raise healthy children, I must pay attention to what I feed them. It is common knowledge that living right means eating well, and that a healthy lifestyle starts at a very early age. My kids are on the younger side (Girl Child is 6, Boy Child is 4), so it’s easier to instill the practices that lead to good health. Lately I’ve been transforming family meals, and I’m proud that I’ve got several nutritious dishes on hand that are easy to prepare and that my children enjoy. While researching, I came across several web articles on cooking methods. It seems that how you prepare food in general has a huge impact on its nutritional content.

Of course, our earliest ancestors had no qualms about nutrition, with food being mostly about survival. Most viands were eaten raw until the discovery of fire, which came much, much later. With the knowledge of planting and harvesting, vegetables and other grains were introduced. At this time various cultures, mostly the Egyptians and Chinese, were all about spices as a form of enhancing the taste of their food. Once the trade routes were firmly established, this practice quickly spread to other parts of the world. Very soon, new dishes were being introduced to the general public and this resulted in the publishing of the first cook books. Cuisine evolved with the demand for new gastronomic delights, and now there is a focus on the nutritional content of food – and how preparation methods affect that nutritional value.

Any type of food preparation entails a loss of nutrients to some degree. However, some aspects of the process of preparing food cannot be overlooked due to other health purposes. For example, some forms of raw food may be harmful to your health, such as raw eggs that cause Salmonella poisoning. The main objective of proper food preparation is to ensure that the food isn’t over processed. For optimal nutrition, cook only as much as necessary to maintain essential vitamins and minerals, and here’s how:

Meat

The main health deterrent in meat and poultry dishes is the grease that comes from the use of too much cooking oil. This practice not only detracts from the taste but piles on the pounds as well. It’s ideal to use techniques that don’t include oil or batter. Shorter cooking times are also desired in the event that large amounts of grease cannot be avoided. These methods include:

  • Grilling:When using this method, avoid overcooking or burning the meat. Charred portions of meat present significant health hazards. This is an ideal technique for low fat delicacies.
  • Broiling:Low fat meats are also recommended with this method. The high heat and quick preparation time ensure that very little nutrients are lost. At my house, we’re big fans of broiled chicken and vegetables. In the fall I slice some apples and broil them with the chicken; the house smells of an autumnal heaven.
  • Pressure Cooking:Tough meats are made tender by this cooking technique. It also preserves nutrients by making short work of the preparation time.
  • Stir-fry:Only small amounts of oil and fat are required when doing a stir-fry. It decreases the amount of grease while preserving vitamins and minerals with the quick cooking time. Stir fry is quick and nutritious when the kids are howling for food. They munch on carrot sticks and hummus while I prepare. I’m not the most creative cook in the kitchen, so the internet has been a wonderful source for a variety of recipes. This Thai stir fry recipe is one of my favorites; I make a double batch of sauce and preserve half of it for later in the week. It tastes so fresh and light, and the jasmine rice is so fragrant.

Fruits/Vegetables

This food group possesses vital nutrients, and improper cooking methods could detract from their precious store. Even before the actual cooking begins, fruits and vegetables must be properly washed, peeled, and cut.

Most nutrients are present in the skin and just below the skin of fresh produce. More often than not, it is advised that they be eaten raw after washing in cold water, since hot water tends to dehydrate them and results in a loss of moisture and possible nutrients. When peeling, keep the amount removed as thin as possible and avoid including the fleshy portions. Cutting fruits and vegetables should also be done with care to avoid bruising which results in loss of nutrients.

Steaming and stir frying are ideal to cook vegetables. These techniques do little to detract from valuable nutrients and, in the case of steaming, do more to lock them in and preserve them in the food. Boiling, on the other hand, should be avoided since the prolonged cooking time inevitably depletes vegetables and fruit of their nutrients. If you are preparing vegetable soup, this method is suitable since the nutrients lost from the vegetables remain in the broth.

Pasta/Grains

This is a category I generally stay away from, as I don’t like how I feel after I consume gluten, and I’m not a fan of gluten-free pastas and breads, and their alternatives. What I and my family like is rice. It is a nice alternative, especially because it comes in so many forms and can be healthy. For Mother’s Day two years ago the kids bought me a rice cooker (Smart Husband gave me pretty earrings), and it saves me a lot of time; it allows me to cook without having to think about cooking. I use simple, old-time preparation methods for the lentils – I buy Goya lentils and I soak them overnight. To get the kids to eat wild rice and lentils, I add a dash of sea salt to their servings. It’s a simple, nutritious solution.

Now that you know, always keep in mind that it’s not only what you eat but also how it’s prepared. Hopefully, these methods will help in preparing healthier meals for your children as well as yourself. Of course, don’t forget to add imagination to every dish so that they will be not only nutritious and appealing to the palate, but they’ll also be attractive to the eye as well. Your children will definitely enjoy meal times from now on.

Isabella York is a mother dedicated to a healthy and organic lifestyle, without giving up her life in the process. Along with raising her son, she works for Balsam Hill, a purveyor of Artificial Christmas Trees and Christmas Trees.

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