Healthy Cooking Techniques

When cutting back on sodium, fat, and cholesterol, how you cook is just as important as what you cook. Armed with nothing more than a quality non-stick cooking pan, you can learn to prepare foods with little or no oil for a healthier way of cooking. People with heart failure and their families don't have to give up taste or the foods they love. Often minor changes in how favorite foods and recipes are prepared can make a big difference. The cooking techniques described below demonstrate how you can best capture the flavor and nutrients from your food without adding excessive amounts of fat or salt.

A few tips to keep in mind:

  • Use nonstick cookware, which eliminates the need for oil or butter.
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  • Use oil sparingly. Choose olive, peanut and canola oils, which are lowest in saturated fat.
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  • Use vegetable cooking sprays, wine or vinegar instead of oil or butter.
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  • Trim all visible fat from meat before cooking and drain off all fat drippings after cooking. Remove fat from soups, stews, sauces and gravies by chilling and skimming it off.
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  • Bake: Since baking generally does not require that you add fat to the food, it is a great alternative for cooking besides breads and desserts. Use this method to cook uniform-sized pieces of vegetables, fruit, seafood, poultry or lean meat. Bake foods in covered cookware with a little extra liquid
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  • Enhance: Enhancing with spices and herbs is one of the best ways to add color, taste and aroma to foods. Add fresh herbs toward the end of cooking. Add dried herbs in the earlier stages of cooking, crushing them first to release their concentrated flavor. When substituting dried for fresh, use about one-third the amount. Other ideas for adding color and flavor without fat or salt are citrus zests, flavorful vinegar, a sprinkle of toasted nuts or seeds and garnishing with bell peppers.
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  • Grill or Broil: One can grill outdoors or broil indoors. For grilling smaller items, use a long-handled grill basket, which prevents pieces from slipping through the rack. To broil place food on a broiler rack in the oven. The rack is important so that any fat drips away from the food.
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  • Microwave: This is a good alternative because it's fast and doesn't add any fat or calories. It is an excellent way to cook vegetables because the nutrients don't get boiled out and it is faster than steaming.
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  • Poach: To poach foods, gently simmer ingredients in water or a flavorful liquid such as broth, vinegar or juice until they are cooked through and tender. Poach foods that contain little fat, as all of it ends up in the sauce. Tomato juice, wine and vinegar can be used for stove-top poaching. You can also poach foods in foil packets in the oven.
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  • Roast: Using higher temperatures than baking, roasting is good for poultry, seafood and meat. When roasting, put a rack in the pan so the meat or poultry doesn't sit in its own fat drippings. Instead of basting the meat with pan drippings, use fat-free liquids like wine, tomato juice or lemon juice. When making gravy from the drippings, use a gravy strainer or skim ladle to remove the fat.
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  • Saute: Using a good-quality nonstick pan, you can cook food with the addition of little or no fat. You can use a nonstick vegetable spray, a small amount of broth or wine, or a tiny bit of oil rubbed onto the pan with a paper towel. When necessary, use liquid vegetable oils that have no more than 2 g of saturated fat per tablespoon.
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  • Simmer: Simmering, also called braising, cooks foods in a liquid medium in a nonstick frying pan on top of the stove. Sometimes the liquid comes from the ingredients themselves, such as the juices that ooze from fruit during cooking.
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  • Steam: One of the simplest cooking techniques is steaming food in a perforated basket suspended above simmering liquid. It is a way to keep all the nutrients in the food as well as the flavor. If you use a flavorful liquid or add enhancement to the water, you'll flavor the food as it cooks.
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  • Stir-fry: Using a wok or frying pan, one rapidly stirs vegetables, poultry, and seafood in vegetable stock, wine, or a small amount of oil until cooked. Avoid high-sodium seasonings like teriyaki and soy sauce.