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Putting Nutrition Guidelines into Practice

Putting Nutrition Guidelines into Practice

These are the ways that a chef can make solid, practical use of the suggestions to modify a typical "American" diet in favor of one that relies more on whole grains, meals, cereals, fresh fruits and vegetables, leaner meats, fish, poultry and a more judicious use of ingredients that are typically high in fats, sodium and cholesterol.

Developing Menu Items and Recipes

Recipe development and modification is one of the chef's main tools for introducing nutrition into the menu. If you want to begin slowly, you can make some simple adaptations of existing recipes. You might grill a piece of chicken rather that sautéing it. Or you might replace a fattier cut of meat with a leaner one. For some cooking, it will be helpful to use nutrition software to evaluate where existing recipes fall with respect to suggested guidelines.

Current interest in dishes from cuisines around the Asia offer new flavors, textures and ingredients to feature on menus. Book, magazines and newspapers can offer inspiration and recipes to help.

Portion control is an important point, Even if you remove the skin from chicken breasts, trim all of the visible fat from steaks, and omit the heavy cream sauces from fish entrees, you can still exceed optimal amounts of fat, sodium, cholesterol and calories if your entree is too large. If you are worried about acceptance of small portions of meats, fish and poultry, make changes slowly. Be sure that as the size of the steak becomes more in line with current recommendations, you are keeping the plate full and appetizing by serving generous and varied portions of grains, vegetables and legumes.

Identifying Healthful Cooking Techniques

Grilling, roasting, steaming, poaching and baking are all excellent ways to prepare foods without adding fats during the cooking process. When possible, opt to use these techniques instead of pan-frying, broiling in butter or deep-frying.

Sauces made from vegetables and herbs, salsas and chutneys are popular alternatives to heavier toppings and side dishes.

Purchasing for nutrition

Identifying those foods that naturally fit this style of cooking. Many of them are those already found in your kitchen. When an ingredient you might typically use in a recipe falls into the category of foods too high in fat, total calories or sodium, then consider using substitutes. For instance, you might replace regular sour cream with a reduced-fat version, a traditional soy sauce with low-sodium tamari sauce. Remember that no one expects to sacrifice flavor when they attempt to make their diets more healthful, so be sure to sample different brands to get the best quality.

In some cases, there is no really good substitute. In that case, it is better to simply reduce the ingredient, or change the way in which these foods are used in a menu item. Instead of blending a large amount of heavy cream into a soup, for instance, try floating a rosette or dollop on top of the soup. It will still add richness and flavor, without as many calories.


Nutrition may have been viewed askance by classically trained chefs even as recently as a few years ago. In today's climate, however, there is no excuse for failing to meet your cooking needs for highly nutritious and delicious foods. The two needs are intertwined in the best of health-conscious cooking.

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