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The Seven Guidelines for Nutritional Cooking

The Seven Guidelines for Nutritional Cooking

Bringing nutrition out of the textbook and into the kitchen requires far less in terms of actual change than many people fear. If you are already doing your best to select foods that are fresh, fully flavored, ripe and wholesome, you are well on the way. Cook these foods as quickly as possible in as little water as possible to maximize nutrient retention. Serve a variety of foods, including as many whole grains, unprocessed fruits and vegetables, and legumes as possible.

The guidelines below for introducing healthful cooking practices into any kitchen capitalize on this approach to selecting, preparing and serving foods. You will undoubtedly begin to see a change for the better in all aspects of your food cooking as healthful practices become the norm.

  1. Cook all foods with care to preserve their nutritional value, flavor, texture and appeal.

    Match the cooking method you select to the food you are preparing. Whenever possible, opt for methods that do not introduce additional fats and oils. Grilling, roasting and steaming are good examples. When possible, cook foods close to the time that they are ready to be served. This will minimize nutrient loss, and ensure that the food is at its best when you serve it to your guest. For those foods or in those situations where it is not reasonable to do an a la carte preparation, use batch cooking.

  2. Shift the emphasis on plates toward grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits as the "center of the plate".

    Traditional diets from around the world place a strong emphasis on grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes. These foods, rich in carbohydrates and in an array of vitamins, minerals and fiber, play an important part in a balanced diet.

  3. Serve appropriate portions of foods and know what a standard serving for all foods is.

    Setting standards for portion sizes and training yourself will benefit you and your guest.

  4. Select foods that help to achieve the nutritional goals and guidelines your guests are string to meet.

    In general, the closer a food is to its natural state, the higher its nutritional value. Locally picked fruits and vegetables, for example, do not travel far or as long to get to the market. This means that they will retain more of their nutrients. Whole grains, with the germ and bran intact, are a better source of a wider variety of nutrients than polished, refined or quick-cooking  varieties. There are instances when processed foods may be necessary, but you exert some control over the foods you prepare for your guests. Be sure to read the label on any processed, packaged, canned or frozen food. make comparisons to be sure that you are getting the most flavor, the best quality and the least unwanted additives possible.

  5. Opt for monounsaturated cooking fats and oils whenever possible and reduce the use of saturated fats.

    The average American consumes nearly 28 percent of a day's calories in the form of fats. This is well above the current recommendations from any of a number of sources. Limiting the use of foods that contain too much fat and cholesterol need not be the punishing many fear. A good cook knows a great deal about how to get the flavor value from foods without falling back on classic "disguises".

  6. Use calories dense foods (eggs, cream, butter, chesses and refined sugars) moderately.

    This one simple step often presents a great challenge to anyone who is accustomed to relying on rich foods as the major carriers of flavor on a plate. Cutting calories nearly always includes cutting fats, cream, cheese, butter and oil add more calories, gram for gram, than other foods. When you do add them to a dish, use them sparingly.

  7. Learn a variety of seasoning and flavoring techniques to help reduce reliance on salt.

    With the possible exception of cholesterol, there is probably no single topic relating to nutrition that causes such confusion and alarm as controlling salt and sodium. The current recommendations for sodium are relatively generous. There is no guarantee that a lifetime of moderate salt consumption will keep an individual free of hypertension. However, it is fairly certain that, once hypertension has been diagnosed, controlling the amount of salt and sodium consumed will have a benefit. Nor is there anything to indicate that keeping one's sodium consumption at or under the recommended level of 3,000 milligrams per day is harmful. Salt is relied upon as a seasoning and flavor enhancer in many dishes. Learning to add only enough to get the taste benefit may be enough. If your palate is less likely to detect salt in foods before a significant quantity is added, you many need to take the time to measure at first, until your own palate adjusts. Remember, there are many other ways to add flavor to foods that will not add salt. Wines, vinegar, citrus juices, fresh herbs and low-sodium soy sauces can all be used. If you add an ingredient to a dish, such as capers, olives or hard grating cheeses, that is high in sodium, you should make an even further reduction in the amount of salt you add. Processed, canned or frozen foods also may be high in salt or sodium. Read the labels carefully and opt for reduced sodium versions.

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