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.
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.
Shift the emphasis on plates
toward grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits as the "center of the
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.
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.
Select foods that help to
achieve the nutritional goals and guidelines your guests are string to
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.
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".
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
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