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Hints on healthy cooking

Sarah Horrocks
by Sarah Horrocks Published on March 26, 2008

If you want to control the amount of calories you're getting from your diet but still enjoy the meals you like, healthy home cooking is the way forward. Here's how to cook healthily at home.

If you want to control the amount of calories you're getting from your diet but still enjoy the meals you like, healthy home cooking is the way forward. Heer's how to cook healthily at home.

What you need
- Non-stick pans, dishes and baking trays (so you don't need to use fat).
- A steamer, for fat-free, healthy cooking that retains all the nutrients in your food.
- A wok with lid, to mix steamed and pan-fried ingredients.
- A grill and/or barbecue.
- Tin foil to bake in or to line dishes with (in place of butter and oil).

Ingredients for healthy cooking
- Skimmed or semi-skimmed dairy produce: 0-20% fat cream or low-fat cottage cheese, 15% fat cream and skimmed or semi-skimmed milk.
- Powder sweeteners suitable for use in cooking (eg Canderel or Splenda).
- Fat-free meat, fish and vegetable stock.
- Cornflour.
- Gelatin.
- Fresh, frozen or dried herbs: thyme, bay leaves, rosemary, basil, chives, tarragon, chervil, mint, parsley and dill.
- Spices: curry powder, paprika, saffron, nutmeg, cinnamon, chili and ginger.
- Garlic, onions, shallots and lemon.
- Different types of vinegar and mustard (ordinary, strong, wholegrain and flavored), gherkins, pickles, capers, and little bottles of strong flavored oil (walnut, hazelnut and olive oil).
- Fat-free, sugarfree cacao powder.
- Preserves and frozen vegetables.
- Lean meat: ham, 5% fat minced meat and bacon.

Fat-free cooking
- In water
All foods.
Simmer vegetables in a pan of water for a short period so they stay crunchy and keep all their vitamins. To flavor your meat and fish, add spices, flavoring or stock to your cooking water (the same goes for pasta and rice).

- In the oven
All foods (including meat and fish, vegetable bakes, and egg-based dishes like cakes, flans and tarts).
To stop your food drying out, add liquid such as stock to meat and fish, or use chopped vegetables like tomatoes, herbs and spices. You can also bake food in foil parcels so that it cooks in its own liquid.

- Under the grill
Meat and fish.
Pre-heat your grill so that the pieces stick, and don't prick your meat or fish to stop the juice from escaping.

- Steaming
All foods.
Steam, then add low-fat sauce such as low-fat cream cheese and herbs, tomato sauce and lemon juice so that your steamed food doesn't taste bland.

More healthy cooking hints
- Measure your ingredients! Always weigh instead of guessing to get the quantities bang on. Measure your oil in spoonfuls and get those scales out to measure how much butter and cream you're putting in.
- Cheat. Use 15% fat cream instead of 30%, skimmed milk instead of whole, sweetener instead of sugar, flour to thicken instead of half the amount of cornflour, and lean minced meat instead of sausage. Little differences will help tip the calorie counter in the right direction!
- To make up for cooking with less fat, inject extra flavor by adding herbs, spices and stock, for just as much taste without the calories.

by Sarah Horrocks