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7 Kitchen Tips & Cooking Techniques for a Healthier You

Do you find it overwhelming to prepare a healthy meal? It doesn’t have to be! Learning simple food preparation tips might help you feel more comfortable and confident in making healthy foods more often. Here are 7 kitchen tips to help you cook your way to a healthier you with fresh produce:

1. Stock your kitchen with nutritious foods

 A key factor in eating nutritious food is making sure that nutritious foods are available to you.  As the phrase "out of sight, out of mind" goes, if you don't have nutrient-rich foods – like fresh fruits and vegetables – available, it becomes more of a challenge to eat them.  The next time you visit the grocery store, try filling half your cart with vegetables and fruits that you enjoy eating!  Filling your cart with half vegetables and fruits is a clever reminder to fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits, a key recommendation in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  (1)

2. Learn how to read (or watch!) a recipe like a pro

 Before preparing the recipe, read it – or watch it!  Reading a recipe will help you highlight ingredients you do not yet have at home and need to purchase, or instructions you are not familiar with and need to learn.  Gathering all of the ingredients and understanding the various cooking terms and techniques before you get started can help reduce the amount of time spent preparing the food. 

 As a bonus, in today's modern world, many websites have accompanying recipe videos showing you exactly how to prepare the item.  Review the video for additional information not found in the written recipe.  The footage might point out unspoken and unwritten details like the texture of the soup when it is finished simmering or the color of the vegetable when it is steamed.  Jot down any notes from watching the food video to refer back to while you cook. 

3. Get to know cooking lingo

 From poaching to simmering to boiling, it can sometimes seem confusing to know exactly how to prepare a particular item.  But, those terms give insight into how the food is to be prepared.  Poaching, for example, is when a food is immersed in water between 160-180°F.  Simmering happens when water is at least 180°F.  And, of course, boiling occurs when water reaches at least 212°F.  If your recipe tells you to perform instructions that you are unsure of, find out more first!  Here are a couple of key vocabulary words to know about when preparing fresh fruits and vegetables:

  • Roasting: similar to baking, roasting heats food in a hot oven
  • Broiling: food is cooked underneath an intense heat source
  • Grilling: food is cooked above an intense heat source
  • Steaming: food is heated when it comes into direct contact with steam
  • Julienne: cutting food into small sticks
  • Shred: cutting up food like leafy vegetables or herbs into thin strips, often by rolling the leaves before cutting into shreds

 4. Identify appropriate food substitutions in cooking

 You might discover recipe you would love to try, but have no availability of a particular ingredient required.  Or, you may have specific dietary needs or preferences for which a recipe needs to be modified.  Determine whether or not you could use a substitute.  When it comes to fresh produce, consider the following:

  • Swap one teaspoon of dried herbs (like dill, cilantro, or parsley), for three teaspoons of the fresh herb counterpart.
  • Swap iceberg lettuce for romaine lettuce (or vice versa) in crunchy salads or to garnish tacos or burgers.
  • Swap red beets for golden beets (or vice versa).
  • No raspberries on hand?  Strawberries can often serve as a delicious substitute.

 5. Know how to make recipe conversions

Whether you are doubling a recipe or cutting the recipe in half, converting the measurement of the ingredient to reflect your desired recipe yield is crucial.  Knowing a few simple measuring conversions can make this a lot easier!  Keep in mind the following:

  • 1 teaspoon = about 5 grams
  • 1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons
  • 2 tablespoons = 1 fluid ounce
  • 1 cup = 8 fluid ounces, 16 tablespoons, or 48 teaspoons
  • 1 pint = 2 cups
  • 1 quart = 2 pints or 4 cups
  • 1 gallon = 4 quarts, 8 pints, or 16 cups

 6. Learn how easy it is to add in a leafy green in meals and snacks

Even if your recipe doesn't "call for it," it can be easy and nutritious to add in leafy greens to the meals and snacks you prepare!  Add layers of spinach to your lasagna or mix spinach into your pasta sauce, serve sautéed collard greens alongside your BBQ meals, and add chopped kale to your homemade pizzas.  You'll find more ideas for how to use leafy greens here in Your Guide to Leafy Greens: 18 Green Leafy Vegetables to Use More Often.

7. Gain confidence in the kitchen when you cook from scratch

Some research demonstrates that when Americans use convenience foods, they feel less confident and find less enjoyment in cooking.  (2) While some convenience foods might make cooking a bit easier, incorporating fresh ingredients delivers heightened nutrition and perhaps more pleasure in cooking, too.  Discover all the delicious Foxy Produce Recipes and get cooking soon!

 Let us know what you prepare in the kitchen by posting a photo of it to Instagram. Tag us @FoxyProduce and @ToriSchmittRDN.  We look forward to seeing your kitchen confidence build! 

  

References:

1.  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary  Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.

2.  Wolfson JA, Smith KC, Frattaroli S, Bleich SN. Public perceptions of cooking and the implications for cooking behaviour in the USA. Public Health Nutr. 2016 Jun;19(9):1606-15. doi: 10.1017/S1368980015003778. Epub 2016 Jan 22.

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