If you think that the answer to that question is: Step one, find the cook book….then by all means read on. If you groaned when you read the word healthy, then shame on you, and you should read on as well. Come on, Porky, put down that bag of cheese doodles and let’s explore how to cook a healthy meal.
First off, let’s clear something up: healthy does not in anyway equal bland or flavorless. Some of the most delicious and satisfying meals are also by all definitions, healthy. Remember, it is not always the food themselves that makes them bad for you, but the portions which we insist on eating of them. Pasta is an okay meal, but then we load it with full fat cheeses and serve it by the trough-full. It is not the pasta, it’s the portion. Forget your preconceived notions of what is a healthy meal and open your mind.(and possibly your arteries.)
Start with cooking methods. Frying is bad, lightly sauteing in extra virgin olive oil is better. Other healthy cooking methods include: Baking, steaming, poaching and grilling. In fact, an indoor grill is so useful for cooking a healthy meal one should be standard on every kitchen counter. Do not ruin a basically good meal by smothering it with heavy cream based sauces or a thick, gooey layer of cheese. If you need extra flavor, add a small dab of a lighter sauce and use just a light dusting of skim milk based cheese.
Chicken and turkey are good choices for the protein portion of your healthy meal. Remove the skin and you remove much of the fat. Take care to cook either meat thoroughly for safety but in a way that will not leave you with flavorless, dried out tough meat that no one will eat. Try this recipe for roasted chicken: wash and pat dry a good size chicken and then stuff the cavity with several halved oranges and lemons. The number of fruits will depend on how big the bird is. Slide several cloves of heart healthy garlic under the skin, and then lightly drizzle extra virgin olive oil (rich in Omega 3 fatty acids), over the surface of the bird. Bake at 350 until the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced. Tent the chicken with foil if it is browning too quickly. (Recipe also good for roasted turkey breast, simply tuck the cut fruits under the meat.)
Make sure that no matter what the main course is, there are good side dishes as well, keeping in mind that even veggies swimming in heavy sauce or tons of cheese are not as healthy as the plain version would be. Steam broccoli and serve with little ribbons of lemon zest to echo the citrusy flavor of the chicken from the above recipe. Healthy cooking does not have to be complicated, nor bland.
Any recipe can be adapted to a more healthy lifestyle. Use applesauce in place of fats and oils when you are baking. Give away your deep fat fryer and invest in a counter top grill instead. Use really good oil in a mister to both make it last longer and to reduce the amount that you use each time. Learn your meat cuts and make friends with your butcher who can trim fat, and remove skin from your purchases to save you time and energy. Become a sea food expert- know how to select it and how to cook it, fish is an excellent source of Omega 3’s as well as heart healthy. Getting hungry yet? I have one bonus healthy recipe that you can make in place of grilled burgers: brush large, firm Portabello mushroom caps with just a bit of olive oil and then grill for a minute or two on each side. Put them on a whole wheat bun and eat them with the condiments of your choice- yummy and healthy.