Saturday, July 14, 2007
Healthier cooking & eating
Carrie, over at Life on a Back Road, asked a question about healthier cooking and eating. She shared some simple things she is doing and asked for others' input. I shared this info in a comment over there, but decided to post it here too for others' benefit.
Just a few ideas off the top of my head:
* Like you, I’m pretty sure that realistically, I’m never going to eliminate white flour and white sugar from our diets. I think I’m pretty balanced in what I do. I am finding that as I learn more and more about processed foods, I’m being a lot more careful about what I buy and a lot more vigilant about reading labels.
* I subscribe to the Nutrition Action newsletter, which is a great publication for demystifying food labels and does lots of good research as to the healthiest (and least healthy) products out there.
* I find myself looking more and more to the natural foods area of our supermarket for cereals, granola bars and crackers that do not contain a lot of fat or high fructose corn syrup. I have noticed that Kashi cereals and granola bars (which are delicious and healthy too) are available in Walmart in their regular cereal aisle for quite a bit less money.
* I do love King Arthur Flour, particularly their White Whole Wheat. I don’t make all my own bread, but do make most of our French bread and some of our rolls, muffins, biscuits, etc.
* I use olive oil and canola oil as much as possible instead of other oils or fat. I use canola oil in my pie crusts and wherever possible in sweet baked goods like cakes, muffins, etc. I will often substitute canola oil for melted butter. I use olive oil for just about everything else, and usually use less of it than the recipe calls for. 1 tablespoon of olive oil is usually enough to saute´an onion in, for example, even if the recipe calls for 2 or 3 tablespoons.
* I always use less cheese than a recipe calls for. If it says “2 cups shredded cheddar”, for example, I usually use just 1 cup. (This saves money as well as fat.) If you think the recipe won’t be flavorful enough with less cheese, you can try using a sharper cheese, which will add more flavor.
* I also use less ground meat in a recipe than the recipe calls for (except in something like meat loaf or meatballs, where the amount of meat is really quite important). In a casserole or soup, I will often cut the amount of meat called for in half.
* I’m sort of inconsistent about turkey products. I use turkey kielbasa and Italian sausage, but I don’t use ground turkey that much because I’ve read that some brands include things like ground-up turkey skin. From what I understand, the way around this is to use the ground turkey breast. And that’s pretty pricey.
* I watch for good sales on things like ground round and boneless chicken breasts. There are some good buys out there, especially at smaller local markets which often stake their reputation on the quality of their meats.
I almost always cut down the amount of sugar called for in a cookie or dessert recipe. (I wouldn’t dare do this in a layer cake, though -- except maybe a carrot cake -- because I think I’ve read that cutting down the sugar too much would cause the layers not to rise enough.) I believe you can cut the sugar in a cookie or dessert recipe down by 1/3 and no harm would be done. But if you don’t want to mess around with figuring this out, just don’t fill your measuring cup all the way with sugar. Fill it about 3/4 full -- that’s what I do and it works out fine.
* In salad dressings, I find that recipes often call for twice as much oil as vinegar or lemon juice. For example, 1/4 cup oil and 2 Tblsp. vinegar. I usually switch that around and use 1/4 cup vinegar and 2 Tblsp. oil. If that sounds too acidic to you, try substituting water for part of the oil. I have done that and it works great. So, in our example, that would mean 1/4 cup vinegar, 2 Tblsp. oil and 2 Tblsp. water.
* I make my own dry mixes for Italian and ranch dressing, taco seasoning, onion soup mix, and the like. It is much, much cheaper and you are in control of what is in the mixes.
* Sometimes I make my own condensed-soup substitute which cooks up in a saucepan like a white sauce. These days I will often buy the reduced-fat or healthy versions of cream of chicken or mushroom soup to use in the occasional recipe. But I will always make my substitute for specialty canned soups like cheddar cheese and cream of shrimp. Much cheaper and tastes better too!
* In my young-mom days, I made my own yogurt, mayo, ketchup, etc. (But please, don’t ask for my mayo recipe -- it was made in a blender using a raw egg and would never be considered safe today!) I also used, in baking, something called the Cornell Triple Rich Flour Formula. It’s a way of adding food value to baked goods made with white flour. Before putting any flour into the measuring cup, place in the bottom of your 1 cup measure: 1 Tblsp. soy flour, 1 Tblsp. dry milk, and 1 tsp. wheat germ. Then fill the measuring cup with flour to make 1 cup. Do this for each cup of flour the recipe calls for.
* I don’t routinely serve dessert with meals (anymore -- years ago, I did). For me, dessert is pretty much something I only eat when we have guests or are eating at someone’s home or a church potluck. Mr. T keeps ice cream in the freezer and I usually have a tin or two of cookies stashed in there too, so he has his dessert in the form of a bedtime snack!
I guess those are all my ideas for now! I’ll probably think of more after posting this!