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Cooking at home is nearly always healthier than eating out, and learning some healthy cooking techniques can help anyone follow a healthier diet. Using healthy recipes and low-fat cooking methods such as steaming, broiling, and grilling can help anyone prepare healthier meals. Using the appropriate cookware is important too; a non-stick skillet is essential, and appliances such as countertop grills and electric steamers can be useful.
One of the most effective healthy cooking techniques is to use less added fat for cooking. Some cooking methods lend themselves to this quite well, especially those that use water to cook food. For example, steaming is a healthy way to preserve the flavor of fresh vegetables, rice, and fish, while not adding any fat. Steaming can be done on the stovetop, in the microwave, or in an electric steamer, making it a versatile cooking method.
Sautéing can be a healthy way to cook, depending on the liquid used. Substituting low-fat or non-fat chicken broth for oil or butter is one of the easiest and tastiest healthy cooking techniques. It adds sodium, however, so it should be used in moderation by people who monitor their sodium intake. A non-stick skillet or sauté pan can be very useful in healthy cooking. It requires less oil, and so can help in the effort to cut back on cooking oils and fats.
When fat is used for cooking, it's best to use a monounsaturated oil such as extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, or a blended oil. These oils, used sparingly, can add flavor and help the food cook. Some might have other beneficial properties as well. Deep-fat frying is not among the healthy cooking techniques, and should be avoided.
Some appliances make healthy cooking almost effortless. Countertop grills use little, if any, added fat to cook meats, vegetables, and even sandwiches. They are usually small enough to fit in a cabinet, and are extremely easy to use and clean. Electric steamers are inexpensive and easy to use, and most offer a number of convenient features such as special rice-steaming bowls and multiple containers for steaming more than one item at a time.
Incorporating healthy cooking techniques into a mealtime routine might seem inconvenient at first, but within a week or so many people find that it becomes second nature. Food cooked in other ways might begin to taste heavy or oily. The advantages of healthy cooking at home over eating in restaurants go beyond physical health; eating in is much better for financial health as well.
Olive oil is healthy, yes, but you have to be careful. It has a low smoke point, which means you have to watch it so it doesn't burn. I use a "light" olive oil for sauteeing, since that doesn't give the food the flavor of the oil.
I'm with the Italian TV chefs: save the good, extra virgin olive oil for things that don't have to be cooked, like vinaigrettes.
I saw a study recently that implied steaming may not be as healthy as previously thought. The idea was that it leaches the nutrients out of the food. I don't know. I'm not a scientist. Steaming has its uses, but it surely can result in seriously blah food.
Broiling or roasting can be healthy, as long as you don't go overboard with oil. They also lend themselves to more flavorful food.